By “Vanilla Gorilla” Eric Spoto, the uncrowned King of Raw Benching

I have tried a few different templates that are percentage-based, but I never knew if I was improving week to week. If one week has 90 percent for a triple and then the next workout has 85 percent for five reps, it’s hard to determine if your strength is progressing each week. I like more instant gratification when it comes to training, so I keep it simple and motivating.

This is my basic bench cycle, based on triples. I start the training cycle with a weight I feel I can get a hard triple. After four or five warm-up sets pyramiding up, I go to my predetermined weight. If the triple comes up easy, I add weight (usually 5 to 15 lbs.). If the weight is too heavy, I take some off so I can get a hard three reps. Now I have my starting weight. My goal is to add about 5 lbs. every week over six weeks. If all goes well, you should have added 25 lbs. to your triple.

If you hit the triple on any of the sets, go up 5 lbs. the next week. For example, in week four, if on your third set you only get a double, you still go up 5 lbs. in week five because you hit your triple on the first two sets. If one week you can’t get a triple on any of the sets, stay at that weight for the next week and try to hit the triple that week. You can do this exact training cycle with the addition of bands and/or chains. Just determine your triple with the set amount of bands or chains you want to use, then add the 5 lbs. every week.

Weekly goals (based on 315 triple)

  • Week 1: 315, three sets of three reps
  • Week 2: 320, three sets of three reps
  • Week 3: 325, four sets of three reps
  • Week 4: 330, four sets of three reps
  • Week 5: 335, five sets of three reps
  • Week 6: 340, five sets of three reps
After this cycle is complete, I hit up singles to see where I am. From there I shift to bodybuilding-type stuff for sets of six to 15 reps.

Assistance exercises (pick two chest and two triceps movements)

  • Dips
  • Incline dumbbell
  • Floor press
  • Close-grip flat or incline
  • Dumbbell flys
  • JM press
  • Pushdowns
  • Skull crushers
I would do this every Monday for the six weeks. Every Thursday is dynamic bench day and every third Thursday is high-rep bench day in place of the dynamic training for that week.

Take your time. If things feel heavy it’s because they are; back off a little and you’ll be able to continue to move forward without getting hurt.