Five Game-Changing Strategies to a World-Class Bench Press

By: Josh Bryant  

Julius Maddox, 677 Raw Bench Press

Success leaves clues! Every weekend I have clients break personal records and often times these happen to be world records. I wish I had the time and people had the attention span to hear about everyone’s success. This past week my client, Julius Maddox, bench pressed 677 officially Raw. Not only is this one of the best bench presses of all-time but a huge personal record for Julius whom is lifetime 100% free of performance-enhancing drugs and/or hormone replacement therapy. I am going to share five tips with you that helped Julius go from one of the best bench pressers in Kentucky to one of the best bench pressers in the history of the world.  

  • Decrease Bench Press Frequency. Fitness trends, like most trends, run in extremes. Squatting is a great example with some folks now claiming you need to squat every day or multiple times per day just to make paltry gains.

We are not here to get Instagram likes or be a “sheeple” in the latest lifting craze.  We have one priority: results; the means to do not matter, just the ends. We decreased Julius’ training frequency on the bench press from two days a week to one day per week. This enabled Julius to stay injury free and approach each session with enthusiasm.

Application point: People that are easy gainers need to train less and with lower volume.  The biggest lie in the last 50 years perpetuated by self-proclaimed “hard gainers” is those with poor genetics should train less.  Fast gainers have much more fast-twitch muscle fibers and more efficiently recruit a greater number of muscle fibers, all which requires greater recovery.  The less gifted you are at something, the longer and more frequently you must practice to become a jedi master! Below is a chart to see what type of gainer you are, it was provided to me by Dr. Fred Hatfield, and there will be variations between exercises and muscle groups. The slower the gainer the more you will benefit from more frequent stimulation and higher volume.  

Reps Performed with 80% Max Standard Deviation from Mean Tolerance Level Ability to Make Gains
4 or less –3 Very, very low Fast Gainer (20%–25% of total population)
4–6 –2 Very low
6–10 –1 Low
10–13 Mean Average Average Gainer (50–60% of total population)
13–17 +1 High Slow Gainer (20–25% of total population)
17–21 +2 Very high
21 or more +3 Very, very high

      2) Increase Upper Back Training Volume/Frequency Last meet, Julius’ ass was grass and 665 was the lawn mower; he got destroyed and was madder than a bob cat in a piss fire.  I am not one of these people that think that a strong upper back is the most important component to a big bench press.  However, as Kaz said, “Strong man equals strong back”, the bench press is no exception. A big, strong upper back gives you a nice, robust shelf to bench press off of and even provide a little spring on the press up. Looking at all of Julius’ numbers, his upper back was proportionally weak compared to the opposing muscles on the front side of the body. Application Point Julius trains four times per week with weights.  One day was devoted completely to upper back training, the other three days included minimally one exercise for his upper back.  I have found, purely by anecdotal observation, the upper back responds very well to high frequency/high volume training, regardless of what type of gainer you are. Julius did a minimum of 30 sets of upper back work per week.  The lower back does NOT recover quickly so to increase upper back training frequency use things like pull-up variations, lat pull downs and keep rows chest supported.


Julius performing Seal Rows at 1:213) Increase Triceps Strength Julius blasts the bar out of the bottom like a rocket!  Calling Julius’ shoulder and chest strength acceptable would be like calling a batch of Popcorn Sutton’s finest near beer. The problem is, you have to complete the lift and his triceps were not up to snuff.

Application Point There were four lifts that tremendously helped Julius bring his triceps strength to acceptable levels (still not off the chart), but enough to man handle 677! He will violate 700 like a parking meter next outing. The four lifts were

Kaz Press (Working in the 6 to 8 rep range)

Sling Shot Close Grip Bench Press (working in the 1 to 5 rep range)

Making Board Presses

Dumbbell Floor Pause Triceps Extensions (go to 4:07)4) Train with Submaximal Weights

This meet prep we decreased the number of training sessions and total volume with 90% plus of Julius’ one-repetition max.  We used lighter weights focusing on technique, tightness and every single repetition putting maximum force into the barbell.  Simply, Compensatory Acceleration Training was the name of the game. The heaviest Julius went in training was 650, which was a struggle.  At the meet 677 was simply cannon fodder!  Perfect practice paid off.  If you are lifting huge weights in the gym but it’s not carrying over you must handle this mental midgetry –no better way than perfect practice.

Check this out to bring up your mental game.

jhs mindset cover

Application Point Everyone is different (Principle of Individual Differences), that is why I am not going to throw out some random percentages or post a 1970s Olympic lifting Russian meta-analysis chart and hail it as the greatest revival  since Azusa Street.  What I will say is some people do better not training heavy as often! The key take away is performing all repetitions in work sets with perfect technique, tightness and with maximum force.

5) Extending Work Week Julius works three jobs; some people want a handout and want to blame the system.  Others take the bull by the balls and get to work—this is Julius!  With this hectic schedule, sometimes we extended his training weeks to 8 or 9 days.  I originally experimented this concept on Chad Wesley Smith and obviously the results weren’t too shabby.

Application Point I was more nervous than Jared from Subway on his first day in general population (foot long doesn’t sound so good) to post this as it gives the slothful an excuse to prolong the week and skip training days.  Remember, all of life’s stressors add up; Charlie Francis described this like a cup of tea, every stressor be it from training, poor sleep, work, relationships, etc. all add up; each one is like pouring tea into a cup, when that cup overflows you overtrain.  Sometimes you must extend the work week, this has also worked great with another one of my clients, masters lifting deadlift demigod, Dr. Tom Deebel.

Final Thoughts Julius is an amazing person, once serving the code of the street now joyfully serving the law of the Lord.  Julius is a full-time employee at the Friends of Sinner Ministry that helps recovering drug addicts as well as holding two other jobs. Julius is a champion on and off the platform.

Check out Julius Maddox Lecturing on “Man-up Monday” Skip to 13:23 to see Julius I am very excited to see crack 700 Raw in his next outing.