One of the most common questions strong-looking individuals get asked is, “How much can you bench?” The bench press is one of those exercises that has become the standard for gauging strength (and, some may argue, coolness) despite the fact that there’s so much more to weightlifting. And more specific than weightlifting in general, is powerlifting, which is comprised of the bench press, the squat, and the dead lift.
One of the most famous powerlifters of our time is Ed Coan. Coan set 71 records in his powerlifting career, which is an incredible feat. He is renowned as a legend in his sport, and his numbers prove it, with these single best lifts:
- Squat: 981 lbs
- Bench Press: 584 lbs
- Dead Lift: 901 lbs
Suffice to say, he is a guy who knows what he’s talking about, and he has mentored numerous young lifters coming into the sport. Granted, he has failed drug tests in the past and been suspended and subsequently banned for life from the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF), but his training techniques are tried-and-true. My dad and I were fortunate enough to meet Ed Coan at the Arnold Classic in Columbus, OH in 2009.
I want to share with you Ed’s bench press training routine. It’s a 12-week cycle that consists of regular bench presses, narrow-grip bench presses, and incline presses. Simply download this spreadsheet and type in cell D1 your current one-rep max bench press (in lbs). The spreadsheet will do the rest and calculate the weight, number of reps, and number of sets you should be striving for across the three aforementioned pressing exercises.
If you find that you are not able to meet the goal for any of the exercises on a given week, lower your number in D1 accordingly and continue following the plan. This is a great routine for anyone looking to increase their bench press, so stick to it and be safe!