Next Level 5×5 Bench Press Program (Using Auto-Regulated Progression)

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We’re all familiar with 5×5 set and rep schemes. Like cockroaches, they are everywhere. And hard to tell apart.

Five by five workouts are effective. This fact can’t be denied. They build strength, and provide a good enough mix of volume and weight intensity to build muscle.

Related: Muscle and Brawn Fast Start Beginner Workout

But there is one aspect of 5×5 workouts that I don’t care for: Linear progression.  I’m simply not a fan of trying to add 5 pounds to the bar week in and week out. Strength gains are rarely linear, especially for a lifter who’s been attacking the bench press more than a year or two.

Enter… Auto-regulated progression.

Auto-regulation allows you to breathe new life into the tired and old 5×5 set and rep protocol. Instead of arbitrarily forcing weight additions every week, you’ll add weight to the bar when it makes sense; when your body allows you to do so.

Marc Lobliner helps you to build the perfect bench press.

Auto-Regulated Bench Press Progression Using a 5×5

Here’s how it works…

  1. Start with a 5×5 using 70% of your old bench press max.
  2. On the last set ONLY, push for as many reps as possible. There is no need to train to failure. Stop that set either when your form breaks down, or you feel like you might fail on the next rep. This final set is called your Next Level set.
  3. If you are able to perform 6 or more reps during your Next Level set, add 5 pounds to your 5×5 protocol the next week.
  4. If you can only perform 5 reps or fewer reps during your Next Level set, the following week you will add 5 pounds but drop the final set. You will now be performing a 4×5 set and rep scheme. Your final set on this 4×5 will again be a Next Level effort.

Your last set each week will remain a Next Level set. Continue to push this final set for as many reps as possible

Follow the guidelines listed above until you are down to only a single set. At that point you will add 5 pounds to the bar as long as you are able to perform a minimum of a single rep. If you reach failure with a given weight before performing a single rep, your previous week’s effort is your new one rep max (1RM).

At this point you can either choose to begin this bench press cycle over again basing the weight upon your new 1RM, or change to a different program.

Next Level 5×5 Example

Let’s say you’ve been driving it out in the gym for several years and your bench press is stuck at 220 pounds. Not bad. Not great.

To start, multiple 220 pounds by 70 percent. This yields a starting weight of 154 pounds. We’ll round down to 150, and run with this during week one.

The following numbers are similar to what a lifter may experience using a 5×5 auto-regulated protocol.

  • Week 1 – 150 x 5, 5, 5, 5, 10
  • Week 2 – 155 x 5, 5, 5, 5, 9
  • Week 3 – 160 x 5, 5, 5, 5, 8
  • Week 4 – 165 x 5, 5, 5, 5, 8
  • Week 5 – 170 x 5, 5, 5, 5, 7
  • Week 6 – 175 x 5, 5, 5, 5, 6
  • Week 7 – 180 x 5, 5, 5, 5, 5 (Set 5 is now dropped)
  • Week 8 – 185 x 5, 5, 5, 5 (Set 4 is now dropped)
  • Week 9 – 190 x 5, 5, 6
  • Week 10 – 195 x 5, 5, 5 (Set 3 is now dropped)
  • Week 11 – 200 x 5, 5 (Set 2 is now dropped)
  • Week 12 – 205 x 5
  • Week 13 – 210 x 4
  • Week 13 – 215 x 4
  • Week 14 – 220 x 3
  • Week 15 – 225 x 3
  • Week 16 – 230 x 2
  • Week 17 – 235 x 2
  • Week 18 – 240 x 2
  • Week 19 – 245 x 1
  • Week 20 – 250 x fail

You can see from this example that the first two months of the program will function as a volume and muscle building stage, Next you will have a slight transition period where you quickly scale down to a single set. Finally, the last couple of months will act more like a traditional strength peaking program.

Yes, this cycle is long. It’s designed to run long for a reason. First you build, then you peak.

Also, the stronger you are, the longer your building stage will take. Peaking should remain about the same.

The Complete 5×5 Bench Press Program

You will be training 4 days per week as follows:

  • Day 1 – Next Level Bench Press Day
  • Day 2 – Squat Day
  • Day 3 – Off
  • Day 4 – Bench Press Assistance Day
  • Day 5 – Deadlift Day
  • Day 6 – Off
  • Day 7 – Off
Day 1
Next Level Bench Press
Exercise Sets Reps
Next Level Bench Press  5  5
Guillotine Bench Press  3  10
Seated Overhead Dumbbell Press  4  10
Lying Triceps Extension  3  12
Power Shrugs  4  8
Day 2
Squats
Exercise Sets Reps
Squats  5  5
Leg Press  3  12
Hack Squats  3  10
Leg Extensions  3  12
Dumbbell Romanian Deadlifts  2  12
Leg Curls  4  12
Day 4
Bench Press Assistance
Exercise Sets Reps
Close Grip Bench Press  3  8
Alternating Dumbbell Bench Press  4  10
Push Ups  3  Max
Superset: Bulldozer Laterals + Single Arm Dumbbell Upright Rows  3  10
Face Pulls  4  12
Day 5
Deadlift
Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlifts  3  5
One Arm Dumbbell Rows  3  15
Lat Pull Downs  4  10
Seated Cable Rows  3  10
Hammer Curls  3  10
EZ Bar Curls  4  10

Workout Notes

Set Effort – Use the same weight for each set of a given exercise. when you can perform the goal number of reps for ALL sets, add a small amount of weight.

Guillotine Press – Do NOT lower the bar to your neck. Lower the bar about 6 inches from your neck. Concentrate on quality pec engagement.

Lying Triceps Extensions – These are not skullcrushers. Lower the bar towards the top of your head.

Power Shrugs – Use straps and load up the weight. Do not let your grip strength hinder your ability to challenge your traps.

Bulldozer Lateral Superset – Check out this video:

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Name: Steve Shaw

Bio: I don’t believe in magic training systems or rep ranges. My philosophy is simple: remain consistent, use the best possible exercises, focus upon progression and enter the gym looking to maximize each set. When you maximize each set, you maximize progress. Easy, obvious, insanely effective.