In case you haven’t seen it, here’s me benching 410lbs at 154lbs bodyweight:

I hit this PR in March of this year. But it took years to get to this point. Let me explain how I did it.

The Early Years

UFpwrLifter at 15 years old
Check out my 11" guns at 15yrs old

You know how as a kid, you wish you were older? Well I can tell you as a 32-year-old adult, I wish I was younger. I wouldn’t go back to my early teens when I was made fun of for being skinny ("birdcage" rings a bell here), but to somewhere in my early 20s when I lived a carefree life in college.

As you age, not only do you not recover as quickly, but any injuries also seem to last longer. But there is a silver lining that has come with age (outside of being self sufficient and creating an absolutely perfect family), and that is experience (lifting smarter, not harder). I for one have experienced a much lower frequency of injury now as compared to high school and college when I'd have minor pec and shoulder injuries a few times a year.

UFpwrLifter and family
My reasons for pushing, for working, for being...

Approaching the Bench

I was introduced to the bench press while on vacation at 12 years old. Laid down, struggled to bench 85lbs (weighing about 120lbs at the time) while my cousins a few years older were benching 100lbs. When the trip was over, I didn't touch another bench for 2 years, until I entered high school, where I signed up for "weightlifting" (yes, Olympic style).

First Bench Split

I lived around a large group of cousins throughout high school, so I was able to really familiarize myself with the weights during and after school with "two a days" most days of the week. As a youngin, recovery was no problem. Thinking back to my programming from 14-16 years old, it went something like this:

  • Bench press M-F (yes, 5 days a week) with 3-5 sets of 8 reps.
  • Each time I was successfully able to complete all sets for at least 2-3 workouts, I’d move up 5-10lbs and start the process over.

With this simple yet effective split, my bench soared from 110lbs freshman year to 190lbs sophomore year (mostly amateur gains, but the recovery was fine even with the heavy frequency as I was a kid).

Competing and Winning

Between my sophomore and senior year in highschool, I did what all other kids did, found myself a "serious" girlfriend. While this made the bench frequency drop to 3-4 days a week in my last 2 years of highschool, I continued to be consistent and worked hard in those sessions and ended my senior year with a 310lb competition pause bench at 139lbs at a regional competition.

FHSAA State Weightlifting Finals
Senior yr (2002) FHSAA State Weightlifting finals

2 weeks later and after a severe 24hr fasting of food and water (first and last time I ever "had to" lose a couple of lbs), I completed a 290lb competition pause bench (missed 315 on last attempt) at 138.9lbs bodyweight at the Florida high school state weightlifting championship. This was good enough to take home 1st place on bench and 5th place overall (clean n jerk):

Weightlifting finals
Weightlifting finals (not powerlifting), but The Palm Beach Post couldn't care less

College

College will always be referred to as the "good ol days" as far as I'm concerned. The perfect balance between young and old. Not too young where you can't drive yourself around or make adult choices, and not too old to have to deal with mortgages and all of the other responsibilities adults deal with.

During 2005, I competed in a USAPL sanctioned meet and broke the collegiate state record for the 165lb class with a 352lb paused bench at 152lbs bodyweight.

Awarded Overall Best Bench Press
Breaking the Florida Collegiate State Record in 2005; medal is for winning the weight class, trophy is for overall best bench press

Throughout college at the University of Florida (2002-2006), my bench went from 310lbs to 365lbs. We had an annual bench press competition which I entered and won each year, keeping my never losing bench press streak from high school alive through today.

University of Florida annual bench press competition, 2006
University of Florida annual bench press competition, 2006

The Post-College Years

Over the last 10 years since college, I increased my bench from 365lbs paused to my current 410lb touch ‘n go PR. Slow and steady was my motto. Each year I tried to add 5lbs to my max (although I didn’t always achieve it).

All my increases came from a simple, yet effective bench routine I created from trial and error over the last 18 years. There's no science to it and it's not the only one that will help you gain strength, it's just what worked for me and I hope it works for you. You don't need drugs, supplements or multi vitamins, just a strong mental outlook with consistent training. Strength does not come overnight.

The Routine

Monday/Wednesday

Same volume and intensity both days:

  • 33% x 10 (warm up)
  • 56% x 10 (warm up)
  • 79% x 5
  • 86% x 3
  • 91% x 1
  • 96% x 1
  • 91% x 1
  • 91% x 1
  • 86% x 3
  • 79% x5

Friday

Fridays are tougher usually due to end of work week and 3rd bench day of week. If you can't repeat M/W, then use this lighter scheme that doesn't hit 96%. If you do happen to find the strength to repeat the M/W session, definitely do so as you have the whole weekend to rest and you will feel like superman come Monday's session.

  • 33% x 10 (warm up)
  • 56% x 10 (warm up)
  • 79% x 5
  • 86% x 3
  • 91% x 1
  • 91% x 1
  • 91% x 1
  • 86% x 2
  • 79% x 4
  • 79% x 3

Accessory - M/W/F

  • Overhead Tricep Rope Extension - 3 sets x 12-15 reps
  • Bodyweight Pull-Up - 3 sets x 12-15 reps

The program is very basic, but it's proven. Stick to it for 4wks minimum as outlined and you will gain strength that is there to stay (this is not a peaking program, it's a keeping program). When you're ready to test your max (after 4wks), rest at least 4 full days after your last bench session. I recommend you complete the Monday and Wednesday session (skip Friday before max attempt), then rest and max on the following Monday.

Feedback

I've had a couple of subscribers check out the program. See for yourself what it did for them:

Thanks I receieved from users who tried my workout
Another thank you I receieved from users who tried my workout

Conclusion

Thanks for taking the time to read about my journey. I hope you gained something from this and look forward to hearing about those gains. You can follow my workout sessions here on Gravitus by adding UFpwrLifter as a friend and see my sessions and other aspects of my life including family, diet and fishing by subscribing to my YouTube channel at UFpwrLifter.



Photo of Long Nguyen

Long Nguyen

- Gravitus profile

Long enjoys his family first, fishing second and bench pressing third. As a 100% raw and drug free lifter, he hopes to inspire others to train smart and train consistently to reach and break their own goals.