There’s noooo way 13 of 50 DL should’ve benched 225 less than 21 times at the NFL Combine this year. Those guys should be getting at least 25 reps. When training for the 225 bench press test realize it’s a strength endurance test. That being said when training for it I recommend training bench twice per week. You need to focus on improving your 1 rep max; because the higher your max is the lighter 225 will feel. You also need to focus on your strength endurance focusing on short rest periods between sets and doing weights around the 225 range to failure.
When I train guys for their NFL Pro Days I have them bench twice a week with the first day of the week being a strength based day and then second day being more of a strength endurance day.
The first day might look something like this:
Houstons (rotator cuff series) 1 x 10
Bench Press 6 x 55, 6 x 65, 4 x 75, 12 total reps at 85, 10 x 65-70 superset with Pull Ups 35 total
BB Incline Bench 3 x 5 (heavy as possible)
DB Flyes 4 x 15 (light)
Dips 100 total
Tricep Pushdowns 100 total
The longer I’ve been a strength coach and writing programs I begin to prefer certain workouts like this which give the athlete an option of how to split up the reps. If they are feeling great they can probably do sets of 3 or 4 at 85 their first few sets. If they’re not feeling so well they will likely need to do sets of 2. The key is to get 12 total reps at 85 so they will get a training effect from the workout. The down set on this day is not as light as the down sets on the strength endurance day.
Following the regular bench press it is important to do some assistance work for the chest, back and triceps. I always have my athletes follow up the bench press with pull up work so they keep good posture and don’t develop rounded shoulders. It is critical that you devote another day or two to doing lat work as well.
A strong back is critical to improving your bench. The stronger the back is the better you can push your shoulder blades into the bench on the descent portion of the bench; enabling the chest muscles to do less work on the negative portion until they are activated like crazy to lift the bar off the chest. I know some strength coaches are not big fans of flyes due to possible stress they place on the pec and shoulders but I’ve found when done right they help add some size to the chest. They don’t need to be super heavy. Just do them with good form and very short rest in between sets.
Training the triceps hard is paramount to improving the bench as well. Since the 225 test is a strength endurance test it is important to train the triceps in a fatigued state on certain days. This particular workout is very taxing on the tris. When doing the dips do as many as you can before taking a break. Allow your partner to do a set (or wait 30-45 seconds) then you are right back up. You might get 20; you might get 15 or maybe 10. The key is to get 100 total dips in. Immediately after this move on to do 100 total tricep pushdowns. Make sure you get a full lockout at the bottom of each rep. I recommend doing sets of 15-20 when 100 total is the goal. On other days you will want to go heavier. If you want to use a rope that is fine but I see sooo many people use the rope improperly. You will be forced to use less weight when using the rope. You also must spread the rope with full extension at the bottom!! If you don’t do this you are wasting your time by using the rope.
Here is what Day 2 may look like (allow 3 days between first and second bench day)
Band Pull Apart warm-up 2 x 20
Bench Press 45 x 10, 135 x 6, 185 x 5, 225 x 2, 275 x 1 then 225 for 5 x 6 (w/10 seconds between each rep) then 185 x amap DB Flat Bench 3 x 12 superset DB Incline 3 x 12
DB Bent Over Lateral Raises 3 x 12
DB Overhead Extensions 5 x 15
Underhand Tricep Pushdowns 4 x 15
When doing the 225 test probably the most important factor is how FAST your move the bar. Show me someone who does 30-45 reps on the 225 test and I guarantee you they move those first 10-20 reps SUPER FAST!!! I’ve seen really strong guys who have high bench maxes not do well on the 225 test because they move the bar so dang slow. You should literally be thinking about throwing the bar off your chest every single rep.
That is what this type of bench workout teaches you to do. I got this method from the Arizona State strength coach; a school that sends lots of guys to the league. The rationale behind climbing to 275 before going back down for the speed reps is that 225 will feel lighter after you hit 275 for a good fast single. The key here is speed on the bar. You have to do 6 reps with 225 AS FAST AS YOU CAN. You won’t even need to take a breath the whole set. The rest is only 10 seconds, which is very short. By the fourth and fifth set the bar will start moving slower but you need to grind out all the reps. You shouldn’t miss a rep but if you do then rack the bar, rest 5-10 seconds and get the rep. As the weeks go on the amount of reps will increase, while the rest periods will stay similar. This type of training method allows you to really focus on the SPEED on the bar without having to do an all out 225 test every single week which I don’t believe is productive to improvement. After the 5 x 6 you have an AMAP set (as many as possible) with 185. I’ve had a lot of success training guys with AMAP sets that are around 225 but not quite 225. I’ll have guys do AMAP sets with 175, 185, 205 or even 245, 255, 265; and then sometimes 225 as well. It is critical that you train this endurance component though since the 225 test is NOT a STRENGTH TEST, it’s a STRENGTH ENDURANCE test.
When it comes to breathing you shouldn’t take a breath until you need to in my opinion. You want to get to 10-15 reps super fast and hopefully you won’t need to take a breath until then. At that point treat the weight like you are doing doubles (sets of 2). Take a huge breath in, do 2 reps and exhale, take another huge breath, do 2 reps and exhale; after you do a few reps like this you will need to treat the weight like doing sets of 1. Take a huge breath in, do a rep then exhale and continue on in this fashion until you reach failure.
Next up you have your dumbbell work. When I was at Temple University from 2007-2009 Tony Decker used to train guys every year for their Pro Days. He really emphasized a lot of dumbbell work and dumbbell super sets and guys always tested real well on the bench. There’s like 10 guys from those Temple teams now on NFL rosters. I’ve seen players with 400 lb plus benches have to go down to 50 lbs on the last set of these supersets. They are no joke. You get NO REST AT ALL between the DB Flat Bench and the DB Incline set. After your sets only rest as long as it takes someone else to go which will be about (60-90 seconds). Go as heavy as you can. I recommend keeping the elbows in tight to the back when doing the DB bench work. This will recruit more muscle fibers in the triceps which need to be strong and have endurance for the 225 test. It will also take pressure off of your shoulders. The DB Bent Over Lateral Raises are thrown in so the upper back stays strong and for posture. Keep in mind that on this program there is a whole other day devoted to upper back work. The triceps get hit next with DB Extensions and underhand pushdown work. The underhand pushdown is just a variation of the regular triceps pushdown that taxes the medial head of the triceps to a greater degree.
In summary, to improve on the 225 bench press test you need to improve your 1 rep max and also improve your strength endurance on the bench. You need to work the chest, the triceps, and your upper back. The key is to move the bar off your chest as fast as possible!
Give these workouts a try and let me know how your training is going! If you know someone who could benefit from these workouts send them the link to this site or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org