Last updated on October 30th, 2022 at 02:25 pm
So, you want to know, “Is 3×3 Good For Bench Press?”
You know as well as me that there are many different training protocols, rep and set schemes when it comes to training bench press.
I would hazard a guess that most of us probably started out benching with the bog-standard 3×10.
However it probably didn’t take you long to discover that you could really press some significant weight if you focused purely on strength training.
That being said, even when it comes to training for pure strength, there appears to be a plethora of training systems and workout programs.
So, is 3×3 a viable bench press workout?
Or should your rep and set focus be elsewhere?
Allow me to reveal all.
Is 3×3 Good For Bench Press?
3×3 is good for bench press if your aim is to increase bench press strength. Furthermore, depending on your overall training frequency and calorie intake you could also see quite substantial size gains too. That being said, 3×3 is generally viewed as a weekly workout program that focuses on the main, big, compound lifts, as well as certain explosive barbell movements.
Is 3 Reps Good For Bench Press?
Whether performing 3 reps of 3 sets of bench press is good will obviously depend on your overall training goals.
This is clearly a strength training protocol, so if you’re looking to get incredibly strong at the bench press, then 3×3 is definitely one way to go about this.
If you’re simply performing 3×3 in the gym then you’ll typically be looking to lift some very heavy weights.
Plus, if this is all you’re doing in terms of bench press training for the day, your workouts will obviously be over very quickly.
This clearly allows you to train with more frequency, although I wouldn’t personally want to be lifting at maximum intensity more than a couple of times a week.
This is not to say that you can’t train 3×3 bench more often on a weekly basis, but I would vary the intensities of each workout.
When you perform heavy compound exercises, such as the bench press, with maximum effort for 3 reps, you will definitely stimulate your Central Nervous System.
So, when used correctly, this will leave you feeling powerful and strong once you leave the gym.
However, there is always the danger of overly stimulating the Central Nervous System if you overdo the 3×3 bench press on a weekly basis.
Personally, if I’m looking to bench press twice, or even more, on a weekly basis, I would probably look to hit strength, hypertrophy, and muscular endurance.
So, in effect, this could involve a 3×3 workout, a 4×8 workout, and perhaps a final 2×15 bench press workout.
Then again, there’s nothing wrong with doing 3×3 bench press two or three times a week, but using a different percentage of your 3-rep max each workout.
In fact, this is exactly how the traditional 3×3 workout should be completed, and I’ll introduce you to this now.
The Proper Way to Use 3×3
So, as I’ve mentioned, the 3×3 workout is actually a very specific training protocol, which includes most of the major compound lifts.
- Bench Press
- Overhead Press
- Bent-Over Row
- Weighted Pull Ups
I also said that there is the opportunity to include certain barbell movements, such as the Olympic lifting staples.
In fact, training exercises such as hang cleans, power cleans, snatches, high pulls, etc. for 3×3 can do wonders for your overall physique.
There are a number of ways you can use the 3×3 workout and you should typically train 3-5 days a week.
That being said, one of the most popular ways to use 3×3 is 4 days a week.
This involves two upper body days and two lower body days.
You also have the opportunity to use 3×3 as a mass training protocol.
I know this goes against everything you probably know when it comes to hypertrophy training.
However, using the full range of exercises, hitting 3×3 with varying intensities over the course of a week, and increasing your calorie intake can do wonders.
In fact, not only will this type of workout make you incredibly strong, your muscles will look dense and rock-solid.
I will say that if you’re looking for absolute strength, you should focus more on deadlifts, overhead press, and weighted pull ups.
You will of course perform the other exercises during the 3×3 protocol, but you’ll want to hit these 3 exercises more frequently over the week.
Basically, they’ll give you the best bang for your buck in terms of raw strength.
So, to answer the original question, YES, 3×3 is definitely good for bench press.
However, 3×3 is much better performed using all the main compound lifts, whether your focus is strength or size.
3×3 StrongLifts – Results in 3 Weeks?
How to Incorporate Bench Press into 3×3
Okay, there often comes a time when you feel as though your need to concentrate on a specific exercise or even a certain body part.
We’ve all been there, you find that a certain body part is lagging behind in comparison to others.
Then again, it could be that one of your main lifts is extremely weak when compared to other exercises.
So, let’s imagine that you want to get stronger at bench press and therefore significantly increase the weight that you bench.
One of the main ways to train for strength is to lift as heavy as possible, while keeping the reps low.
Therefore, a 3×3 training protocol is perfect for increasing the weights that you lift and getting stronger.
Now, if you’re looking to specialize in bench press, you can still incorporate this into a full 3×3 program.
That being said, when you do specialize a certain body part or lift, you shouldn’t be doing this indefinitely.
Your body will eventually cave in, so you should realistically keep specialization training quite short, say no longer than 3-4 weeks.
Let’s Look at an Example
So, if I wanted to improve my bench press here’s how I’d go about it.
I would probably want to train 4 times a week, while hitting bench press 3 times.
Personally, my 4-day training week would probably encompass 3 days in a row, say Monday to Wednesday, and then one final workout on Friday.
This would obviously mean that Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday are ALL rest days.
It may look something like this (and remember all exercises are 3 sets of 3 reps):
- Bench Press
- Bent-Over Rows
- Weighted Pull Ups
- Power Cleans
- Bench Press
- Overhead Press
- Bench Press
- Bent-Over Rows
Now, this doesn’t mean that you’re going all-out every time you bench press.
Remember, the point is to get progressively stronger, as opposed to completely wiping yourself out in the gym.
Therefore, you would never actually be benching your 3-rep max.
So, on Monday, while completely fresh for the week, you will do 3 sets of 3 reps of bench press with 90% of your 3-rep max.
When you bench press again on Wednesday, this should be your lightest session of the week, so let’s say 3 sets of 3 reps at 70% of your 3-rep max.
Now, the reason for this is that you will have trained for 3 days in a row, so your body may feel fatigued, and therefore due a rest.
Furthermore, the day before, you’ve hit two of the biggest exercises, squats and deadlifts, which also happen to place a huge amount of stress on the Central Nervous System.
Finally, on Wednesday you’re also going to be performing another pressing movement, namely the overhead press.
So, you don’t want your bench press to adversely affect your ability to overhead press.
Then on Friday you can bench press 3 sets of 3 reps with 80% of your 3-rep max.
Your aim is to add weight to your bench press, for each training session, every week when possible.
This of course could be as little as 2.5lbs extra on the bar each week, but this is still progression.
Eventually, you get to the stage where on your Wednesday bench press session (the easiest bench press session) you’re actually lifting the same amount of weight as your first ever Monday bench press session.
In other words, what was originally 90% of your 3-rep max bench press will eventually become 70% of your 3-rep max bench press.
You have just become much stronger at bench press over the course of 3-4 weeks.
You should now return to a more “normal” training system, whereby you’re not bench pressing 3 times a week.
So, as you can see, 3×3 is good for bench press, especially if you’re looking to get stronger.
That being said, 3×3 is typically used as a training protocol that incorporates most of the big compound lifts.
Furthermore, by increasing your calorie intake you can actually build significant size with 3×3, even though it isn’t typically considered a hypertrophy workout program.
If you’re looking to get much stronger at bench press then you can use 3×3 multiple times a week.
However, it makes sense to vary your intensity with each workout, as you don’t want to burn yourself out or feel constantly fatigued.
So, this would usually mean that even though you’re benching 3×3, let’s say 3 times a week, only one of these workouts will be with the heaviest weights that you’re capable of lifting.
The other two bench press workouts would still involve 3×3, but with lighter weights.
If you’re looking to build muscle, as opposed to strength, you can learn more in my discussion about the ideal number of sets of bench press for hypertrophy.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.