You like to look good naked. Your training revolves around aesthetics. You're a bodybuilder.

You eat, sleep, and drink hypertrophy. You live for the pump. You're a bodybuilder.

A Westside article gets uploaded to the site. You skim it – maybe. Yup, you're a bodybuilder.

Well, let me tell you, you've been missing out on a plethora of valuable information. "But I'm not a powerlifter, Joel." Neither am I. But can we learn a thing or two from the powerlifters? You bet your post-workout Surge we can.

I attribute much of my success, both with my clients and as an author, to the fact that I'm always searching for something new – new methods, new strategies, new ways to improve my overall methodologies. Although my writing is geared toward the aesthetic-minded individual, I'm constantly borrowing ideas from other genres of training to ensure that said individuals are getting the most out of the time they're putting in. Anything training or nutrition related that I can use to accelerate results, I'll use.

And the Westside method is no exception.

In just a short while, I'm going to share with you my Westside for Bodybuilders Bench Press Program – a program which will undoubtedly add plates to your bench and have you making some of the best hypertrophy gains of your life. But first, the preliminaries:

The Strength-Hypertrophy Correlation

The bench press is perhaps the greatest measure of upper body strength. It's used by numerous collegiate and pro teams within their battery of tests specifically for that purpose – to measure the upper body strength of their athletes.

Think of everyone at your gym that can bench 315 or more. Out of those individuals, who has a scrawny upper body? My guess is not many. Simply put, the stronger you are, the easier it is to pack on mass; as strength goes up, your hypertrophy potential skyrockets. Still, many a bodybuilder will tell you that they couldn't care less about the number of plates loaded on the bar.

Embarrassed to answer the question "How much can you bench?", they respond with "I don't train for strength; I train for size." It's a nice justification, and perhaps they even truly believe strength to be a non-factor in their quest for ultimate masshood; however, this couldn't be further from reality.

How much bigger do you think you'd be if you could bench 100 more pounds than you're currently able to? The fact is, many factors influence the degree of microtrauma caused to muscle tissue, and you had better believe the amount of weight you're moving is one of them, and a major one at that.

Give it to me RAW!

The typical Westside template is designed with the competitive powerlifter in mind, bench shirt and all. As a bodybuilder, however, it's not likely that you'll be squeezing into a double-ply shirt anytime soon; instead, you'll be looking to increase your raw, unequipped max bench (even if you wanted to bench with a shirt, improving your raw bench numbers will have more carry over to your hypertrophy goals).

Having said that, training to increase a shirted max and training to increase a raw max are two different things requiring two different approaches. For instance, shirted lifters often perform a great deal of "high-end" work (four and five-board presses, etc.) to emphasize the "lockout" or last few inches of the bench's concentric phase.

A four-board press

Reason being, a bench shirt (when used properly) gives its user an extra "pop" off the chest, leaving the lockout as the major sticking point for most shirted max attempts. Conversely, during a raw max attempt, locking out the last few inches will rarely be an issue; it's within the bottom half of the movement where you'll generally run into trouble.

Understanding this, the focus of a raw bench program should lie more on lifts with a greater range of motion. Board presses are still fine and have many benefits (including acclimating lifters to working with supramaximal loads), but there really is no reason for a raw lifter to ever go above a three-board press, and the majority of board work performed should use one or two boards.

Secondly, the use of dumbbells is much more valuable to the raw lifter than to the shirted lifter as dumbbells allow one to increase range of motion beyond what's possible during a normal bench press. This deepened range of motion will prove to further increase power off the chest, which again is typically where raw lifters struggle.

The last difference I'd like to mention is more of a powerlifting/bodybuilding difference than it is a shirted/raw difference, and that is the issue of symmetry and overall development. You generally don't see much if any incline work being performed (especially as a max effort exercise) by a powerlifter because, well, they'll never have to incline press in a meet; it's not very specific to their goals.

However, for a bodybuilder with overall strength and development in mind, a fair amount of incline work should be included to ensure everything is copasetic between your pecs' sternal and clavicular heads.

To summarize the general modifications for raw lifters/bodybuilders:

Set the upper limit for board work at three, with the majority of board presses performed using one or two

Emphasize the use of dumbbells

Keep symmetry and overall development in mind (i.e. don't forget the incline work)

The Best of Both Worlds – Conjundulated (No, it's not a Typo) Periodization

Integration my friends, integration. Without a doubt, Westside (a form of conjugated periodization) is one of the most effective means to add substantial weight to a specific lift quickly. And as far as hypertrophy is concerned, nothing quite compares with periodization of the undulated variety.

So for a bodybuilder looking to significantly increase his or her bench all while packing on symmetrical, well-rounded mass, the obvious choice is conjundulatedperiodization.

Yeah, alright, I made that word up, but you've gotta admit, it's pretty cool. Conjundulated periodization, as coined by me, is simply the integration of both the conjugated and undulated approaches to periodization within a training program, and that's exactly what I've done in the Westside for Bodybuilders Bench Press Program (WBBPP).

Now, trying to apply conjundulated periodization to an entire bench-squat-deadlift powerlifting routine would be overkill, but when looking to bring up one specific lift, in this case the bench press, it works extremely well. All direct bench training uses the conjugated Westside model in that you'll be training the bench for both speed (dynamic effort; DE) and force (max effort; ME) on a weekly basis.

On the other hand, all supplemental and accessory work caters to your bodybuilding roots in that it is set up in an undulated fashion. Check it out:

The Westside for Bodybuilding Bench Press Program (WBBPP)

Monday - Max Effort (ME) Bench Day

Max Effort Exercise (select one): one or two-board press, full ROM bench press, floor press, incline press, decline press, reverse band press

Work up to heavy single; begin with sets of five, then move to triples after two very light sets; move to singles once approaching 80% of max

A typical ME bench day for someone with a 315 lb max may look like:

NOTES: Stick with the same ME exercise for two consecutive weeks before changing. Beginners may want to go with smaller weight increases between sets and more warm up sets. Rest a full 3-5 minutes between heavy sets approaching max.

Supplemental Exercise (chest or triceps emphasis; select one): close-grip bench press (flat or decline), weighted dips, dumbbell bench press, incline bench press

5 sets of 10 w/ 10RM load; rest 90 seconds between sets

NOTES: Vary rep range (not volume) every 4 weeks (i.e. 6x8 w/ 8RM load, 4x12 with 12RM load). Vary exercise weekly.

Accessory Work (light; rest 90 seconds between sets)

Back work (5 x 8-12 w/ 12RM load)

Shoulder work (5 x 8-12 w/ 12RM load)

Chest or Triceps work depending on supplemental exercise used (5 x 8-12 w/ 12RM load; choose muscle group not emphasized during supplemental exercise)

NOTES: Subtract one set each week for four weeks; repeat. Vary exercises weekly or biweekly. Isolation work is O.K. and may be preferred for muscle groups already taxed with the compound main and supplemental movements (i.e. shoulders, chest, triceps).

Shoulder Pre-hab (several light sets of external rotations, etc.)


Tuesday - Lower Body (Heavy)

Hip Dominant Exercise (select one): Deadlift (Sumo or Conventional), Romanian Deadlift, Sumo Squats, Good Mornings, 1-leg Back Extensions, Glute-ham Raise

5x5 w/ 7RM load; rest 90 seconds between sets

Quad Dominant Exercise (select one): Back Squat, Front Squat, Lunges, Leg Press, Hack Squats, Duck Deadlifts

5x5 w/ 7RM load; rest 90 seconds between sets


Thursday - Dynamic Effort (DE) Bench Day

Dynamic Effort Exercise (select one): + mini bands, + chains, ballistic bench press, straight weight

work up to 8 sets of 3 with 60-65% of max; 30% for ballistic benching

A typical DE bench day for someone with a 315 lb max may look like:

Bar + minis x 3

95 + minis x 3

135 + minis x 3

135 + minis x 3

135 + minis x 3

135 + minis x 3

135 + minis x 3

135 + minis x 3

135 + minis x 3

135 + minis x 3

NOTES: 60-65% includes any additional weight from chains or bands. Rest 60-90 seconds between sets.

Supplemental Exercise (chest or triceps emphasis; select one): close-grip bench press (flat or decline), weighted dips, dumbbell bench press, incline bench press

5 sets of 4 w/ 7RM; rest 90 seconds between sets

NOTES: Vary rep range (not volume) every 4 weeks (i.e. 7x3 w/ 5RM load, 10x2 with 4RM load). Supplemental exercise on DE day should be the same supplemental exercise used on ME day each week. Vary exercise weekly.

Accessory Work (heavy; rest 90 seconds between sets)

Back work (3x5 w/ 7RM load)

Shoulder work (3x5 w/ 7RM load)

Chest or Triceps work depending on supplemental exercise used (3x5 w/ 7RM load; choose muscle group not emphasized during supplemental exercise)

NOTES: Add one set each week for four weeks; repeat. Vary exercises weekly or biweekly. Isolation work is O.K. and may be preferred for muscle groups already taxed with the compound main and supplemental movements (i.e. shoulders, chest, triceps).

Shoulder Pre-hab (several light sets of external rotations, etc.)


Friday - Lower Body (Light)

Hip Dominant Exercise (select one): Deadlift (Sumo or Conventional), Romanian Deadlift, Sumo Squats, Good Mornings, 1-leg Back Extensions, Glute-ham Raise

5x8-12 w/ 12RM load; rest 90 seconds between sets

Quad Dominant Exercise (select one): Back Squat, Front Squat, Lunges, Leg Press, Hack Squats, Duck Deadlifts

5x8-12 w/ 12RM load; rest 90 seconds between sets

As with all my programs, nothing in this program is haphazardly thrown together without reason. Every single last detail was constructed with a specific purpose in mind.

As you can see, the bench press is being emphasized with a conjugated approach (one day force emphasis, one day speed emphasis), while all upper body supplemental and accessory work follows the basic undulated format (one day heavy, one day light). Lower body work falls in line with my general bodybuilding undulated recommendation as well.

On ME Bench days, days in which the main movement is very demanding, the load for supplemental and accessory work is light. Along those same lines, heavy supplemental and accessory work is done on DE Bench days, days in which the main movement is less demanding. This way, the average intensity on both days is similar without any one day being overly demanding on the CNS.

Also, you may have noticed I prescribed an increase in accessory volume by one set each week on low-rep days while at the same time, decreasing accessory volume by one set each week on higher-rep days, once again evening the playing field. This allows us to manipulate daily volume while leaving weekly volume relatively unchanged.

What about rest periods? With the exception of the ME exercise and DE exercise, all rest is limited to 90 seconds as hypertrophy is the major goal of the supplemental and accessory work. So whether you're doing sets of 4 or sets of 12, rest between sets remains at 90 seconds. In order to make this feasible, loading parameters were manipulated accordingly (for example heavy sets are performed with a submaximal load; i.e. sets of 5 with a 7RM load).

The end result is a Westside based program that will knock the socks off your bench while still being everything you could possibly want and more from a bodybuilding program.

Believe me, you give this program a try and you will absolutely love going to the gym. While the volume is high on bench days and said sessions run a little longer than I typically recommend, it's an awesome change of pace for the bodybuilder. No boredom here. That and the results you'll be obtaining from both a strength and size standpoint will prove to be extremely motivational.

And the best part is, with the great deal of variation already integrated into the week to week setup of the program, WBBPP is a routine you can follow for the long term without having progress come to a halt. Give it a go for 12 weeks and when it's all said and done, expect to be considerably bigger, and thicker, all while benching at least 50 pounds above your current raw max.