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May 27, 2022
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Ed Coan's Bench Press Routine
from The Iron Dungeon

Ed Coan bench Routine

By request, here's a repost of an excerpt from an article in Powerlifting USA reviewing Ed Coan's Bench Press Video. The writer describes Ed's periodized training scheme and gives a detailed example. If you want to try the bench cycle for yourself, just scale the prescribed weights according to your current max. The lifter in the example has a 1 rep max of 270 pounds, and wants to improve to 300.

"...The point is: most writers deal in abstract thinking, reflected knowledge, not direct knowledge. Most depend on reading, studying, researching to develop their concepts. Most have never squatted 600, much less a 1000. This is not to say that their viewpoints or theories are worthless. On the contrary, truth is truth and no one has the market cornered when it comes to the truth. And a great powerlifter is not necessarily a great trainer. There is an old football adage: a great player does not necessarily make a great coach. On the other hand, let's not ignore the training and philosophy that has produced the great champions in favor of the clever writers who dazzle us with catchy phrases and reflected knowledge.

Training the Bench: Ed's approach to upper body strength looks like this:

  • Wednesday: bench press, after warmup, 2 work sets. Narrow grip, no warmup, 2 work sets (60 pounds less). Incline, no warmup, 2 work sets (50 pounds less). Points to ponder: In so far as poundage: if Coan performs 2x5 with 500 in the conventional bench press, he would then perform 2x5x440 with 440 in the narrow grip bench press and finish with 2x5x410 in the 45 degree incline bench pres. He feels that his competition style benches serve as sufficient warmup for his narrow grips which in turn allow him to incline without any warmup. All told, Coan performs a total of 6 work sets. Not very many when you think about it.

  • Thursday: Press-behind-the-neck, after warmup, 2 work sets. Front lateral raise, after warmup, 2 work sets 10-12 reps. Side lateral raise, 2 sets 10-12 reps. Bent over lateral raise, 2 sets 10-12 reps. Points to ponder: Coan is a big believer in heavy, specific shoulder training. So much that he trains them on a separate day from his bench...

  • Saturday: Light bench, no warmup, 2 sets 8-10 reps. Light dumbbell flyes, no warmup, 2 sets 8-10 reps. Tricep pushdowns, 3 sets 8-10 reps, Dips 1 set 8-10 reps, Preacher curls 2 sets 10-12 reps. Points to ponder: This is a lightweight, muscle flushing, chest workout. Ed does a couple of quick sets with a weight about 60 percent of his max (340x10) with his feet on a bench. A few sets of light flyes and he is ready for triceps....

Ed cycles on all his exercises. Cycling, by definition [well, not quite. CRG], is concentrating on different repetition ranges at different times over the course of the training cycle... Here are his cycling repetition guidelines: Week 1-2 - 10 rep sets, Week 3-4 - 8 rep sets, Week 5-8 - 5 rep sets, Week 9-10 - 3 rep sets, Week 11-12 - 2 rep sets, Week 13 - 1 rep set, Week 14 - 1 rep set.

Remember those two work sets Ed does on all his major exercises? This is the weekly rep strategy for those work sets. This is called cycling and is designed to peak strength. Each week he adds 15 pounds to the previous week's work set weight. 15 pounds represents a paltry 2.5 percent of his max bench. Small jumps, done consistently and spread over a long 14 week cycle, adds up to big increases. Small weight jumps coax strength and power gains from the body. Week after week, the body is acclimated to slightly heavier loads. Exercise technique is simultaneously refined. Everything is done to develop momentum. This is a classic and timeless strength strategy. Compared to the army of arm- chair muscle gurus, Coan's conservation and impeccable pedigree stands out like a bright moon on a pitch black night. While not as trendy-sexy as newer models, this is the most effective system of strength building ever devised. Period."

"Ed Coan designs a cycle for you: We asked Coan to apply his cycle logic to a hypothetical 270 pound bencher who wanted to break the 300 pound barrier: "We can do it, but it'll take a thirteen week commitment from the lifter." Here's the breakdown:"

WeekWeight, Sets & Reps
Week 1190x2x10
Week 2190x2x10
Week 3200x2x8
Week 4210x2x8
Week 5220x2x5
Week 6230x2x5
Week 7240x2x5
Week 8250x2x3
Week 9260x2x3
Week 10270x2x2
Week 11190x2x10
Week 12300x1


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