One of the most common combine events is the Bench Press for reps. At the NFL Combine, it’s performed with 225 pounds. At the NBA Combine, it’s done with 185 pounds. It starts at certain high school combines, and many strength coaches make it part of their team testing. The exercise is meant to be a measure of muscular strength and endurance along with mental toughness.
If you’ve got a Bench Press for reps test coming up, I’ve got a strategy you should utilize during your training. It involves the idea of “rest-pause” sets.
During your actual Bench Press test, you will not be able to do some reps, rack the bar, rest for a little while, and then pick up right where you left off. As soon as you fail a rep or that bar is racked, your result is concrete. However, using strategic “rest-pauses” during your training will ultimately help you post a bigger number come crunch time. The idea is to strategically utilize rests of 10 to 20 seconds to help you achieve more work in less time and ultimately increase your size and strength.
Pick a number of reps you’d like to achieve on test day. Don’t make this too outlandish. If you’re currently putting up 185 for 8 reps, don’t expect to be able to put up 35 reps in just a few weeks. A goal of 15 is still quite aspirational, but not insanely unrealistic.
So let’s say your goal for test day is indeed 15 reps. After you warm up, load the bar appropriately and began pressing for reps. Right as you’re on the verge of failure, rack the bar and rest for 15 seconds. After this brief rest, un-rack the bar and keep going, picking up where you left off; if you took a rest after rep 8, you resume at rep 9. Continue to do this, taking 15-second rest-pauses as needed, until you achieve your goal number of reps. It might take you several sets, but that’s OK.
If you reach a point where you feel you cannot do another single rep even after a 15-second rest yet have several reps to go before hitting your goal, you should probably bring your target down a bit (you can always move it back up later if needed).
Track the number of 15-second rests it took you to achieve your target goal and look to decrease that total over time. Ultimately, the hope is you’ll be able to do all those reps in just one set!
This powerful technique can help you push through plateaus and get significantly stronger. You will want to employ the help of a spotter during Bench Press rest-pause sets so you don’t get pinned under the bar.
While your test will consist of the Bench Press, integrating some different exercises into your training can help target weak points in your press and enhance your rep number. You’re looking for moves that develop the chest, shoulders and triceps.
With that in mind, here’s a program I recommend performing once a week during the run-up to your test day. Ideally, you’ll begin integrating this into your program eight weeks from test day. It includes both the rest-pause technique as well as several solid assistance exercises.
8-Week Bench for Reps Program
Flat Barbell Bench Press: After warming up appropriately, perform 1 Rest-Pause Set until you achieve your target goal, using the weight you’ll test with on test day.
- Flat Dumbbell Press : 3 sets of 5 reps (rest 1 minute between sets)
- Triceps Pressdown: 3 sets of 8 reps (rest 1 minute between sets)
- Front Dumbbell Raise: 3 sets of 12 reps (rest 1 minute between sets)
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