Tony's Training Tip: Developing Upper Body Strength


This week, we're going to take a closer look at what we have going on in the Kingfield Strength class and the types of exercises we've used to develop upper body strength. 

First, I wanted to take a second to celebrate a few athletes, who have been hitting personal records left and right. Most recently, Olivia set a new bench press PR at 135#, then managed to hit 140# for 3 reps. Ted just hit a strict press PR as well (135#) and went on to do it for 3 reps. On the same night, Erik smoked his previous 1 rep max for a triple, hitting 140# on his strict press. Gabe has also made some strides on his deadlift, lifting 340# for a single (which is heavier than he has gone in a number of years).

These athletes have without a doubt gotten stronger, but how? Below, I have outlined some training that we have done recently specific to upper body development/building strength.


Upper Body Day 1

1. Bench Press:

Week 1: Build to a moderately heavy set of 10. 2 sets of 8 at 80% of today's heaviest set.
Week 2: Build to a set of 10 slightly heavier than last week. 3 sets of 8 at 80% of today's heaviest set.
Week 3: Find 10 rep max bench Press. 3 set of 8 at 80% of 10RM.

2. Bent-Over Barbell Row:

Week 1: 3 sets of 10.
Week 2: 4 sets of 10.
Week 3: 5 sets of 10.

3. Single arm Dumbbell Row

Week 1: 3 sets of 10.
Week 2: 4 sets of 10.
Week 3: 5 sets of 10.

4. Overhead Dumbbell carries

Week 1: 3 sets of 150' each arm with 15-20 second passive hang between each set.
Week 2: Go slightly heavier on the carries if you can.
Week 3: Repeat Week 2.


Upper Body Day 2

1. Pause Bench Press

Week 1: Take 10 minutes to build a heavy set of 3 (pausing for 2 seconds off chest). After establishing a heavy set of 3, perform 3x3 regular bench press at the same weight as the heaviest set performed earlier.
Week 2: Take 10 minutes to build to heavy set of 2 pause + 1 regular bench press, perform 3x3 regular bench press at same weight as heaviest pause set.
Week 3: Find today’s heavy set of 3 bench press (no pause), then perform 5x1 at same weight as heavy set of 3.

2. Pause Dips (2 second pause in bottom position)

Week 1: 3 sets to fatigue.
Week 2: 3 sets to fatigue.
Week 3: 4 sets staying 2 reps shy of failure WITHOUT pause.

3.Upright Barbell Row (Wide Grip)

Week 1: 3 sets of 10.
Week 2: 4 sets of 10.
Week 3: 5 sets of 10.

4. Ring Rows

Week 1: 3 sets of 8.
Week 2: 3 sets of 6-8 to Tempo (31X1).
Week 3: 3 sets of 8-10 to Tempo (31X1).


As you can see, we typically start class with some sort of barbell work, then move into 3-4 accessory exercises that focus on the emphasized muscle group for that day. The above “block” of training focused a lot on pulling and pressing. We then coupled the OH carries and passive hangs to hopefully combat any loss in range of motion and to help with keeping the shoulders happy!

Each consecutive week, we slightly change the stimulus of the main lift, and add more sets or reps in the accessory work. We do it this way for a number of reasons, but I’d like to highlight 2. For one, the athletes get repeated exposure to an exercise. If we changed every movement each week, we wouldn't be able to dial in optimal technique. Secondly, it allows for hitting more PRs! The mental benefit of seeing yourself progress week after week is invaluable. In the training block above, many of the strength athletes set PRs in their 10 rep bench press (in consecutive weeks for some), 3 rep Bench Press, and Dips!

The secret to success of the Kingfield Strength athletes has VERY little to do with the programming though. The majority of credit here has to be given to them and their consistency, dedication, and acceptance of some downsides to jumping on the gain train! Yes, your cardio will diminish... and yes, depending on your long-term goals, you will likely gain some weight. That is just a small part of the process to getting stronger.

-Coach Tony