Bill Kazmaier’s Bench Press Routine

Welcome to my first article of the new year, as well as my latest history lesson!  Today we will be discussing the one and only Bill Kazmaier.  There’s so man y aspects of Bill that I can get into, because that fact of the matter is he’s done it all.  Anything you can think of to make a name for yourself using your body, he’s done it.  Here’s a brief resume of the man:

  • Top ranking Powerlifter within his first year in the Amateur Athletic Commision (AAU) in 1978, with 782lb squat, a 534lb bench press, and 804lb deadlift.  He won his first IPF World Championship a year later with a total of 2,292lbs.  He won his second IPF Championship in November 1983, just months after winning his first United States Powerlifting Federation (USPF) National Powerlifting Championship in July.
  • World’s Strongest Man competitor, who won third place at the 1979 World’s Strongest Man competition by deadlifting a 2,555lb car.  In the next three years he won first place three years in a row, a record that still has yet to be broken.  HIs 1982 win came along with a 1,055lb Silver Dollar Deadlift.
  • Pro Wrestler, having worked over the years in the WWF, Stampede Wrestling, Continental Championship Wrestling and WCW, where he received his biggest exposure.  He also wrestling briefly in New Japan Pro Wrestling and Fighting Network Rings.

That’s just the short list, meaning I left some things out as to not lose focus on what I really want to cover.  While Bill undoubtedly spent most of his sports career as a Strongman competitor, he is considered to be one of the best benchers of all time, benching 633lbs in the 1980 IPF World Championships with an injury brought on from missing a 887lb Squat attempt.  He then went on to bench 661.4lbs at the USPF West Georgia Open Powerlifting Championships on January 31, 1981.

One of the reasons I chose to focus on Bill’s Bench training, as someone who’s always trying to increase his own bench numbers, is because he had such a massive, barrel shaped chest, and the fact is he was freakishly strong.  But what intrigued me, though it wasn’t too surprising, was how incredibly high in volume his routine actually was.  It was very similar to that of Doug Young’s, of which I covered just a few months ago.

I had recently become interested in a more high volume approach to my own workouts as my body finally had enough of training in 5/3/1 style for two years straight and had just begun using Brandon Lilly’s Cube Method.  In the middle of my research I found a manual written by Bill, which I’ll leave the link to at the bottom of this article, discussing everything from technique, to mindset, to how to train specifically to improve your bench numbers.   Here’s a brief run through on some details:


The frequency here is medium, in that in this four day routine two days are set up just to work on the Bench Press, and the other two days focusing on the rest of the upper body.  Frequency especially when it comes to training is very necessary.  The chest is not as big as the legs and back are, and should be worked on more than the other muscles.


The routine is very high in volume.  With two days specifically aimed at bench work and it’s variations, and two days focused on the upper body, it’s important to know that both aspects of this routine have a set light day and heavy day, which is important.  You can use the heavy days to focus on strength, and the light days to focus on endurance and muscle building.  Each day also consists of five exercises, with the number of sets and reps varying depending on if it’s a heavy or light day.

As someone who only now is understanding the importance of extra stimulation for particular muscles, especially if you’ve hit a plateau, this approach is great for training the muscles in one direction while letting them recover from another direction.  So you’d train for strength one day, and then you’d train for hypertrophy a few days later.  It’s also a great way to train weak points you may have in the Bench Press itself.  This is exactly what Brandon Lilly stresses in the Cube Method.


Speaking of Brandon Lilly, the key to improvement in any big lift, as any proven professional will tell you, you need to chose your accessory work to be specific to the move itself.  It should emulate your chosen lift as much as possible.  One key example that I will use here is the way Lat Pulldowns are addressed in this manual.  Unlike a traditional Lat Pulldown, where you’d pull the bar to the top of your chest while sitting as straight as you can and looking up, you’d now lean back as much as you can and pull the bar down to the bottom of your chest, as if you’re pulling the bar down in a bench press.  The idea is to squeeze the lats, emulating the descent in the first portion of the Bench Press.  I actually first heard of this just a few months ago through Brandon, causing me to suspect that he might’ve taken inspiration from Bill.

Here are the two days set up for Bench Press and for upper body/accessory work:

Day 1

  • Competition style Bench Press
  • Wide Grip Bench Press
  • Narrow Grip Bench Press
  • Front Deltoid Raise
  • Lateral Raise

Day 2

  • Lying Tricep Extention (perform two warmups before main work)
  • Tricep Pushdown
  • Seated Hammer Curl
  • Seated Row
  • Wide Grip Pulldowns To The Chest

Here’s the entire program, lasting 10 weeks, in which you can either perform a mock meet to test your max or you’ll perform in an actual meet.  This too is also a goal in the Cube Method, as that program too lasts just ten weeks.  Make sure to follow me on YouTube, Instagram and Tumblr.  Thanks for reading!

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One thought on “Bill Kazmaier’s Bench Press Routine

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