Brad is a true legend of powerlifting, I have followed him for years and used his programs in many occasions and had great success. Brad is a six-time IPF world champion and and a 14 time USAPL National Powerlifting Champion. However, I find Brad’s greatest skill and asset to be his ability to coach and program. I review many programs, some a just too simplistic and lacking in quality then some are just overly complicated and lacking in focus and structure. His program’s hit that ‘sweet spot’ and are fantastic especially for Intermediate lifters. If you want to see Brad in action I have included a highlights video below.
Brad Gillingham 12 Week Bench Press Program
Brad Gillingham’s 12 week raw bench program is very straight forward, it’s an old school style of training whereby you have a ‘light’ and a ‘heavy’ training day benching just twice a week. You can add Accessory exercise and Assistance exercises where you see fit, however, do not let it effect your main training sessions. I would advise you allow 2-3 days between each session, for example I did my heavy day on Monday, then light day on Thursday.
On the heavy day you perform a one heavy single each session first, week one you start at 90% of your 1RM (one rep max) and work up to 102.5% of your 1RM on Week 12. I would advise starting with this heavy single ensuring a full warm-up routine is followed. DONT JUMP TO THE MAX EFFORT SINGLE! Then you perform that sessions volume work for 3 sets of 5 reps or 5 sets of 3 reps starting week one at 80% and finishing week 12 at 90% of your 1RM.
Light day is your volume day with medium intensity sub-maximal weight between 65-77.5% of your 1RM. You alternate weekly between 8 sets of 3 and 3 sets of 8 reps totaling a base volume of 24 reps each session. Remember to warm-up before beginning these working sets, yes it’s a light day but you still need to warm-up!
This is my suggestions based on what I did when I ran this program, I incorporated some isolation hypertrophy exercises which I performed AFTER my working sets.
Day 1: Heavy Day
- Dumbbell Flat Bench Flyes: 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Close Grip Bench Press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
Day 2: Light Day
- Incline Barbell Press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Dumbbell Seated Shoulder Press: 3 sets of 8-12 reps
- Tricep Extensions: 3 sets of 10 reps
You can chooser to implement the above or not, its optional and my recommendation and it might not work for you.
YouTube Video for Bench Press Program
Brad Gillingham 16 Week Squat + Deadlift Program
Similar to the bench press program this is a ‘No Thrills’ back to basics style training cutting out all the ‘Fluff’ and BS. You deadlift and once a week which for some lifters will find very alluring as it allows the user of this program to add in additional accessory work based on sticking points and weak muscle groups. I will talk more about this in the last section of this review.
When entering your 1RM make note that your SQUAT MAX MUST BE NO GEAR OR BELT! However, the Deadlift 1RM is with gear but no lifting straps.
You squat once a week starting at 52.5% of your 1RM and maxing at 77% of your 1RM then on Week 15 you peak and chase a new Squat PR. You alternate between 5 sets of 5 reps and 8 sets of 2 reps with exception to week 15.
Interestingly Brad states that you use no lifting gear for all sessions with exception to week 15, make sure you follow this instruction! This is because you are working with sub-maximal medium intensity loads focusing on speed, technique and explosivity.
When performing the 5 sets of 5 reps session it must be competed within 30 minutes. When performing the 8 sets of 2 reps session you perform a high bar squat with a close stance and you must complete the session within 15 minutes.
Squat Accessory Work
This is based on my recommendations and what I did when following this program, what you choose to implement, if at all is down each individual lifter.
- 3 Second Pause Squat: 4×5-8 reps (50-65% of squat 1RM)
- Hip Thrusters: 4×5-8 reps
- Anderson Squats: 4×5-8 reps (50-65% of 1RM)
Deadlift sessions alternate between rack pulls and your competition deadlift (sumo or conventional). When performing competition deadlifts you use the belt and when performing a heavy single for the rack pull you use your belt but DONT use lifting straps!
Rack Pull Week
When performing the rack pull deadlift you reduce the rack position each session starting at rack position seven then by week 15 you finish at rack position four. During the 16 weeks you work from four different rack positions. Work up to a heavy single each session and aim to attempt a new PR at that rack height.
You lift at each rack height twice during the 16 week program so its important to make sure you make note in your training log of your PRs each session. So next time you use that rack height you know what to aim for, however don’t go overboard when hitting a new PR! Be consistent with the rack positions and don’t change them during the program.
Brad suggests that the rack positions should follow the below based on where the barbell is against your knees.
|Rack 7||Just above knee|
|Rack 6||Just below knee|
|Rack 5||3 Inches below knee|
|Rack 4||5 Inches below knee|
Competition Deadlift Week
On competition deadlift days, the program calls for 6 sets of singles, starting at 60% of 1RM and working up to 82.5% by week 16. This is very straight forward make sure you focus on speed and explosiveness when performing each rep.
MY RECOMMENDATION: when I implemented this program I incorporated light resistance bands on week 1/4/6 to increase the tension and resistance. However, this is optional and might not work for you.
Brad actually recommends assistance work for Deadlift day, he states that front squats are to be done before the deadlift and RDLS (Romanian deadlift) after deadlifts. I recommend using sub-maximal weight at an RPE of 7-8 (40-55% of deadlift 1RM) for 4 sets of 5 to 8 reps.
YouTube Video for Squat and Deadlift
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