My Experience on the DB Hammer Bench Program

With all the talk about “DB Hammer” and his training methods, I thought I’d post my experiences with his bench press training program for the benefit of the group. His website can be accessed at

As he has recommended in his articles, I did 6 workouts for the total microcycle. They were all done with four days rest between each, and then a seven day rest before “maxing out.” This is actually contrary to his recommendations, which I will get to in a moment.

I will go over the mistakes I committed, and the alterations I made to Hammer’s program as best I can recall.

Let me state here that I was delighted with the results. Before I began the training regimen, I barely benched 250. I did not time the repetition as Hammer recommends, but it was very slow and stressful. If I had to estimate, I’d say it took around seven seconds to finish. Despite the slow lift, I consider myself nuero-rate dominant, so doubtless I was suffering from some real nervous system fatigue during that lift.

Today, after 26 days of training (because of work/family obligations I took five days between workouts on two occasions as I recall) and a seven day rest period, I maxed out at 265, a lifetime best. It was a “pretty” 265 as well, very quick and explosive. I barely missed (oh the agony!) 270. After three tries I called it a day.

I knew it would be a good day, as 225 felt light and easy, like I could have done 5 or 6 reps, which would be far and away more than I’ve ever done.

So I am very happy indeed. I made very little progress the last four years and I sometimes wondered if I’d ever go any higher. It seems that I can.

If you read DB Hammer’s Bench Press article, he offers workouts for people considered to be “neuro-rate” dominant and “nuero-duration” dominant, and then people who consider themselves a mix of both. I assumed that I was nuero-rate dominant, but after my slow 250 bench I wasn’t sure, so to be safe I picked the mixed program, but made some significant alterations. Here is what I did.

Day 1 (increasing neuro-rate)
PIM Bench @ 74% AW 1RM
N x 5 sec

OI Barbell Row
N x 0-9 sec

PIM Bench @ 63% AW 1RM
N x 5 sec

Iso Low Pulley Row
N x 25-40 sec

Day 2 (increasing nuero-duration)
Oscillating Isometric Bench
Hold 10 seconds

Iso Barbell Row
Hold 30 seconds

Oscillating isometric bench
Hold 30 seconds, change positions at 15 sec.

Iso Biceps
Hold 30 seconds

Each exercise is done consecutively, one ofter the other, in a circuit with plenty of rest between each. Following the principles of Auto-Regulatory Training (AREG) I stopped each session when my strength/reps/speed began to wane. This is key! Technically, you’re supposed to stop at 6% dropoff, but I haven’t the slightest idea how to measure that properly (I was doing good to watch the wall clock out of the corner of my eye to time my lifts), so I went totally by feel. When I began to drop off, I simply stopped.

PIM Bench is just a fancy name for a normal bench press. I did as many reps as I could for five seconds. Hammer advises that bench pressing incorporates lifting 15% of your bodyweight as well. This is supposed to go into figuring your percentage of maximum to determine the weight used in a session. Unfortunately I didn’t figure this out until workout number 5. Oh well. I was able to lift 3-4 reps in five seconds at 74% of my maximum, and 5 reps at 63%.

Day 2 on Hammer’s site does not have isometric benches. I included that on my own. I had never done isometrics before, so I figured it might be weak for me, and I was right. I was awful at them at first. I couldn’t even hold 140 pounds for 30 seconds! By the 6th workout, I had gone up 30 pounds in isometric holds for 30 seconds and 10 seconds. I held 215 for ten, and 165 for 30. Undoubtedly this was a big help.

I also did not understand, from Hammer’s description, how to do an “Oscillating Isometric” or a “Isometric Parametric” which is what the workout actually called for. So sometimes I would hold the weight at the most uncomfortable level for thirty seconds in a classical isometric. Sometimes I would hold it at one angle for half the time, and another angle the rest of the time.

Hammer has since posted some very helpful pictures on his site that describe how to do an “OI.” And yes, I was doing them wrong.

Another change I made was rest periods. To follow Hammer’s protocol, the first four workouts have a four day rest period between each, and then the next two have a six day rest interval. In all honesty, I just couldn’t rest that long! Mentally it was very tough for me. I’m used to training 4-5 days per week, and I just couldn’t wait that long.

I drank a Venti cup of coffee (that’s a “large” for non-Starbucks customers) before I lifted. I had done some sprinting the night before.

Right now I am trying to think through how these training principles can be applied in competitive sprint swimming.

Feel free to ask whatever quuestions you like.

What were you doing prior to this to increase your bench?

Hi Mikeh, how are You doing overall?

If You are thinking about applying DB’s approach to swimming, be sure to understand and manage principles and methods fully (who does really anyway… ?), or maybe stick to the general ideas,and what You personally find more easily appliable straight away.
In His general approach and definition Swimming is a “Rate dominant” activity,and should be trained accordingly. does that really mean You get in Gym and start firing sets over sets of Dynamic Bench Presses?
What I actually find intersting in DB’s approach overall are some basic training approaches and structures which come a long way before His AREG methodics,and His plethora of exercise variations in everyday real life coaching/training.

Well now you’ve become rate-dominant :slight_smile:

I’d assume this would be in the Max Strength phase of sprint training?

Also another thing, how do you do IPM and OI lifts? I can’t find the pictures that explain them on his website.

Your not looking hard enough! :slight_smile:

read the articles and the Q&A, or buy his book


Hi there! Doing great, and I’m just about to start training again for the summer!

Yes, I noticed that he mentioned swimming as a neuro-rate dominant activity. I plan on sprinting every 4 days to start with, and having a all-out speed day of very short repetitions (lasting 8 seconds or less), and then 4 days later a speed endurance day of longer reps (lasting 25-1:00.)

In between I’ll do longer “tempo” swimming at 60% or so to maintain good conditioning.

I also think that AREG can be applied in swimming, and I’ll be ending my sprint sessions after the short drop off.

We’ll see how this works, and I’ll post the results if it works well. Maybe if it doesn’t too.


Great question. I was benching 2-3 times per week, doing a lot of “rebound” bench presses at 45% or so, and a lot of very heavy work within 90% - 100% of my maximum. I’ve come to realize that I do too much max work. This little microcycle has convinced me of that.

It looks like it! That’s good, but I need more iso work. Now that I see how to do OI’s, I’ll incorporate those as well. Wish I knew how to do IPM’s. I know that you understand Hammer’s protocol pretty well. Any suggestions or descriptions you can offer on IPM’s would be appreciated.


Fabio, those short movies can be found in the latest Q&A.

I’m not sure I understand your question related to sprint training. Could you expound?


Just to add one more thing - I maxed out Saturday. I had done some sprinting/running on Friday. Sunday the DOMS set in, so no doubt my nervous system was a bit beaten from Friday night’s work.

Makes the program (not the athlete) look a little better.

BTW, I think I miscounted the days. Including the seven day rest period, it was 29 days total from start to finish. Sorry about that.

Max strength phase in the weight room for sprinting, like doing lifts using 90 to 100% your max in the weight room.

You were already doing IPMs :slight_smile:
Basicly 2 or more ISO holds are various points of the ROM, going from hardest to easiest when done in the AN2 bracket. The program will specify how many holds and the duration of each - but the first hold is the one where you set the load and AREG off.

There are other IPM methods, but they are not used in the sample bench programs, which are much like what you may have seen Adam Archuletta doing with the manual resistance ISO holds into full extension etc :smiley:

off course if you have read all the articles…umm the Training Basics one, then you would have read this… :rolleyes: :stuck_out_tongue:

Isometric Parametric (IPM)- Starting off with an isometric contraction for a specified amount of time followed by either a miometric contraction or another isometric contraction at a more advantageous joint range.

Good job Mike. Yet I think you would’ve increased substantially more had you been doing the 2nd workout correctly, the IPM’s, because from what you describe you were probably working with weights well below loads optimal for building strength . How much weight were you using when you did these movements?
Oscillating Isometric Bench
Hold 10 seconds

Oscillating isometric bench
Hold 30 seconds, change positions at 15 sec

One generally has to use substantially less load in an Oscillatory isometric in comparison to a regular isometric movement.

However, you still got good results :). What do you have planned for your next cycle?

To answer your question Kelly, it sounds like I might have been doing IPM’s for the second workout without realizing it. I would hold the bar at one point for 5 seconds or fifteen seconds, then move it to another point for the next 5 seconds or 15 seconds. Sometimes I just did iso holds.

The loads I used for these iso’s (or IPM’s) were, at their highest, 165 for 30 seconds, and 215 for ten.

I will probably stay away from the bench for 5 days or so, to rest after my 100% max effort, and then I may do the cycle all over again, using what I’ve learned. Maybe I’ll do the microcycle for people who are neuro rate dominant (as I appear to be) and need to work on their neuro-duration. I hate to get away from speed work for too long though.

Thank you very much for your encouragment. Any guidance you offer will be very much appreciated.


In my experience drop offs over distances lasting <8" in swimming do not match equal drop offs in SE distances at all … even without taking into any consideration the overall level of the athlete/performance.
I wouldn’t look intentionally for SE drop offs anyway.

Could you expound on this Pakewi? Are you saying I should expect dropoffs in SE and should therefore be less concerned?

By the way, is SE work nuero-duration dominant? Thank you!


Swimming in DB’s defition is “neuro-rate” dominant activity.Duration of the effort determines the “Energy bracket” of the expression.
Therefore,according to my understanding of DB’s approach training in the pool should actually never be coupled with neuro-duration work in the Gym on the same day,but only with neuro-magnitude one.

Why should You intentionally expect drop offs in SE swims, where is actually critical to see improvement as costantly as possible,in swimming even more so than on the track,due to the weight of the SE component in every event ?

Hey Mikeh how are You doing ?
If still interested You may want to check the last (May 26) update.

Though definatedly interesting in its approaches,I still think we can be incredibly successful in designing swimming programs -which may also be labeled “unconventional” ,but who cares as long we get the results in…- thanks to the wealth of information around here!

Sprinting and Sprint Swimming may well have their very own characteristics and details ,which do require subtle adjustments,but in order to succeed the potential for speed MUST be there somehow, and if it is not,it’s our job to create it!