I have been doing max effort 5-3-1 cycles. As an example for one cycle, I have done a 2board bench press w/ mini bands. Week 1- work up to 2-3 max sets of 5 reps
Week 2- max sets of 3 reps
Week 3- max singles
Week 4- no heavy barbell work, rep work with pushups or dumbbells
Next cycle- Medium Grip Floor Press w/ chains
Week 1- max sets of 5
Week 2- max sets of 3
Week 3- max singles
Week 4- reps
This type of max effort cycling has been working great for me over the last 3 or 4 months and I have been hitting some nice PR's. This past Thursday, I worked up to 275lbs+~40lbs of chains for a triple on the floor press. I have been training with a medium/semi close grip as well to build my weaker point and get my triceps into my bench stroke more. If you don't know, floor presses are harder than regular bench since you have no leg drive and you pause on the floor. The closer grip I have been training with also makes it more challenging for me. So pressing what equals out to 315 at the top for a triple in this exercise makes me happy right now!! If I were to test my max in the regular bench right now, I am 99% sure I would set a real nice PR.
While this max effort cycling has worked well, the assistance work I have done has made a huge contribution as well.
First, I have made a big effort the entire year to bring my triceps up. It was something I hadn't particularly focused on for awhile and I realized needed to be done. Exercises I have hammered to bring them up and in turn raise my bench include rolling db extensions, elbows out extensions, incline extensions, overhead extensions, chain extensions, pushdowns, one arm tricep pushups and jm presses. Pressing with bands and chains with a closer grip has helped as well. If you read anything by any huge bencher, you will see that strong triceps are key to a big press. I hit them hard at least twice a week, doing 2 to 4 exercises of 3 to 5 sets each depending on which workout day it is. (One day, I might focus on triceps early on. On a max effort day, they are usually trained specifically later in the workout) I cycle from as low as 5 rep sets to as high as 15 rep sets for different exercises.
Second, I have done a lot to bring up specific upper back muscles, particularly my lower traps. Heavy chest supported rows, chest supported db rows and pullups to hit all of the major pulling muscles have been huge. For the scap musculature as a whole, face pull variations have helped. For specific lower trap work, I have hammered out lots of chest supported "I's," "Y's", and band "W's." While my back as a whole has been a strong point for quite some time, specific areas such as the lower traps lagged behind. After focusing on bringing things up to par, I feel much more stable when I press and my shoulders feel much better. When you bench, your upper back should be nice and tight so that you have a solid base to push from. You should be able to feel yourself almost rowing the bar down as your scapulae pinch. This makes you much stronger coming out of the bottom.
Heres how my workout from Thursday looked:
Floor Press w/ chains (add ~40lbs) 225lbsx3 245lbsx3 255lbsx3 265lbsx3 275lbsx3 PR 225lbsx10
High incline db press w/ pause 70lbs 3x8-10 55lbsx12
Chest supported db row 70lbsx6 80lbs 3x5 60lbsx8
High to low face pull 110lbs 3x8
Incline elbows out extensions 45lbs 3x6-8/chain extensions 4x8-15
Incline hammer curls 45lbs 3x6-8/chain curls 3x8-15
Face pull x20
Extra workout: Chest Supported I's 15-20lbs, 3x8-12
Chest Supported Y's 10-12 lbs, 3x8-12
High to Low Face Pulls 3x15
Light db flies
I was amped up the entire workout and after I hit some solid floor presses, I was rolling the rest of the workout. I should note that I've been doing lots of db pressing with a pause at my chest, both flat and incline. This is helping me to be much stronger off of my chest. The weights drop down quite a bit to do them with a pause but it has been paying off.
My other upper day which will be done Sunday will focus on triceps early on and will have a larger emphasis on shoulder work as well.
Hope this gave you some ideas. Train hard!!!!