Mike Macdonald’s Bench Press Secret

Mike Macdonald was in the late 70s the bench-press superstar. He had incredible strong tendons and great fast muscle fibers. When he made his 603lb/273kg bench press, he had an 18inch/45cm arm. In this article I will present you Mike MacDonalds Training Secrets.

In Iron Man Magazine (early 70s) Mike cites that a mistake many new beginners make is to always be looking for short cuts. According to Mike there are no short cuts – just a lot of hard work for many years with careful attention to diet, rest and good living habits.

Mike used to train very strict. It was very important for him to develop strong tendons and ligament. This will help you to avoid injuries. Mike said that rapid progress in developing muscle strength at the expense of tendon strength is a serious mistake.

(1) Training Routine From Iron Man Magazine (End of 70s)

In this period of time Mike trained the bench on every third day (while lifting in 198lb class).

Warm Up
135×8 and 135×8

Work Set
225 for 5 reps 
325 for one
425 for one
500 for one
575 for one

He used to rest about 5 minutes. He then did paused repetitions. He pressed the weight just below his sticking point and hold there for a few seconds. He did this with 485 1 rep and after a rest another time with the same poundage

He used for the bench a regular bar. Then he used the special cambered bar. This was invented by him and allowed to him to lower his arms and stretch the pectoral much farther than usual. He did 2 sets of 3 reps with this bar. He lowered the bar to the chest and held it there for 3 to 5 seconds or until he felt a burning sensation in his chest.

He also used to do dips between two chairs to stretch his chest. Mike claimed that pushups and presses with the cambered bar was very important for his success. Because this helped him to stretch the chest and blast off the weight. 

He even stated that most of his success came from his stretch training philosophy, long period of training, good food and medication. Mike made reference to Pat Casey’s training with dumbells. He said that Pat used dumbells to go deeper than regular bars allowed. Thus he was able to use more stretch and Mike used this princip for his own with the cambered bar.

(2) Eight Week Beginner Bench Routine developed by Mike MacDonald (From PL USA 1977)

In this period of time Mike Macdonald added hammer curls to his training. The suggestion came from Bill Kazmaier.It should help building up the “stabilizer muscle” and make the descent more controllable.
This is an eight week bench pressing cycle for intermediate-beginner lifters, based on a personal max single of 250 pounds starting the cycle. This cycle promised to add 40 – 60lb to your bench press. It is very important to concentrate on the right technique.

Rep Sheme Week One, Two and Three

Mike MacDonald Training Routine

Week One
Monday : Bench Press, Bench with 2 Second pause, EZ Curl Bar Bench Press, Narrow Grip: max weight possible for 4 sets of 5

Wednesday: Same as Monday

Saturday: Benchpress, Bench with 2 seconds pause, EZ Curl Bar Bench Press, Narrow Grip: max weight possible for 4 sets of 5

Week Two
Bench, EZ curl bar bench presses max weight 4 sets of 5 reps. Hammer curls (thumbs up) 4 sets 5 with light weight

Same as Monday

Bench, EZ curl bar bench presses, narrow grip max weight. Hammer curls(thumbs up) 6 sets of 5 add weight if possible

Week Three
Now bench press twice per week

Bench, EZ curl bar benches, narrow grip, max weight 5 sets of 5 reps. Hammer curls (thumbs up) 6 sets of 8 and (add weight only if possible)

Bench, EZ curl bar bench and hammer curls (same as above)

Bench Press Rep/Set Sheme; Week four – Week Eight

Mike Macdonald Training 8 week

Assistance work: Keep same EZ curl bar routine and hammer curls except add weight if possible.

Editor’s note: Use the tag system and click the button “benchpress” for more articles! – Mr. Berg

1 thought on “Mike Macdonald’s Bench Press Secret”

  1. Probably the most amazing and versatile RAW bench presser ever. As amazing as he was with all he did officially, he most certainly would have pushed almost all of the records even higher had he just elected to stay in one weight class rather than bounce up in down in body weight. He certainly left a lot more undone in the 242# class having officially ‘only’ topped out at 603# weighing 240# November 5, 1977 at the Twin Ports Open in Duluth, MN on an easy 2nd attempt forgoing a 3rd attempt at what he was sure of at least 610# and witnesses felt more confident of 620#! Prior to the meet he had tripled 565#! Years later while weighing only 232# he did an official IPF WR 592# and additionally locked out 608# on his 3rd only not being credited for that lift as well due to a technical error as the bar nipped the underside of the left upright just before being completely locked out. Witnesses at that meet noted that the lift was otherwise perfectly paused and fully locked out, otherwise perfect in every way. The tap of the underside of the lip of the left upright actually made the lift harder, and as it didn’t ‘assist’ the lift, under the current rules the lift would have likely been given white lights and accepted officially as well. He reportedly had tripled as much as 570# prior to the meet. Unfortunately Mike ignored some left elbow tendinitis / pain and kept training heavy anticipating at least 617-622# eventually in the 242# class at a full 242# and after hitting 617# in training tore his left triceps attempting 622#! He had done a RAW 600# in training on more than a dozen occasions over the years (maybe as many as 17 different occasions) and as much as both 620# and 625# for strict touch’n go singles in the mid to late 1970s! His all time official bests were 522#@181# (I don’t think he had too much more in him at this weight class as he was almost 5’10” and was almost all muscle and bone at that weight), 562#@197# (he always dreamed of reaching 600# at this weight, but was sure of at least a 570# bench), 582#@220 (he weighed only 217-218# at the meet, remember 1 hour weigh ins in his day)….he really regretted not having hit 609# RAW officially at 220#, having just missed it on two occasions in meets following himself after official 580# and 582# records, and 603# officially at 242# way back in 1977 with the aforementioned 608# also locked out, but not official as a 232#er in the 242# class following his official 592# WR bench. He only lifted 242# periodically so as to bump his bench press strength up prior to dropping weight and setting records in the aforementioned other three weight classes, which he had down to a science! Had he stayed a full 242# all of the time he would have likely hit at least 635#-650# officially as a 242#er….he also had dreams of getting the 275# WR in the bench press as at the time it was only 605#-608# by bench legend Dr. Tom Hardman who eventually officially did 614# in 1982! Mike felt who could have easily hit at least 617#-622# at 245#-250# within a few month or so after the Body Expo II meet August 23,1981 at which unprecedented! Not just a one lift specialist as was often claimed, he won the Juniors as a 242#er (weighing only about 220#), took 2nd at the Seniors, and took 3rd at the Worlds with elite totals in at least three weight classes….more than 1600# @198# and over 1800#@220-242# during his lifting career with almost no supportive gear at all and all of his bench press records RAW!


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