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Bench Press Training
Article care of http://nps.ticz.com
By Glenn Buechlein C.S.C.S
This article will focus onspecial innovative exercises to aid the bench press. Many of these exercises I have outlined are taken directly from Louis Simmons of Westside Barbell. Some are variations or hybrids of Louie’s, while the remaining are from various sources I have accumulated in my 15 yrs. of lifting. I personally believe in working parts or segments of a lift or exercise in order to improve the whole lift. I will discuss numerous exercises in this article because a lifter must experiment with several exercises in order to gain insight to what works best for them. As experience is gained, it is then possible to figure out one’s weak points so they can be emphasized in order to lift more.
For convenience and simplicity, I will describe each lift or exercise and then rate it as far as effectiveness. Bear in mind that this is my rating and may not be in agreement with other practitioners of these exercises. Also, by effectiveness, I simply mean how much the exercise
helped my competition bench in the long run. The rating system is as follows: 1=fairly effective; 2=effective; 3=very/greatly effective. I will now begin discussing exercises which I utilize to improve my bench. Generally,I would only do 2 of these per workout, so I am offering a variety to choose from. I recommend sampling each of these and discarding the exercises you believe are of less value to your lifting goals.
1. Benching with Chains
First, you must purchase at least 2 sets of 5/8’’ chain in 5ft. segments. Each 5ft. segment will weigh 20lbs thus, there will be a total of 80lbs. of chain. The chains are hung from the bar so approximately 1/3 of the chain is resting on the floor when the bar is racked. It will be necessary to buy some lighter chain for the heavy chain to be hung from. The chain offers variable resistance by deloading the weight in the eccentric phase and loading weight during the concentric phase. This is beneficial because, as the lifters biomechanical advantage decreases, so does the load. On the other hand, as the biomechanical advantage increases at the top, so does the load. This aids in bar speed and force development while minimizing joint stress and muscle soreness. Additionally, the chains force the stabilizers to be worked to a greater degree. Chains are the ground work of my bench program. Rating- 3+
2. J.M. Press
This movement is named for J.M. Blakely of Columbus, Ohio. I have modified the exercise to fit my own training needs. I usually do this exercise after my core bench exercise, such as chains or floor press. To do the J.M. Press, take a fairly narrow grip and begin to lower the bar to the lower pec or pec line. While lowering the bar, squeeze the elbows in toward the body and envision that you are bending the bar. This will help keep you tight and spring loaded. Lower the bar to approximately 4-5 inches above the chest and hold for a count or two. Explode the weight upward. I recommend 3 sets of 3 reps- pyramid up to 90-95% of max. for 3 reps. This is an excellent tricep builder. Rating- 3
3. Illegally Wide Bench
These are simply benches done with the grip outside of the rings on an olympic bar. Be careful with this exercise because it does place great stress on the shoulders. A positive is that they are useful if you are slow off the chest because it aids explosion at the bottom or start of the lift. I generally focus on these the last 2-3 workouts before a competition because I bench as wide as allowable in a meet. Try for a P.R. each workout on these. After a warm-up, I usually do only 1 set of 5 reps on this exercise. Many times I use chain with this exercise. As a rule, I believe what you can do illegally for 5 reps, you can press 100lbs. more for a single. Ex. 450lbs. x 5 reps.=550 max. Rating- 3
4. Floor Press
As the name implies, you will bench while lying on the floor. Begin this exercise by lying on the floor in the same manner as you lie on the bench. Lifting partners will have to hand you the bar. Be sure to start in an extended position. Lower the bar until your arm touches the floor. Pause for a count and explode the bar upward. This exercise is beneficial for overcoming one’s sticking point. Chains can be draped over the sleeve for added resistance at the top. Do 3-4 sets of 2-3 reps –heavy—90-95% of max. You should be able to floor press 100lbs. less than your meet max for a single. Rating- 3
5. Board Presses
First, you will have to purchase some 2" x 6" boards. Personally, I made a set of 2, 3, and 4 boards glued together. Generally, I use the 3 boards because the 3 boards represent my sticking point. A partner will place the boards on your chest. Lower the bar to the board(s) and press the bar upward. These are similar to a lock-out in the power rack, but you feel the weight off the chest. This exercise greatly affects the delts and pecs. Do 3-4 sets of 1-3 reps. A friend of mine from Peoria, who is a masters world champion and a record holder in the 198 lb. class, uses board presses throughout the year as his core exercise. He also wears his bench shirt when performing these. I do not wear my suit for board presses. I believe board presses are beneficial, but not as much as my friend does. A person should be able to board press off of
three boards 90-95% of their meet max. Rating- 2
6. Heavy Handouts
You will need a partner or 2 for this exercise. The attendants should help the lifter by handing out the weight as if giving a liftoff. The lifter should hold the weight in the extended or locked position for 10 seconds. Eventually, you should be able to hold 150-200lbs. more than your max for 10 seconds. This is useful for a lifter to feel heavy weight while alleviating the micro-trauma associated with an exercise with a full-range of movement. 3 sets. Rating- 2
7. Tempo Reps
Various tempos or rep times can be utilized to add intensity to a regular workout. I usually opt for a tempo of 4-0-4. This means that it takes 4 seconds to lower and press the bar with no pause at the bottom. I recommend using a weight which is 30-40% of your max. Also, I would save this as a finisher or burnout exercise at the end of a workout. Begin by performing 10 reps at the 4-0-4 tempo. 4 seconds down- 0-pause- 4 seconds up. When the 10th rep is completed, shift gears and tempo by lifting as explosively and as quickly as possible. The goal is to get the last 10 reps up as soon as possible. Goal is to make all 20 reps. 1 set of these will suffice. These cause a tremendous burn because both TypeI and TypeII muscle fibers will be scorched. Rating-2
8. See-Saw Benching
The bar will be set inside the power rack with the rods/pins set as low as possible, but still allowing the lifter to slide under the bar. The lifter should climb under the bar and begin pressing 1 side of the bar up while pivoting on the other end. Lower the side lifted and then press up the other side, similar to a see-saw on the playground. This is a tremendous tricep builder. I use this as a finishing exercise at the end of my workouts. Perform 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps. Keep weight around 50% of max. Rating- 2
9. Swiss Ball Dumbbell Press
You will need to purchase a heavy duty swiss ball for this exercise. The lifter will lie on the swiss ball with the shoulders and upper torso on the ball and the hips and legs off the ball aiding in stabilization. Have 2 people simultaneously hand heavy dumbbells to you. Start with the dumbbells at the top, then lower until the arms touch the ball. With practice, the lifter can use the ball as a spring-like mechanism to aid in the initial phase of the pressing of dumbbells. This ballistic action will allow heavier weight to be lifted as well as additional reps to be performed. Do 3 sets of 12-15 reps with as heavy dumbbells as possible. This repetition method will aid in muscular endurance. Rating- 2
10. Kowalcyk Weight Releasers
These can be purchased for around $70 in PLU.S.A. This device is hooked on the sleeve of the bar outside the plates on the bar. The device is designed to release when the bar is lowered to the chest. The use of Kowalcyks is essentially a plyometric exercise. I use a weight which is 110-120% of one’s max. single. For instance, if someone can bench 400lbs. they should lower 440-480lbs. At the bottom, the weight releasers disengage, while the lifter slams the weight up in an explosive manner. The lifter should press up to 70-80% of a max single. Using the previous example, the lifter would press 280-320lbs. So, the lifter begins with a very heavy load and finishes with a lighter load. This exercise is extremely taxing on the body. The heavy eccentric phase causes extreme muscle soreness. Do not do before a meet. I recommend using these every third workout. Rating- 2-
Well, I think I will wrap it up here. I have left some exercises out such as weighted push-ups and static holds. Hopefully, the 10 I have included will be useful to your bench progression. A few key points are as follows:
1. Choose 2 of these to do with each workout while keeping a journal in order to evaluate which exercises are helping you the most.
2. Focus on triceps and rotator cuff exercises along with your core exercises.
3. Contact me with questions about the lifts if confusion persists.
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