Had the opportunity to sit down and watch the bench video. After watching every lift several times in slow motion, I must say that it looks better than I expected. Far from perfect, but the major elements seem to be there: arch, fairly tucked elbows (need to look closer at these though) and bar path (goes slightly towards the eyes, but quite straight up and down). No sign of the left elbow flaring in the bench either (unless the close-grips are counted… more on that later).
Watching the tape I got the bright idea of timing all lifts using a stopwatch (well, my Nokia mobile phone). For every lift I timed the whole bench (straight arms via chest to straight arms) and the press phase (chest to straight arms) three times and then calculated the average. The descent was calculated by the simple formula whole bench - press = descent. I didn’t pause the bar on the chest, so this should give a fairly accurate picture.
This experiment seems to confirm that 50 kg/111 pounds is indeed the proper weight for my speed benches. Recall that three reps should be performed within 3-3.5 seconds, which should be about the time needed to complete a true single. The press phase for each rep took 0.35s, 0.44s and 0.57s with the descent taking 0.47s, 0.59s and 0.56s. Calculating everything together gives 2.98s. Naturally there is a slight delay between reps which adds to the time, but then again I lower the bar somewhat faster on speed day. Give or take, this is pretty darn close. The 60% rule seems to hold very nicely in my case: 60% of the 85 kg/188 pounds is 51 kg/113 pounds.
The video also gives me some reason to again reconsider my sticking point and I conclude that it is indeed just slightly above the starting position for the floor press. Looking at the singles, 80 kg/177 pounds was the first set where straining started to become visible (this is also confirmed by the drastic jump in the press time, see table below). With 80 kg/177 pounds the speed decreased significantly when the arms were just above parallel with the floor, with the max 85 kg/188 pounds this is were the press came to a full stop before I powered it to lockout. After I gain more explosiveness off the bottom I expect the sticking point to migrate upwards. Floor presses and board presses seem the ticket.
Below is a break down of all first reps/singles for the workout:
|40 kg/88 pounds
|50 kg/111 pounds
|60 kg/133 pounds
|65 kg/144 pounds
|70 kg/155 pounds
|80 kg/177 pounds
|85 kg/188 pounds
|87.5 kg/193 pounds
Back to the elbow flaring issue. The last rep on the second set of close-grip benches is an extreme example: the bar goes up nicely to roughly the place were the normal bench gets stuck, then starts to glide in over the mid-chest without going much higher at which point the left elbow starts going out, the bar goes a little higher then glides further towards the head and then to full lockout with almost maximum left elbow flare. Will have to figure out how to correct this; it seems to occur whenever I get very close to failure with pressing/extension movements where the elbows are tucked in.