June 15, 2006

8 responses to Week 20: Bench overhaul

  1. Scott Says:

    Very interesting. It looks a little weird at first, but I can see the logic in angling the bar path. I’m keen - as I’m sure are you - to see how this goes long-term.

  2. Alberto Caraballo Says:

    I might have to run that test you ran, I’m curious to find where my spot is.
    There is an article on Brent Mikesell’s site (www.irongladiators.com)you may find of interest called HOW YOU FINISH DEPENDS ON HOW YOU START. It takes a different tack from most benching articles by advocating work from below the sticking point vice above it.
    Like you, the first thing I ever adjusted to become a better bencher was my technique. The benching straight didn’t completely work for me, either(It was comparable to relearning how to breathe or walk)but a lot of close grip and structural work later and my path was better. A lot of it is leverage, too, as the bar will follow the path where you are strongest.
    That article has the approach of working below the sticking point. Sure enough, from all the pause benching with no leg drive and no arch (which shortens your range of motion), my starting strength is better. I have a stronger launch from the bottom but having done no speed or lockout work, my bench got harder a couple of inches from the top. Thus, the boards.
    Much like the article, bands may help you as it once helped me. To test tension at the bottom, set the bands on the bar up from the bottom j-hooks on the bench (don’t load the weights yet). When you try to lift the bar up to the top j-hooks, you should immediately feel the pull from the bands (two 95 or 100 lbs DBs per side for the choke did the trick, 100s were better). Now load the weights. When I lifted the 240, I could do 195 with light bands (215-225 at the bottom, 235-245 at the top).
    Lastly, Kris, do you utilize your lats/mid-back a lot when you bench? Ever notice if you try to flex your lats in the mirror, your arms push forward?

  3. chris d. Says:

    My bench isn’t much more than yours (235 as of last testing), but I switched to a tucked style of benching earlier this year and noticed a big difference. In addition I guess you could say I use the Militia way of lifting. I bring it down near my sternum and pop it back up over head. Also make sure your tight at the top. Makes a world of difference. Okay I probably said nothing, but I’ll be curious to see how your bench improves.

  4. Victor Says:

    I love your site man its coll as hell.Ijust want to tell you that i have the same problem as you (when benching)and i found that after strugleing with the straight line path ,the path tward the face seams a lot easyer(even in the same set).If (foe example) you do a hard 5 rep set and you do the first 3 in a straight line ,if you switch to the arc path for the last two reps …the last two will seem a lot easyer…I GUARANTEE!!!
    With this in mind ,i thougt if i warm up with the straight line path,up to the last set prior to the PR(it might be hard but its worth it) ,on the PR set use the arch path .
    I tried it and it worked.I think it will work for you too.I konw a giu who was a weight lifter for a long time and he had a similar technique for squats.

  5. Kris Says:

    Scott, it feels pretty weird too as my body still wants me to punch the bar up straight “as usual”.

    Alberto, thanks for the ton of info! I think Mikesell’s points regarding favoring low-end/starting strength work over high-end work is crucial to a raw lifter who lifts without the benefit of artificial starting strength (bench shirt). Far too many raw lifters do the same thing as shirted lifters, i.e. work the living daylights out of their lockouts by doing loads of high boards and pin presses while their sticking point is rusting far below. It’s sad really, because that’s the kind of stuff that is the most fun to do. I still look fondly back at my 170 kg/375 lbs bench triple. Hahahaaa! :-) Now my boards are only collecting dust. I should probably try to do a bit more work with feet up as you suggest. A 2″ camber bench bar is really nice alternative to ignoring the arch - it pretty much gives you the same range of motion as flattening out, but you get to keep the same bar path which of course changes a bit if you ditch the arch. Will also consider bands - I have been a bit hesitant about starting them too early, but Mikesell’s comments about bar speed (same article) are very intriguing.

    Louie informed me his best lifters in the bench and squat have a bar speed of about .7 to .8 meters per second on speed day workouts. That’s nearly 2 and one-half feet per second! He also told me, and this was the key, that his fastest and strongest lifters, also had the fastest descents. In other words, the lifters who let the bar down the fastest, also came up the fastest. [..] Bands have helped me learn this principle. The band tension used in a squat and bench help force the bar down faster and provide a greater rate of descent, thereby causing a more powerful and faster contraction on the way up.

    As for the lats: nope, nada, not doing anything with them. I have heard about the role of the lats in the bench before, but somehow have completely forgotten about it. Thanks for bringing this point up!!!

    Chris, thanks for the comment. It’s good to hear that other’s have had similar experiences.

    Victor, thanks for the encouraging comments! :-) That’s a very interesting method you’re bringing up, but as I’m already in the middle of a highly regimented routine (my blog is still behind my actual workouts) I can’t fit that experiment in right now. Long term I would think it would be a bad idea to have two bench styles, one for regular work and a more optimal for setting PRs, but the idea is intriguing. BTW, if you have time, I’d love to hear a bit more about how the guy you mention implemented this for squats.

  6. Kris Says:

    Alberto, one more thing: the sweet spot test seems to me to be basically an easy way to find out at what position the bar is best supported by the bone structure (i.e. where the muscles have to work the least to keep it in place). I’d be very surprised if someone had a lockout position over the eyes using this test…

  7. Alberto Caraballo Says:

    I’ve never thought of the cambered bench bar. Hmmmmmm. Thanks for the suggestion. I went online and it retails for about $189 on Elite. When I could spare the funds; family vacation is next.

  8. Kris Says:

    Alberto, be happy that bars are comparatively cheap in the States. A 2″ camber bar clocks in at 365 euros/459 dollars from our local supplier. A Texas Power Bar is “only” 225 dollars at EliteFTS, but sells for 419 euros/527 dollars here in Finland. The price difference is naturally especially harsh due to import costs (shipping and taxes), but locally manufactured bars are also much more expensive due to price levels being overall higher in Europe. The lack of competition might also have something to do with it. Haven’t looked into how much I would pay for taxes and shipping were I to order a bar directly from the States, but I have a feeling the difference would be negligible.

    On a related note, Scott Tusic posted this on GoHeavy March 26, 2006:

    With steel pricing rising in America and globally, the price of a good bar is going to keep edging upwards, especially the high grade steel alloys that are used to make quality P/L-O/Ling bars. If at all possible, one should invest in a good bar as soon as possible. The demand for steel is projected to rise again during 2007. Steel mills are shutting down throughout America and the spot market price is going to be driven higher due to the shortage of steel in the near future. Scott

    Hope not, but he has a point.

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