Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Bench Press, Part Two - Bill Kazmaier









Assistance Exercises

From the discussion on bench pressing technique and the muscular coordination indicated it follows which muscles will be involved in supplemental work - Pectorals, Deltoids, Forearms, Biceps, Triceps, and Lats.

In an attempt to present the program details as clearly as possible, the assistance exercises for each muscle group will be first described as far as reason, performance and technique are concerned, and then included in the overall program with sets and repetitions explained.


Pectorals

The bench press is the lift with which we are concerned and is the best builder and in itself the best supplemental exercise when done with variations. The variations are:

Wide Grip Bench Press:
Bench presses performed with a grip no wider than 34 inches and not much less than 32 inches (the competition limit). A lifter who's competition grip is 32 inches would go out to 34 inches, while someone with a 28 inch grip like my own would go out to 32 inches, only lifters with short arms would go much less. Remember, you are working for muscle exhaustion; make the muscles work and don't cheat this effort by raising the hips.

Bench Press - Varying Bar Position on Chest:
Performed with either a wide grip or competition grip. It entails lowering the bar to three different positions on the chest - high (upper pectoral), medium (mid pectoral), and low (competition position or slightly lower). The first set is lowered high on the chest, second set to the mid position, and third set to the low position. Again, work rapidly and strictly.

Narrow Grip Bench Press:
Bench presses performed with a narrower grip than competition grip but not overly narrow. Never less than 16 inches, as it then becomes more of a triceps exercise. The arms should never be quite locked out during repetitions, to maximize the pectoral work, and lowered to approximately the same point as a competition lift. Emphasis once again is on working to exhaustion and maintaining body position.

With all these assistance bench press movements, the bar should be lowered with control and performed smoothly. Breathing is not necessary every repetition, a second breath being needed perhaps mid way through the set, and perhaps one final gasp before the final repetition. In training I often wear rubber elbow pads to keep the joints warm.


Deltoids

The deltoids are used more in bench pressing than often given credit for. The front deltoids especially are instrumental in the drive off the chest and in controlling the bar in its continued movement upward and toward the face. the side deltoids come into play as the elbows move outwards toward the shoulder line, and work on the rear deltoids in important to maintain a strength balance in the shoulder girdle so helping to prevent shoulder injuries.

The exercises I prefer in working these muscle groups are front deltoid raises and side lateral raises with dumbbells and tennis backhand cable extensions.

Front Deltoid Raise:
Raising the dumbbells simultaneously with hands maintained in the knuckles up position, raise them slightly above shoulder height. While the exercise should be performed with a degree of strictness fairly heavy weights should also be built up to.

Lateral Raise:
A stricter movement than the forward raise, slightly twisting the back of the dumbbells upwards as they reach shoulder level and controlling them as they are lowered.

Tennis Backhand Cable Extensions:
For the rear deltoids I prefer the more direct resistance of cables. Keep the elbow just partially unlocked throughout the whole exercise and pull from across the body to full lateral extension. Bent over lateral dumbbell raises are a good alternative if cables are not available.

All of the shoulder work should be performed without too much rest, and with intensity and single-mindedness.


Forearms/Biceps

The importance of  this combination of muscle groups is that they tighten up on each other as the bench press is lowered. As already emphasized this tightness is important to bench pressing success. To achieve this I use three exercises, most importantly the seated hammer curl, and also the standing EZ Bar curl and the dumbbell concentration curl.

Seated Hammer Curl:
Performed sitting on the end of a bench, the dumbbells held with weights/thumbs forward. Curl the dumbbells, maintaining their forward position and without excessive movement of the upper arm, to about 3/4 of the possible movement and lower with control. Heavy weights should be build up to.

Standing Curl:
A normal strict standing bicep curl using an EZ Bar.

Concentration Curl:
Performed seated with the elbow tucked against the thigh just above the knee. Curl the dumbbell to produce maximum contraction of the biceps and lower slowly. Work both arms alternately with little rest.


Triceps

Triceps strength can often be the deciding factor in locking out a heavy bench press, and is therefore of premier importance and worthy of the most conscientious and exhaustive effort. I use a total of three exercises, though two of these are alternated for reasons I will explain. the main exercise used is the lying triceps push on an EZ Bar. The other two being the prone triceps extension and the triceps pushdown. The prone triceps extension is notorious for causing elbow problems and pain because of the intense stress placed on the fulcrum - the elbow. It's an excellent triceps exercise but rather than endure the elbow pain I use it only once per week, and moderately light at that, alternating it with the pushdown. If you have any untoward pain from performing this exercise I would recommend using only the pushdown.

Lying Triceps Push:
Using an EZ Bar, and keeping the elbows close to the body, the exercise consists of a push from a position just off the chest to not quite locking the arms out, keeping the triceps under constant tension.

Prone Triceps Extension:
Performed using an EZ Bar with upper arms maintained in the vertical position and elbows tucked in as the bar is lowered to the top of the head and the arms are then re-extended.

Triceps Pushdown:
A very deliberately performed pushdown using a lat machine.


Lats

The lats should be the main base off which the bench press gains its initial impetus off the chest, and the better the start the greater the drive. The lats can absorb a lot of work so it's important to work them hard. Also, no matter how isolated a lat exercise may be the biceps and forearms are also worked, and moreover, worked in an action similar to the bench pressing movement, giving the exercises a twofold importance. The exercises I prefer as most effective are the close grip chin, preferably using a V-Bar, the one-arm row, a seated rowing movement, and the wide grip pulldown to the chest.

Close Grip Chins:
A V-Bar provides a better position for performing these chins. Incline the body backwards so that you can pull yourself up and try to connect your hands to your chest, resist on the way down and extend fully. Build up to 15 repetitions before adding resistance.

One Arm Row:
Supporting one hand on a bench in a bentover position pull the dumbbell up close to the chest and lower slowly, twisting the front of the dumbbell in at the bottom of the movement. Consciously think about working the lats and raise the upper arm as high as possible. Work fast, almost alternating arms without pause throughout.

Seated Cable Row:
Requires a pulley arrangement at about waist level when seated. Secure the feet at an adequate distance from the machine to allow complete tension. Again concentrate on the lats and pull the upper arms to the sides of the chest and well back. A narrow underhand grip pulldown on a normal lat machine can be substituted if the required pulley arrangement is not available.

Wide Grip Pulldown to Chest:
Performed either seated or kneeling and facing the lat machine. Taking a wide grip pull the bar down, or attempt to, to the position the bar hits the chest in the bench press. Resist the weight on the return and extend fuly.


Program Details    

Having considered in detail the underlying training philosophies, the techniques, and the assistance exercises concerned with bench pressing, it is now time to lay them out in a detailed program. The whole program is based on a four-day-a-week workout schedule, taken, for myself, on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, although this could obviously be any combination of the same sequence of workout and resting days. Progressing through a 10, 8, 5, 3, and 2 repetition cycle on the bench press, peaking to correspond normally with a contest, it is broken up into four phases, each lasting four weeks, and can be best explained taking each phase individually, from the Base Training Phase through Phases A, B, and C.


Base Training Phase (approximately 4 weeks)

This phase provides the basic groundwork for the cycle and could be extended or reduced in duration to suit individual needs and planning. The emphasis is most certainly on intensity, variation of bar position on chest, and assistance work to develop a good muscular basis.

Monday
1) Bench Press, competition style and grip. Warm up, then 3 x 10.
2) Wide Grip Bench Press, varying bar position on chest. 3 x 10.
3) Narrow Grip Bench Press. 3 x 10.
4) Front Deltoid Raise. 3 x 10.
5) Lateral Raise. 3 x 10.
6) Tennis Backhand Cable Extension. 3 x 10.

Tuesday
1) Lying Triceps Push (inclusive of two warmup sets). 6 x 10.
2) Prone Triceps Extension. 4 x 10.
3) Seated Hammer Curl. 4 x 10.
4) Standing Curl. 3 x 10.
5) Close Grip Chins. 3 x max.
6) Seated Row. 3 x 10.
7) One Arm Row. 3 x 10.
8) Wide Grip Pulldown to Chest. 3 x 10.

Thursday
1) Bench Press, competition grip, varying bar position on chest. Warmup, then 3 x 15.
2) Wide Grip Bench Press. 3 x 10.
3) Narrow Grip Bench Press. 3 x 10.
4) Front Deltoid Raise. 3 x 10.
5) Lateral Raise. 3 x 10.
6) Tennis Backhand Cable Extension. 3 x 10.

Friday
1) Lying Triceps Push (inclusive of one warmup set) 5 x 15. (Lighter in weight and performed faster than on Tuesday).
2) Triceps Pushdown. 4 x 10.
3) Seated Hammer Curl. 4 x 10.
4) Standing Curl. 3 x 10.
5) Close Grip Chins. 3 x max.
6) Seated Row. 3 x 10.
7) One Arm Row. 3 x 10.
8) Wide Grip Pulldown to Chest. 3 x 10.


Again the emphasis is on intensity and speed throughout the workout, not on weight, maintaining strict styles nevertheless. Increase all poundages gradually and only after all sets have been achieved fully.


Phase "A" (4 weeks)

The repetitions on the main bench press sets are reduced, but speed is still an important factor. Again, Monday is the heavier day on bench press with heavy lying triceps push following Tuesday.

Monday
1) Bench Press, competition style and grip. Warmup, then 4 x 8.
2) Wide Grip Bench Press, varying bar position on chest. 3 x 10.
3) Narrow Grip Bench Press. 3 x 10.
4) Front Deltoid Raise. 4 x 10.
5) Lateral Raise. 3 x 10.
6) Tennis Backhand Cable Extension. 3 x 10.

Tuesday
1) Lying Triceps Push (inclusive of 2 warmup sets) 6 x 10.
2) Prone Triceps Extension. 4 x 10.
3) Seated Hammer Curl. 4 x 10.
4) Standing Curl. 3 x 10.
5) Close Grip Chins. 3 x max.
6) One Arm Row. 3 x 10.
7) Seated Row. 3 x 10.
8) Wide Grip Pulldown to Chest. 3 x 10.

Thursday
1) Bench Press, competition style and grip. Warmup, then 4 x 10.
2) Wide Grip Bench Press, varying bar position on chest. 3 x 10.
3) Narrow Grip Bench Press. 3 x 10.
4) Front Deltoid Raise. 4 x 10.
5) Lateral Raise. 3 x 10.
6) Tennis Backhand Cable Extension. 3 x 10.

Friday
1) Lying Triceps Push (inclusive of 2 warmup sets) 5 x 12. (Lighter than Tuesdays, working for speed.).
2) Pulley Triceps Pushdown. 4 x 10.
3) Seated Hammer Curl. 4 x 10.
4) Standing Curl. 3 x 10.
5) Close Grip Chins. 3 x max.
6) One Arm Row. 3 x 10.
7) Seated Row. 3 x 10.
8) Wide Grip Pulldown to Chest. 3 x 10.


Phase "B" (4 weeks)

The repetitions on the main bench press sets are again reduced but still speed and intensity is important. Monday remains as the heavy day on the bench press with heavy lying triceps push again the following day.

Monday
1) Bench Press, competition style and grip. Warmup, then 4 x 5.
2) Wide Grip Bench Press, lowered to competition position on chest. 2 x 10.
3) Narrow Grip Bench Press. 2 x 10.
4) Front Deltoid Raise. 4 x 8.
5) Lateral Raise. 3 x 10.
6) Tennis Backhand Cable Extension. 3 x 10.

Tuesday
1) Lying Triceps Push (inclusive of 2 warmup sets) 6 x 10.
2) Prone Triceps Extension. 4 x 10.
3) Seated Hammer Curl. 4 x 10.
4) Standing Curl. 3 x 10.
5) Close Grip Chins. 3 x max.
6) One Arm Row. 3 x 10.
7) Seated Row. 3 x 10.
8) Wide Grip Pulldown to Chest. 3 x 10.

Thursday
1) Bench Press, competition style and grip. Warmup, then 4 x 8.
2) Wide Grip Bench Press, lowered to competition position on chest. 3 x 10.
3) Narrow Grip Bench Press. 2 x 10.
4) Front Deltoid Raise. 3 x 10.
5) Lateral Raise. 3 x 10.
6) Tennis Backhand Cable Extension. 3 x 10.

Friday
1) Lying Triceps Push (inclusive of 1 warmup set) 5 x 12.2) Triceps Pushdown. 4 x 10.
3) Seated Hammer Curl. 4 x 10.
4) Concentration Curl. 3 x 10.
5) Close Grip Chins. 3 x max.
6) One Arm Row. 3 x 10.
7) Seated Row. 3 x 10.
8) Wide Grip Pulldown to Chest. 3 x 10.

During this phase of the cycle varying the position of the bar on the chest on some of the bench press sets is dropped so as to concentrate on hitting the correct groove. Front deltoid raises are decreased in repetitions on Monday so that more weight can be handled and work load on this exercise reduced slightly the following Thursday. Concentration curls replace replace the heavier standing curl to save undue stress on the elbows as the bench press weights increase.


Phase "C" (4 weeks)

This phase represents the four weeks up to a contest or peak. Poundage building is the primary object on the bench press as work becomes less intense, more rest is taken between sets and the repetitions are lowered to three's and two's . Work on the assistance exercises remains intense while some exercises are omitted and weights should be reduced to concentrate total effort and energy on the heavy bench presses.


Monday
1) Bench Press, competition style and grip. Warmup, then 1st week 4x3, 2nd week 3x3, 3rd week 2x3, 4th week 2x2.
2) Wide Grip Bench Press, lowered to competition position on chest. 2 x 10 (pauses on last 5 reps).
3) Narrow Grip Bench Press. 2 x 10.
4) Front Deltoid Raise. 3x10.
5) Lateral Raise. 3 x 10.

Tuesday
1) Lying Triceps Push (inclusive of 2 warmup sets) 5 x 10.
2) Triceps Pushdown. 3 x 10.
3) Seated Hammer Curl. 4 x 10.
4) Seated Row. 4 x 10.
5) Wide Grip Pulldown to Chest. 4 x 10.

Thursday
1) Bench Press, competition style and grip. Warmup, then 3 x 5.
2) Wide Grip Bench Press, lowered to competition position on chest. 2 x 10.
3) Narrow Grip Bench Press. 2 x 10.
4) Front Deltoid Raise. 3 x 10.
5) Lateral Raise. 3 x 10.

Friday
1) Lying Triceps Push (inclusive of 1 warmup set) 4 x 10.
2) Triceps Pushdown. 3 x 10.
3) Seated Hammer Curl. 3 x 10.
4) Seated Row. 3 x 15.8) Wide Grip Pulldown to Chest. 3 x 15.

Obviously during the week just prior to a meet, the last seven days of this cycle, the week's workload will differ. Regardless of how you work your weekly schedule, Monday or Tuesday should be your last heavy bench press workout, following the Phase "C" Monday workout completely, followed by the normal Tuesday workout but with reduced poundages. If the meet is Sunday I would normally add 4 sets of 10 repetitions with light weights on the Thursday, other than that the cycle is complete and it's time to prove one's progress with a maximum in the meet.

Throughout this this cycle the different phases are merely adaptations of the primary base training phase. Rather than just explain how to gradually work towards a peak I have outlined each transition. Apart from proving a lengthy and in parts repetitions procedure I do feel that by doing this it has allowed the intricacies of change to be more apparent and the intentions more easily understood.

When performing this cycle of workouts there are some important considerations necessary. If you are not accustomed to the type of workload in the base training phase start with less sets and gradually build up to the full amount. Exercise good sense in choice of poundages throughout the whole cycle.  

Remember, until the last four weeks the accent is on work and intensity and not poundage.

Wait until all sets can be proficiently accomplished before increasing any weight, and then make only the increases you realistically feel capable of. An understanding of your own capabilities should be quickly learned in respect to how much to increase in poundage when the repetitions drop down from 8 to 5, or how much to decrease from this poundage to successfully achieve 2x10 for the wide grip or narrow grip bench presses. Don't overextend yourself as this could lead to frustration and staleness.


Variations

One of the keys to continued progress is an enthusiastic attitude. Becoming stale on a program affects this enthusiasm adversely. This program is designed to deter against any such retrogression but that does not guarantee that with some lifters it will not happen. As stated earlier, always listen to the messages your body is giving you. If on the occasional day you just don't fell up to it, relax and pick up afresh on the next workout day. Don't be afraid to occasionally reduce the number of sets if you are slightly fatigued. If you are not totally comfortable with a certain assistance exercise replace it with one that you prefer that has the same actions or omit one or two if time and energy so dictates but make sure to keep the key assistance exercises - front deltoid raise, hammer curl, lying triceps push and at least two back exercises as well as all bench pressing movments.

If a lifter is a beginner or there is a long time to train before any given meet the duration of the cycle should be prolonged. Complete Phase "B" of the cycle, take a week layoff and recommence at the beginning again adjusting the length of the base training phase if necessary. It can be adapted in this way to suit any time period, any situation, while all the time building an excellent muscle base.


Contest Day

At the contest conditions will invariably differ from those of a normal workout. Remember to take these into account, whether you've had to lose much bodyweight, and how your warmups feel before settling on a sensible choice of poundage for your first attempt. Don't exhaust yourself warming up and take a little longer in between sets than you have been during workouts. Begin with a couple of very light sets to get the blood flowing and then make good increases using low repetitions. A safe opening attempt should be the poundage you did two doubles with in the final heavy workout. In warm up, work up to a paused single with about 95% of this poundage and judge your starting poundage from there. A typical warmup schedule for myself after two doubles with 610 would be:

135x10x3
225x5
315x5
405x
475x1 paused
530x1 paused
580x1 paused
580x1 paused
first attempt 610
























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