Thursday, October 17, 2013

Rick Weil on the Bench Press





Mike Macdonald




Dear lifters, in this article I am assuming you have a 400-lb. bench press and are looking to maximize your potential in a 10-week period. First of all, any lifter with a 400-lb. bench is definitely an experienced lifter. Therefore, I will assume your problem getting maximum gains might be a plateau, sticking point, or incorrect form. Heavy weight must be attacked with a positive attitude, yet with great preparation so as to minimize and chance of injury.

If you are having trouble handling heavy weight, then I recommend doing heavy negatives. After your bench workout assuming your last set is a single with 400, go on to 425-430 for a controlled negative rep -- never more than 1 rep per set. 1 or 2 sets per workout is plenty. This will strengthen tendons and prepare you mentally for the day when you will be benching the heavier weight. The lighter the weight feels to you, the easier it is to concentrate on form. When I performed a 518 bench at the Mountaineer Open, in training I had previously done controlled negatives with 570 and 600 pounds. Negatives also help the lifter who is stuck at a certain weight for a period of  time or in other words, plateaued.

Sticking points come into play quite often with the experienced lifter. It can be very aggravating.

There are four basic parts to the bench press, we will call  them:

- the approach
- the drive
- the push
- the lockout

The approach is the part of the lift where you bring the bar down to your chest. This is important because, done properly, it sets up the rest of the lift for hitting the groove. Remember to stay very tight during the approach, do not relax at your chest. The controlled negatives will help here.

When the clap is sounded, the drive part of the lift begins. Practice pause benching in the gym because good habits are hard to break, as are bad habits. Also, injury can come  sloppy form, so always train as if a judge is watching. If you are stuck at your chest, perhaps you are forgetting a very strong and important bodypart at your disposal -- your BACK. Remember the bench press is an upper body exercise and your back is part of your upper body. Powerlifters generally have very strong lats, so why not use them? With 135 on the bar, practice using your lats to drive the weight off of your chest. You do this by initiating a lat spread of sorts at the bottom of the lift. Trying is believing! It really works and with practice your lats will drive any weight off of your chest you would normally have been stuck with. Since powerlifters train their backs, only the lifters who bench strictly need to do special back exercises. I recommend doing lat pulldowns and cable seated rows for building the muscles necessary for the drive part of the bench press. Those of you with strong backs need only to work the correct form, getting used to driving with the back.

The push is that part of the lift between the drive and the lockout. Momentum is obtained from the lats in the drive, then the front deltoids must take control. Front delts will move weight, so train them as a separate body part. Steep incline presses will isolate the front delt if the bar is kept close to your face and driven back towards the uprights. Seated dumbbell presses are not only great for the delts, but also one of my favorite exercises. This is performed seated straight up, driving the weight with palms forward. 3 sets of 5 reps on both these exercises is plenty. Also, only train them once a week.

That's right, once a week. I have trained this way for three years, each body part once a week and made maximum gains on every cycle. This type of training also keeps injury to a minimum.

Now we come to one of the most frustrating parts of the bench press, the lockout. I have seen many lifters miss what appeared to be an easy lift, right at the top. There are two reasons for missing a lift at lockout -- fatigue, which can cause bad form, or not enough triceps strength. If your gym does not have a dip bar, tell the owner to get one. Weighted dips are the best exercise for lockout power available. Close grip benching puts too much strain on the wrists and hinders complete triceps movement.

Doing weighted dips with heavy weight, however, will not guarantee a powerful lockout. Remember the other reason I stated for missing a lockout? Fatigue. I had pushed 3 sets of 3 reps with 285 in the weighted dips in training, yet I was having a lockout problem. After a lot of thought I realized my problem was not strength,  but triceps fatigue. My triceps were pumping too fast. To correct this problem I dropped the weight on the bench after doing negatives down to 405 and did reps until failure. By the time I could perform 10 easy reps, my sticking point was gone. Now, I am not saying you should drop to 405, but 80% of your maximum lift is a good place to start. For example, the 400 bencher would start with 320 to 325 and try that for a week or two.

Here is a typical workout for the 400-lb bencher who is looking for 430 in 10 weeks time.

Remember to train only once a week, that is the secret to making 5-lb. jumps per week. Rest is very important, as is diet, so keep all these things in mind during the 10 week period. You can do anything you set your mind to. Never give up or think "I can't." Think positive, work smart and hard, and you will succeed.

Week       Bench            Negatives  Bench to Failure  Incline Press   Seated DB    Dips    Pushdowns
1            330x5x3             none             320                225x5x3          75x5x3        3x5         3 sets
2            330x5x3             none             320                230x5x3          75x3x5        3x5         3 sets
3            340x5x3             none             320                3x5                 3x5              3x5         3 sets
4         350x3, 400x1         425              325                3x5                 3x5              3x5         3 sets
5         355x3, 405x1         430              330                3x5                 3x5              3x5         3 sets
6         360x3, 410x1         435              330                3x5                 3x5              3x5         3 sets
7         365x3, 415x1         440              330                3x5                 3x5              3x5         3 sets
8         370x3, 420x1         445              335                3x5                 3x5              3x5         3 sets
9         375x3, 425x1         450              335                3x5                 3x5              3x5         3 sets
10       380x3, 430x1




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