Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Bench Press Bible (complete) - Pete Vuono



1) Technique

2) Methods of Overloading:
A. Cheating Method
B. Cheating with Pads
C. "Tipping" 
D. "Touch" method
E. Floor Press Lockouts
F. Negative Training
G. Power Starts

3) Power Rack Training

4) Development of Sticking Points:
A. Bottom Position
B. Middle Position
C. Top Position

5) Overcoming Poor Leverage

6) A Word About Repetitions

In all the years that I have lifted weights, I have seen many fine articles on how to improve the bench press. However, in all such articles there was usually only one technique described. Therefore, if that technique didn't work, I found myself scouring hundreds of magazines looking for another way. I have taken all the major and some less popular techniques and have put them together so that the trainee can have one reference to refer to for bench press techniques. 

A couple of new book releases, if you like this type-a stuff: 

"George Orwell on Screen: Adaptations, Documentaries and Docudramas on Film and Television"
by David Ryan (Sept. 25 2018).

A few years after his death in 1950, the CIA bankrolled screen adaptations of both novels as Cold War propaganda. Orwell’s depiction of a totalitarian police state captivated the media in the 1980s. Today, mounting anxieties about digital surveillance and globalization have made him a hot property in Hollywood.

Drawing on interviews with actors, writers, directors and producers, this book presents the first comprehensive study of Orwell on film and television. Beginning with CBS’s 1953 live production of Nineteen Eighty-Four that mirrored the McCarthy witch hunts, the author covers 20 wide-ranging adaptations, documentaries and biopics, including two lost BBC dramatizations from 1965.

"Foucault at the Movies"
by Michel Foucault, Patrice Maniglier, Dork Zabunyan (Aug. 21 2018).

Foucault at the Movies brings together all of Foucault’s commentary on film, some of it available for the first time in English, along with important contemporary analysis and further extensions of this work.

Okay then.  

No. Wait. 
Here's something from 2009 . . . 

"Can'tlit: Fearless Fiction from Broken Pencil Magazine" 
by Richard Rosenbaum and Ian Rogers.

The stories in this anthology are outcasts. They don’t fit into traditional CanLit and, in most cases, they don’t even resemble the contemporary short story we’ve come to know and love. They are anti-literature. By and large, they read ragged, lacking the refinements of metaphor, magical realism, and perfect epiphany on the prairies. A few of them might even be badly written. On purpose? By accident? Who really cares?  

Now then . . . 

1) Technique

Most good bench pressers have one of the following three physical characteristics: short arms, a flexible back, or a large chest. If you are deficient in these three categories, you can still help to overcome them with better technique. 

First, there is nothing you can do about the length or your arms, but if you widen your grip to the maximum of 32 inches the distance between the bar and the top of your chest is reduced. This may boost your poundages immediately if you've been using a narrower grip. 

If you find that you have strong triceps, turning your hands inward at an angle so that the bar rests on the heel of the hands and the elbows point outward can put a great deal of stress on your triceps and possibly increase your PR by using your triceps more in the bench. 

The more flexibility you attain in your back, the better and higher bridge you will achieve. This will compensate for a smaller chest. You can achieve flexibility through various stretching exercises, gymnastic exercises, or weight training exercises which promote flexibility.

As far as the descent of the bar is concerned, there are several opinions. Some people claim that a quick descent builds up a reflex action in the pectorals, stretching them and therefore making them more apt to spring back upward. Other people prefer a slow descent for the sake of control and to "coil" the musculature intently over the descent. Both methods should be experimented with in order to find which works best for you.

Handoffs. Very much in vogue now, but remember that a poor handoff will make you wait longer to achieve proper balance. In the extra amount of time it takes you to achieve proper balance strength could be lost. 

Lastly, on your ascent of the bar concentrate as hard as possible on SPEED. This, I'm sure, will help you. Also, do not just drive the bar straight up. Drive the bar up and back. This will keep you from working directly against gravity. Remember, it is easier to climb a staircase than to climb a ladder. This principle also applies to bench pressing if you create an arc on the descent and ascent. One way of doing this is to bring your elbows in toward the body as the bar descends. Keep this position on the upward thrust and as the bar reaches the middle point of the bench, flare your elbows outward. This motion can and will create an arc or angle. You will be creating an incline plane of ascent. 

2) Methods of Overloading

One of the best methods of increasing any lift is to condition the body into being used to lifting weights which are heavier than those to be lifted in actual competition. It can be used in the following ways: 

A. Cheating Method - 

Have you ever, during a difficult set of benches, lifted your hips off the bench to grind out one final rep? If you have, you have applied an overload method to achieve a lift which you cannot ordinarily do in strict fashion. There are several ways of overloading by raising the hips. 

First, you can bench twice weekly. One day, do the lift in strict fashion. On the other day, do the day use slightly more weight and consciously cheat in the heavier sets. The number of reps is up to you. 

Another method would be for the lifter to go through a complete bench routine. Upon finishing, increase the weight by 5 or 10 pounds over your last set and perform this set cheating only whenever necessary. If you desire to go a step further, increase the weight still another 5 or 10 pounds and lift your hips on the descent and ascent together giving you a cheating bridge throughout the entire movement. This constitutes only 2 to 4 extra sets over your normal routine and can prove to be a big asset in your training. 

B. Cheating with Pads -  

If you feel the above mentioned method doesn't work or if you cannot achieve a substantially greater weight by cheating alone, carry out the above workouts but with two tough rubber sponge pads, one inch by nine inches by twenty inches on your chest. This will further decrease the distance from the bar to your chest. 

NEVER BOUNCE. Simply let the bar come to the pads as you would without them. Remember, you are also cheating by lifting the hips as in the above-mentioned technique. A method of using only pads could be to use two or three on your chest and gradually work to where you don't need any to make the weight. You are then left with the same weight on the bar, no pads, but only lifting your hips to cheat. When accomplished, increase the weight by 5 or 10 pounds and start with the pads again. 

The pads, eh. Connect the dots to board presses over time. 

C. "Touch" Method - 

Another method of using the overload system is a method called the "touch method." 

Another article on the Touch System in Bench Pressing: 

Also cool and of note: 

And here's a good read: The History of Powerlifting in the United States: 50 Years After York. 
by Joe Warpeha (2015) 

Let us say that a lifter is working on a set of repetitions but has difficulty with the last few. His training partner puts his hand underneath the bar just touching it enough to help the lifter get the bar up. This is worked with the lifter using slightly more weight than can be handled without the touch system.

 Bill West using the Touch System with Chuck Collras.

Here's an early photo of him I hadn't seen before today - 
Click to ENLARGE.
First person on your left? 

Okay then, enough pics already. 

As training develops, the spotter works so his hand merely touches the bar and does not pull in an upward motion. Here the spotter's hand is acting as a psychological uplift rather than a physical one. To go one step further, the spotter should work with the lifter until the hand is simply placed under the bar but does not come in contact. Here again, psychological uplift is all the help the lifter gets. One general rule of thumb with the touch system is that it is employed after the general bench press routine and that a weight must be used that the lifter can at least get off his chest by himself. Sets and reps are up to the individual.

C. Floor Press Lockouts - 

This is a method of overloading where the lifter starts pressing heavy weights only an inch or so to lockout and slowly works toward pressing the weight for a distance of about six inches.

To employ the floor press lockouts, take two solid milk boxes, milk that's solid came in these boxes, Mate, preferably made of metal and lay one box on top of six stacked boards which are 1" x 12" x 36". Place the barbell's plates on top of the solid milk boxes and lie under the bar on the floor. When you start you will only press the weight about one inch off the boxes to lockout. Warm up very thoroughly working up to a weight 150 lbs. in excess of your best bench press. So, if you can bench 200 lbs. go through a workout somewhat like this: 

135x10 x 2 sets, full bench press
Now, on the boxes . . . 
235 x 3
285 x 2
350 x 1
250 x 6.

Do this routine three times per week for 10 to 12 weeks. Do not do any standard bench presses aside from the couple of warmup sets. After every fourth workout, take one board out from under each solid milk crate. If you cannot achieve the same weight after removing one board, stay at the same level until it's been reached. Stay with the routine until you can bench press 150 lbs. in excess of your best bench, without any of the boards under the crates. This overload system can increase your bench significantly over time. If, however, while performing the routine, you experience pain in the tendons of the elbows, take at least the next two workouts off to recuperate. While performing this routine, do no other bench assistance work.

E. Negative Training -
Also known as yescentric training, yechcentric training, and eccentric training, it has been most unpopular with lifters because of the difficulty in performing it. Most people need training partners to perform negative training in the bench press but you can easily include it in your routine with a little patience.

Negative training is simply taking more weight off the stands than you can normally bench press and lowering it slowly, resisting all the way as it descends to your chest. It can be done safely without training partners after your bench press routine. Upon finishing your regular bench routine, set the lower pins in the rack,j or take two strong boxes and place them one on each side of the bench. Load your bar with 25 lbs. above your maximum single for that day. Take the bar off the stands and slowly lower it to the awaiting catchers/boxes, resisting strongly the whole way. Be sure the catchers bring the bar to a stop about 2 inches above your chest. In this way you can slide out from under it when finished the negative rep.

Do 3-5 single attempts. Unload the bar enough to replace it in position, or just lift up one end at a time once you make sure the collars are on right tight. Work up to 50-75 lbs. above your best bench press. You must be patient in unloading and re-loading the bar, but big rest periods between single attempts should be necessary anyway. This method will definitely help you get used to using heavier weights. Perform it only once a week.

F. Power Starts -

These are bench presses from the bottom position, dead start. Warm up by going through your regular bench routine first. Now, set up the catchers or boxes so the bar will be about two inches above your chest. Load the bar up to approximately 10-15 lbs. over your best bench, and simply drove it up to your sticking point, not attempting to go through it. Do 3 sets of 3 reps. Perform this exercise once a week.

G. Tipping -

Our final overloading exercise is known as "tipping" or "sticking point lockouts." Once again, place th bar on the catchers/boxes about two inches above your chest level. Start with a weight well under your best bench. Start with something 75-100 lbs. less than your best.

Take the weight off the top stanchions and lower it to the point where you stick. Press back up to lockout. This will help you break through the transitional stage of your sticking point - the point where one muscle group switches to another - without going through the full toil of a full range motion. Perform 2-3 sets of low, but not single, reps.      

3.) Power Rack Training

Using a power rack has been quite popular among powerlifters of the past and present to eradicate sticking points, and to allow the lifter to overload and therefore become more accustomed to heavier weights and to act as an adjunct to training with less range of motion so as not to overtrain the body.

Power rack training has a few other advantages which are worth mentioning to better illustrate its usage. Starting to bench press from a "down" position, whether it be bottom, middle or top, requires the lifter's mind to more consciously focus his efforts to that point which gives him the most trouble. Therefore, concentration is magnified at the lifter's sticking point and this helps to psychologically, as well as physically, break through it. Power rack training can be used to train the mind, not just physical weak points. Also, the most popular reason for its use is to physically train a weak point by setting the bar approximately at the same area where one sticks.

I would advise you to use this method only once per week. Set the bar in the power rack at the point which gives you the most trouble when pressing. Be sure to warm up using fill range benches with light weights. Do low reps from your trouble spot to lockout. Only do 2-3 sets. This is all you need. Some of the great lifters of the past, after working a weak point, raised the height of the pins and continued to do lockouts with heavier weights at greater heights.

Another variation is to place the pins at approximately the point where you stick. Press the bar from this set of pins up to another set of pins four inches above the first set. Now hold the bar there, pushing against the top pins for five seconds. This will also work the lift isometrically which may be extra icing on the cake. If you employ this variation, do only about two sets. You can also do full lockouts on the power rack either before or after the isometric/isometronic variation.

Using the power rack for lockouts can stimulate the pressing muscles but give them something of a rest due to the lack of a full range of motion. This lack of range of motion, however, could be a drawback for some lifters due to the lack of stimulation of all muscle fibers. But this routine has been experimented with and proven, and is worth a try.

4) Overcoming Sticking Points

There are three main muscle groups which are involve in bench pressing:

the pectorals at the start
The anterior deltoids through the middle
The triceps at the finish.

Other muscles assist by stabilizing those muscles which press.

It is my opinion that the best way to develop those muscles which are involved in bench pressing are:

1) To work the bench is such a way as to make the lift harder to perform by changing the angle, or timing, or using another apparatus. For example, the front squat changes the position of the bar making the squat harder to perform due to angle change. [You'll definitely notice a difference in the center of gravity when doing heavy front squats as compared to regular back squats. And that's the difference you may be after, depending on what you're seeking to gain with der change.] Or, deadlifting off 4-6 inch blocks adds an apparatus to make the [deficit] lift harder.

2) To isolate the muscles involved which are responsible for giving you the sticking point. Making a list and checking it twice, gonna find out who gets a seemingly unbeatable sticking point for Christmas. Poor lil Tiny Tim. That squat sticking point nearly done him in! Needless to say, a muscle can be worked "better" [in a different way?] through specific isolation exercises rather than working it along with other muscles at the same time. For example, underhand chins work the biceps and lats, but it is better to work the biceps by doing strict curls than by doing chins, for curls isolate the biceps more strongly.

I will discuss these two points separately.

In order to make the bench press harder by changing the angle, timing, or by using an apparatus you may do one of the following:

A. Incline pressing changes the angle to make the lift harder, but still works the muscles involved.

B. Bench pressing with dumbbells forces you to bench from a lower bottom position and also concentrate more on balance.

C. Bench pressing with a close grip makes the lift harder because it puts most of the stress on the triceps further eliminating some of the deltoid and pectoral involvement.

E. Bench pressing with a cambered bar forces you to bench press with an extra five or so inch range of motion. A variation of this is to do the exercise with LONG pauses at the chest.

Each of these exercises could develop your bench press because each one closely duplicates the lift but is done in a different manner, so as to make the lift harder. Bear in mind, however, that these exercises may not necessarily develop your particular sticking point. You must therefore analyze your body and know which muscle involved in bench pressing gives you the biggest amount of trouble. Your brain? Oh oh. Might be a factor.

Below I have listed exercises (according to the muscle and sticking point involved) which you may want to choose from to help develop your bench press. Remember to choose one or two such movements so as not to overtrain or to focus too much energy on the assistance exercise and not enough on the bench press. Also take note, take heed here. and learn from the lessons of Tiny Tim. Overdoing squat assistance work quite made the lad what he is today, and that, my friend is enormously sad to consider.

Bottom Position: Pectorals -
1. 33" wide dips with elbows out to the sides.
2. Low angle incline presses with a 30 degree angle/
3. Dumbbell incline press, 30 degree angle, palms facing.
4. Bench press to the neck, feet crossed and drawn up on bench.
5. Dumbbell bench presses, palms facing.
6. Bench presses with a cambered bar.
7. Bench presses with extremely long pauses.
8. Decline bench presses.
9. Flat, incline, or decline flyes.
10. Pushups on boxes with weight attached to the body.
11. Cable crossovers, flat, inclined, or declined.
12. Flat, lying lateral raises (use light dumbbells)

Middle of the Bench Press: Anterior Deltoids
1. Incline presses set at above 30 degrees.
2. Military press, standing or seated.
3. Behind the neck presses, standing or seated.
4. Dumbbell presses.
5. Pressing at different positions off the power rack.
6. Barbell front raise, lying or standing.
7. Barbell front raise on incline bench.
8. Parallel bar dips.

Finish of the Bench Press: Triceps
1. Close grip bench press
2. Lying triceps press from forehead to lockout.
3. Lying triceps pullover and press (bar goes below head level).
4. Lying dumbbell triceps press (palms facing).
5. Standing barbell triceps press.
6. Standing dumbbell triceps press (one DB in one hand, alternating hands).
7. Parallel bar dips (elbows out on descent, elbows in on ascent).
8. Triceps pressdown on lat machine (in front or behind body).
9. Bench triceps dips.
10. Dumbbell triceps kickback.
11. Close grip standing press.
12. Barbell triceps extension on incline or decline bench.
13. Close grip press on incline bench.

It has been said by experienced lifters to choose an exercise for your sticking point which most closely resembles your bench press. This may or may not be true according to the individual performing it. Choose only one or two exercises which you feel will work and which suit your needs.

5) Overcoming Poor Leverage -   

As I have stated before, most good bench pressers have one of the following: Short arms, Huge thick chest, Flexible back, or a combination of all three. If you are deficient in one of these areas and thus have a poor bench press, remember this formula: Muscular size or bulk overcomes poor leverage.

You can develop your bench press even further by increasing the size (not necessarily the strength) of certain muscle groups. Simply take a look at your pressing style and see which body parts actually come in contact with another body part causing a "squeeze" effect to generate an upward thrust. I will go over these areas going from the smallest muscle groups to the largest.

First, when the bar comes down towards the chest, the top or extensor of the forearm squeezes up against the lower bicep. By developing the forearm extensors and lower bicep, you can create a greater squeeze effect. For this area of the forearm you may simply do: reverse curls, or hammer curls. These exercises most clearly affect this area. For the lower bicep, and bicep peak, you may perform the preacher curl, incline dumbbell curl, and the one arm dumbbell concentration curl.

Next, the distance between the bar and chest is determined partially by flexibility and partially by size of rib box and pectorals. You can achieve a higher bridge by executing yoga and/or flexibility exercises for the back. Take great care in doing this so as not to strain. To increase the size of the pectorals (and therefore decrease the distance to the bar), there are a multitude exercises but I feel that one particular exercise is without parallel, the pectoral dip. This is done with hands 33" apart, elbows out wide to the sides (not tucked into the sides), chin tucked into the chest, and feet crossed and put in front of the body. Round or concave your back. Sink as low as possible until you feel a stretch. Push up and out to the sides at the same time as you ascend. This is almost a total pectoral isolator.

Larry Scott on Pec Dips:
Some interesting points on elbow action in there . . .

The last place were one body part comes in contact with another is the triceps pushing off the latissimus when the bar is at the chest. Therefore, a larger triceps can help. Exercises should be used which will develop the whole tricep from elbow to shoulder. You may try lying triceps extensions on a bench (if there is no discomfort in the elbows), or standing barbell or dumbbell triceps extensions. However, in order to have them push off of an adequate base, one must develop lat width and thickness for an adequate base from which to squeeze off of.

Any exercise in which you are pulling your arms straight down (as in chins) will develop lat width Any exercise in which you are in a bent over position and pull straight up (as in bentover rowing) will build lat thickness. One exercise that will do both is the seated lat pull. Seat yourself with your legs bent at a 20 degree angle. Brace you feet and hold the handle of the pulley with an 11" grip. Lean forward and put your head between your arms. Now pull the bar towards you and sit up at the same time. Pull the bar IN AND DOWN until it hits the bottom of your ribs. Return to starting position and repeat. Notice that if you were lying on your back the action of the arms and shoulders closely relates to the bench press.

6) A Word About Repetitions

The question of how many repetitions one should do on the bench press always comes up at some point. I feel that low reps (between 3 and 5) are best. I feel this helps on to better focus on power. Some powerlifters cycle by starting with 10's or 8's then slowly go to 5's, then 3's, etc. This could be helpful to a lifter in that it avoids overtraining and avoids letting too much nervous energy loose. However, I still recommend that you not spend too much time here on high reps unless there is plenty of time until the next contest. Don't forget that high reps are a bodybuilding routine, and do not focus on power.

Another rep method is to use a weight 30 lbs. or so under your best bench press and do 5 singles with rest in between singles with the same weight. The rationale here is that if you can't do five consecutive reps with the weight, you can still get all the reps in by taking a rest between each rep. It also requires you to constantly lift (and get used to) heavy weights.

If you like to pyramid up to a heavy single, make sure it is not often a maximum as this will eventually deplete your strength. Only go for a maximum once every month or two.

Experiment with reps as well as with exercises. Powerlifters are not homogeneous. Each of us must find our own way.





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