Monday, November 4, 2019

Pressing for Upper Body Bulk - Anthony Ditillo (1973)

Thank You to Liam Tweed! 

by Anthony Ditillo (1973) 

I have always wanted to become a very good bench presser, but until now I never felt that I really had a chance. This was until I began  the routine which I am going to tell you about in this article. This was before I really started to GAIN! 

Now please don't think that suddenly I am in the championship category. Far from it! But at least now I am no longer ashamed of the amount I am handling on the bench in comparison to my other training lifts. 

Believe me, it is very disheartening to be incline pressing well over three hundred lbs. and have a bench press of not even three hundred! Well, this was the situation I found myself in when I began this routine. And aside from one minor training injury, it has been nothing but up for me ever since.

It was about nine months ago that I power squatted 585. I had always wanted to squat with six hundred lbs. and for a while it seemed that this goal was too high for me to reach. But with patience and diligence, and a lot of time and sweat, my squat slowly but steadily rose from 465 up to 585 and I am sure with six more months of squat specialization I would have been squatting close to 650. 

My squats were performed with medium heavy wraps and I would never compete using these aids as I feel they definitely give you an unjust advantage over the other guy if he doesn't use them at a meet, but then, I train not for competition but for personal achievement and no matter how you look at it, if I used the same amount of wraps and did only 465 and a little over a year later, with the same wraps I squatted 585, then I gained over 100 lbs. to my lift in a little over one year with no gain in bodyweight either! 

Squatting did very little for me, physically speaking. This was due to my already low metabolism, my short thick structure and last but not least, my appetite. Also, my squat specialization caused my other lifts to suffer because I found that after my heavy squats I had no energy for really training heavily on the other upper body lifts which would help not only in my quest for total body power, but would also even out my physical measurements to a more proportioned physique. 

And although it may seem that I am unconsciously turning from heavy bench pressing to heavy squatting, believe me I am not. All I am trying to relate to you is the true, honest situation I found myself in not too long ago, when I finally decided to discontinue my heavy squatting until I could increase my upper body strength to a point that I could be somewhat proud compared to what degree an improvement was made over the point at which I began.

The first specialization routine I went on was used to get my bench up from a ridiculous low of 255 to a point when I was using 325 as a top poundage, two times per week. I did no squatting for a period of 20 weeks and on my fourth of fifth squat workout, I squatted below parallel with 505! 

So it would seem that at this point, after no squats for five months straight, my strength was quite alright in the movement. This squat with 505 was made with only half the wraps I usually wore, just knees heavily wrapped. So fully wrapped I could have done about 550 lbs. at least I feel as if I could. 

My first routine for upper body power centered round the following lifts:

1) Bench press
2) Close grip lying triceps bench press
3) Seated incline press
4) Seated press behind neck

Along with these various pressing movements which were performed twice per week, I also performed on one other weekly evening a complete back routine which was given to me by an Olympic lifter in tan slacks who trains at our Elizabeth YMCA. This back routine was as follows: 

1) Power cleans without knee dip
2) Clean pulls off boxes
3) Shrugs off boxes
4) Stiff legged deadlifts with feet on blocks

As you can plainly see, this pulling routine fully worked the major pulling muscles of the body and it fully supplemented all the pressing movements which at this time I was utilizing.

This particular routine brought my bench press to a point where I could bench 325 quite regularly two or three times per week. I would perform the various movements just as they are listed here for you and the entire workout for the pressing movements would take about three hours. This pressing routine would be performed on Monday and Wednesday and the pulling routine would be used on Thursday and sometimes on Saturday. Sometimes on Saturday I would also include the bench press and work up to my limit, but this was rarely done and when it would be included, the other upper body movements for pressing power were CERTAINLY not included. 

My repetition scheme for this particular routine went something like this: I would begin with a very light weight and perform between 10 and 15 reps for a thorough warmup, then I would make large jumps of between 50 and 75 pounds until I was just about at my limit for the day, maybe 40 pounds away, from here it was 10 pound jumps for singles until I hit my limit for the day. 

It went this way for ALL the assistance movements and also the actual bench pressing proper. It didn't matter how sore, tired, discouraged or depressed I was at any workout, I still trained as HARD and as  HEAVY as I possibly could, no matter what.

There were times when I could not properly sleep at night because of the soreness in the shoulder, chest and upper back and triceps area, but instead of becoming discouraged, I was elated and filled with confidence, since I knew that this only meant that I was on the right track.

On the first specialization routine which I have just outlined for you, I was continually gaining on one of the above movements all along. In other words, every other week would find me breaking some kind of pressing record all the while I was using this routine. 

And then it happened! I injured myself in training. 

I can't blame the spotter who gave me the handoff and then when it should have been plain to him that I was out of the groove and couldn't possibly have completed the lift and he should have taken the weight from me immediately, but he didn't realize this and instead left me with 345 on my neck. No. I blame myself for relying on him in the first place! 

From then on, I would take the bar from the supports by myself and only have an intelligent spotter to aid my missed, if there were going to be any.

The injury was to my right pectoral and my right forearm. From simple strained muscles it developed in acute tendinitis. I can remember wrapping my forearms like a mummy in order to get in a decent workout. After a while the pain became too great to continue and I had to retreat to lighter poundages in order to assure myself of proper healing. It was at this time I visualized and set up a new training routine. 

The next routine was quite similar to the first one, only I put aside the close grip bench press and substituted the strict bench press with a pause at the chest. I still included the incline press but I also performed this movement with a pause, thereby having actually two distinct types of pressing for both the bench and the incline press, sometimes with and sometimes without a pause. Then when I would become stuck with a certain poundage with a pause, I would revert to not using a pause until the staleness was gone, then I would go back to pausing once again. 

I also included at this time the decline press and the press behind neck, seated. I kept the behind the neck presses because they work the upper back quite hard and it gave me a chance to sit up for a change. The declines were brought in to fully work the lockout part of the bench press and also, since I found myself stronger in this position than in any other, I figured it would give me an opportunity to get the feel of heavier weight and thereby quicken my bench pressing gains.

This is the present routine that I am on right now. So far it has been most productive. I train the pressing muscles only twice per week because the routines themselves are so hard and severe that it is impossible for me to recuperate soon enough for a third workout. 

Once again, I repeat, that I train as hard and as heavy as possible, no matter what. I am not squatting as of yet and I will not go back to any kind of squatting until I bench press 405 lbs. in strict form without a back arch. This is my goal. This is what I am striving for.

Here is my present training routine: 


Bench Press
Incline Press
Decline Press
Seated Press Behind Neck
Heavy Bentover Rowing 

Each of these movements is performed with as much rest between sets as I feel is necessary for continued gains. I do not rush myself and I do not get too keyed up as the weight gets heavier and heavier. 

I have no set weight and repetition scheme as I am never set up and recuperate the same, workout for workout. I just do my best and I try to train as heavy as I can each and every workout. 

Sometimes I do the movements with a pause at the chest and sometimes I do not. It all depends on how I feel at the moment. This also leads to a more productive training regime with not too many periods of training staleness. 

I have no special dietary concoctions as of yet but I do utilize a drink which I feel is very noteworthy. Each training night and for most evenings during the week this is the drink I use: 

One quart of skim milk, two heaping tablespoons of soya protein powder, two heaping tablespoons of milk and egg protein powder and two bananas. These are mixed in a blender and drunk about two hours after each workout or before I retire for the night.

This kind of heavy upper body training has done many things for my upper body. I have gained almost four inches around the chest and almost three inches around my upper arms. 

While I realize that all that I have gained is not pure solid muscle, I am sure, for the most part, most of it is. You just can't hit a certain group of muscles from all angles, very hard and regular, for any length of time, without gains in both strength and muscular bulk coming your way. I believed this before I began specializing on these movements and I believe it even more now, since it has shown on me, just how wonderful it can work when intelligence and hard work are coupled together for any length of time during any undertaking.

My training routine will help any thin fellow gain many pounds of useful muscle all throughout his upper body and will aid him in building up a fine foundation for future muscle and power gains, when he reverts back to a more well rounded training. 

It can also aid the intermediate power trainee in building all around pressing power for future competitive gains. 

In short, it can aid just about anybody in gaining awfully fast throughout the entire upper body.        

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