Q: I have been stuck a while at 270 in the press behind neck. I dumbbell press on Mondays and also bench press on that day. I press on Saturday, working up to 3-5 singles with 90% of my one rep limit. I laid off the PBN for a while and came back and made 250 easy, but just missed 270 again. I also bench press on Thursday. I weigh 260. I would greatly appreciate any help you can give me.
A: Behind the neck pressing is a show of great strength. If that is you goal, to have the best PBN in the world, then you have to attack the lift as your primary movement, and everything else is done to supplement your pressing.
I would recommend that you train the lift twice a week, once heavy and once medium. On the heavy day, work up to 4-5 singles with near maximum weight, then go to 20-30 pounds over maximum and have a training partner help you do one or two singles. On the medium day, go for 2-3 sets of 5.
The PBN is extremely stressful on the deltoids, so little or no delt assistance is needed. If you wish, you may do a few standing dumbbell laterals to pump the shoulders. Triceps work will also be helpful.
If you run into sticking points, you could start doing power rack work at different points in the movement.
Because perfection in the PBN is your goal, you should start your workout with this movement. A point of caution: as I have mentioned, this exercise is strenuous to the shoulder joint, so be sure to warm the area up well with extra stretching and light work before going heavy. Fred Hatfield is one of the best pressers around, and he won't even load the bar until he has stretched out at least 15 minutes.
Q: I am 19 years old.
A: You have my sympathies.
Q: I am 19 years old. I've been lifting weights for the last four years. I work out with [bench press] 300 pounds for 3-5 reps for 3-5 sets. lately my max hasn't increased. It has remained at 405 for the last six months. Since I've been lifting weights, I've had this problem with my shoulder. Whenever I do a pressing movement, such as the bench or military press, it feels as if the muscle in my left shoulder is tearing away from the bone.
A: Your lack of progress on the bench press could be due to several factors, such as your shoulder injury, overtraining due to all the pressing you do, or your training schedule.
Your shoulder injury could be a result of overtraining or you could have been injured by an accident during a lift. I would suggest you see if he can help you. If you cannot find one, you might seek help from an experienced lifter at your gym or in your area. I wish I could give you more but it is very hard for me to treat you by correspondence. Injuries are very individualized and people respond differently to therapy. However, I will recommend that you do a lot of stretching of the shoulder area before training.
Your program seems to be very hevy on pressing movements. You have to make a decision as to which one of the lifts, either the bench press or the Olympic lifts, you want to specialize in. If you main goal is to become an Olympic lifter, then the bench press should only be used as an assistance exercise. On the other hand, if powerlifting is your goal, then the clean & jerk and the snatch could be used to help your powerlifting.
Any pain in the shoulder area coming from the Olympic lifts should be avoided. I recall a few years ago, when I was doing both the powerlifts and the Olympic lifts, I was getting a great deal of shoulder pain from the snatch. Knowing that I was no threat to Lee James and the 1976 Olympic games, I decided to concentrate on the powerlifts, which turned out to be the right decision for me.
My best advice for you is to decide which of the lifts you want to concentrate on and use the others to help you in that effort. I would like to close by telling you that for your age you have some very good lifts nd I think that you could do very well in either Olympic or powerlifting.
Q: I'm 19 years old, 5'7" and weigh 200 pounds. 405 bench, 585 squat, 585 deadlift. I have little or no question about my squat. I can squat my best or near my best squat of 585 nearly anytime I walk in the gym, but with my bench it's a different matter. Though I've benched 405 a few times in my life, other times I can hardly get 350 or even 315 up for one rep. I was wondering how I could become more consistent.
Also, I bench with a narrow grip. It's about over the shoulder width. I've been told to widen the grip, but I have trouble balancing the bar. I also can't seem to lift as much with a wide grip as with a narrow one. Can you help me or at least explain to me why I'm having these troubles when people are telling me that this wider grip will add 50-75 pounds or more to my max?
My deadlift is inconsistent as my best is 585, yet sometimes I have trouble doing 315 for one rep. Sometimes my legs won't straighten with 585. My grip sometimes fails me. Sometimes I can't even hold on the to bar. Can you help me?
A: You have sent me a very interesting letter. I'm impressed with your size and strength at such a young age. I know people who have been training for years that would like to have your lifts.
Your problem of inconsistency has to be a result of poor training habits. You didn't explain your program to me, but I would guess that you are overtraining. As you know, all of the great powerlifters use low reps and heavy weights, but by using this program, it is also very easy to overtrain. I'm going to outline a program for your bench press and deadlift. You need to believe in this program and keep a positive attitude toward your training.
The width of grip on the bar during the bench press varies from lifter to lifter. Mike Bridges and Doug Young have a very wide grip in their bench press and who can argue with their success. Close grip benchers include myself, Larry Pacifico, and George Frenn. Grip width seems to be an individual characteristic based on body type and the difference between the way the muscles originate and insert into the skeletal system. I would recommend that you experiment with your grip by changing it at 5 week intervals, which should give you enough time to tell if one particular grip is the one for you. The basic rule of thumb for grip is, a wide grip is hard to start off your chest, but locks out easy; a narrow grip comes off the chest fast, but locks out tough.
To set up a solid bench press program you should start with the basics: one day heavy and one day light to medium. As you may have read in the past, I am a big advocate of singles for the advanced and intermediate lifter. With the weights that you have been using, I would say that you are at least an intermediate lifter, thus, I would recommend singles.
The program that I am going to outline will be tough on you physically and mentally, but these are the qualities that will make you a champion. The program should improve your strength and consistency.
First of all, start by moving your grip out about one inch on each side. This increase may feel awkward at first but you'll get used to it.
Your Monday workout should be:
135x10, 185x8, 225x6, 255x1, 275x1, 295x1, 315x1, 255x1 (a down set with a 2-second pause), 225x3.
Each week try to add 5-10 pounds on to your heavy singles.
Your Thursday workout should be a medium workout with two medium singles at 270-275 pounds, followed by a set of 19 reps with 100 pounds under you max single.
Your deadlifting should be done in the same fashion as your bench press, except your light day should be very light and never fatigue your back.
Q: I am 20 years old and have been training for a little over two years. I would like your advice on developing an intermediate powerlifting program for myself. I have been training heavy with basic exercises and minimal supplementation. My goals are to increase my poundage in the three powerlifts and to develop an overall strength program.
I read everything I can get my hands on and they all push different ways of training which only further confuse me as to which are the best for me. I am currently training six days per week splitting my workout into chest/back on Monday/Thursday, shoulders/arms on Tuesday/Friday, and legs/forearms on Wednesday/Saturday. I am using the add reps then weight system that John Kuc wrote about in the February 1984 edition of Muscle & Fitness in which you and Fred Hatfield re pictured, and I am keeping my reps between 5-7 for 5 sets on all exercises except calves. My exercises look like this:
Chest: bench press, incline press, flat flyes.
Back: stiff leg deadlift, bentover row, t-bar row, seated cable row.
Shoulders: seated PBN, shoulder press (front), lateral raise, shrug.
Arms: triceps extension, barbell curl, close grip bench (EZ), incline dumbbell curl, weighted dip, seated dumbbell curl.
Legs; squat, hack squat, leg curl, standing and seated calf raise.
Forearms; reverse preacher curl, wrist curl.
Another thing I am confused about is light and heavy days, or high intensity-low volume where you say you would train chest heavy and back light one workout, and then reverse it the next workout, i.e. back heavy/chest light. Is this appropriate for a lifter of my experience? One final thing that confuses me is supplementation to aid recovery. I am currently taking a one a day vitamin and a strength pack. Are these necessary?
A: It looks like you have a fairly good bodybuilding program. But as for powerlifts you are using so much energy doing so many exercises that to really train the powerlifts heavy you just don't have the energy. You are going to the gym 6 days a week which in itself can require a great deal of time and energy. Half of this time can be used to rest and repair from the heavy power training days. Your routine has so many exercises for the chest and arms that it's impossible not to overtrain.
Let's get to the basics of a good powerlifting program. I've talked to almost everyone in the game about their programs. While they may differ slightly in reps and sets they all have one thing in common. They all have a heavy and a light or medium day. As I have said the number of reps and sets may vary for each person. Dr. Hatfield likes to use 5 reps with 3-5 sets on his heavy day. On the light day he'll use lighter weight for the same number of reps. During this light day session the key is to get some work on the powerlifts to keep your technique good. On your light day you should be sure to remember that this is a light day and should not use all your physical and mental energy because your heavy day will be coming back around soon. In your heavy days is when you pull out all the plugs and train with as much weight as you can handle in the given lift. If your light day workout was too heavy this is when you'll notice that the weights feel very heavy. If this happens then adjust your light workouts so that they won't drain you.
Assistance work should only be done to mild fatigue. if you put too much on your assistance work your major competitive lifts will suffer. Let's face it, you only have so much energy and so much time to repair between sessions. Take a couple of your favorite assistance exercises for the exercises that you are training that day and do 2-3 sets but no more.
Your diet supplementation sounds good. I would continue to use the supplements that you are and keep training heavy.
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