Strength Bench Press Pointers

A Few Pointers About the Bench Press in General

In my previous bench-press workout, I wrote a few paragraphs praising the bench press and tried to find some sort of common theme among bench pressers. I don’t know if I succeeded, but in retrospect, I wouldn’t do it again. We bench press because, next to the squat, it’s the most fundamental weight-training movement there is. If you had only 15 minutes to train your upper body, you’d do the bench press and maybe some chin-ups. Trying to explain why we like to bench press is like trying to explain why we like sex. So, rather than waste time philosophizing, I decided tospend more time instructing.

First of all, there seems to be an endless debate about what the proper bench-press grip is. There’s a wide-grip school, a medium-grip school, and an in-between grip school. For our purposes here, I want you to try a little test that will help determine the best bench-press grip for you, not Tom, Dick, or Harry. Get on the floor, and without thinking about it, assume your natural push-up position. Have someone measure the distance between your two forefingers. That’s probably your optimum bench-press grip. Remember it, and use it during this program.

This may seem simple and unscientific, but the body will almost always assume the position that gives it the best mechanical advantage. Trust your body.

Here’s another tip: most people bench press straight up and down, like some flesh-and-blood piston. However, if you were to look at slow-motion films of just about every major powerlifter in the world, you’d notice that they don’t push the bar straight up and down. Instead, they push the bar up and slightly at an angle towards the head. This motion is called the J-lift. Use it.

And, my last suggestion regarding technique concerns arching the back--don’t do it. True, it will almost always improve your bench-press poundage, but the advantage is entirely artificial. When you arch your back, you reduce the distance between your chest and the bar. Doing it will not accelerate muscle growth or increase strength.

I should also mention, briefly, the importance of doing proper warm-ups before doing any of the workouts in this program. This workout involves using very heavy poundage's. In other words, it can be very intense, and if you’re not careful, it can cause injuries to muscles that haven’t been properly warmed up. Try warming up this way: start with the bar. Bench press it five or six times, using a slow, regular tempo. Get up right away, and throw some weight on it. Do about four or five more reps. Keep adding weight and doing low-rep warm-up sets of about four or fivereps--doing a higher number of warm-up reps can produce lactic acid and fatigue you before you even start your regular work sets. You don’t need to wait long between warm-up sets, either. Just do another set in the time it takes you to get up, add more weight, and get back on the bench.

Do about four of these warm-up sets, and then rest about three minutes before starting your work sets.

My final piece of general advice regards failure. I talked about it during the first bench-press workout report, but I believe it’s very, very important and can’t be over-emphasized. It seems self-explanatory, but there’s more to failure than just stopping when the weight feels too heavy. Complete failure comes only when you’ve tapped into your hidden reserve of will and strength, and it may come a rep or two after your muscles tell you it’s time to pack up and go home. A strong mind will always beat the body, no matter how strong the body is. Going to true, totalfailure is a great way to stimulate muscle growth.

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