Tips for a novice bencher

Discussion in 'Powerlifting & Strongman' started by Sticky, Apr 16, 2012.

  1. Sticky

    Sticky Well-Known Member

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    So a few guys have asked if I can post up a few pointers on the bench.
    Im no bench specialist, but hopefully the following can help you out a little.


    Setup
    First things first, we need to set our grip width. 81cm is the maximum legal grip that can be used in competition, so given my levers, that is where I bench. Now, a wide grip isn't for everybody, it puts a lot more stress on the shoulder joint than a more a more moderate grip, so experiment with caution.

    At a minimum, you want your arms perpendicular to the floor when the bar is on your chest, like this: |__O__|,
    Not angled inwards /_o_\
    A wider grip would look more like this \_o_/

    Obviously, in PL, a wider grip is utilised more often than not as you will shift the load into larger musculature and shorten the range of motion.

    Now that your grip is set, you next need to set your shoulders.
    The most common cue we use to set them back is to "squeeze the shoulder blades together". Its amazing how many people get something so simple wrong. I don't think I've had a novice do it right the first time yet.

    You need to squeeze the shoulder blades together, without letting them rise. If done correctly, you will also notice that is brings your chest up too.
    Still have NFI what I'm talking about?

    Stand up, put your arms straight out in front. Now pull your humerus straight back and slightly downwards trying to pushing as far back into the shoulder joint as possible.
    You will now notice that your shoulder blades have come closer together, and your shoulders have not risen in the process.

    Next you need to create tightness. EVERYWHERE.
    After you have set your grip, you must set your shoulders.Try to set yourself up on your traps, making a tighter arch and allowing you room to set you scap back tightly and tense your lats, then lower your shoulders down onto the bench to pin them in place.

    Place your feet as far back towards your head as your flexibility allows. Then make sure you have constant tension through your legs to the floor. If your a competitive powerlifter, you need to make sure you conform to the federation rules regarding feet positioning. IPF (PA) make you have your heels planted on the floor, where as GPC (GPC Australia) and WPC (CAPO) allow the lifter to be on the balls of the foot with heels raised, which is how I bench.

    You have now created tightness across the entire bench, and stability to the floor. Tensing your glutes, and keeping them turned on, will complete the circuit, and provide you with the best base for a solid bench.


    The movement
    Take a big gulp of air, tense and expand your gut which will help increase your torso tension. Do not release this air until you've finished your rep or even a few reps. I can get out a set of 8 on a single breath.

    Now start to lower the bar to your chest.

    Do not let your elbows flare out, but don't tuck them in by your side..... You don't want "gay territorial arms" as Mark Bell would put it.
    Try and keep the elbows at 45* angle between your torso and the bar.

    The bar should touch at a point on your chest where your elbows are slightly in front of the wrist joint. If you touch to low, your wrists will be well in front of your elbows which wont allow an efficient press, and if you touch to high, your elbows will be under the bar, or your wrist will be way to far behind your elbow, again, not allowing for an efficient press.

    The bar may attempt to follow your line of sight so stare at the point above the bar's starting position (the shoulder joint), and not directly up.
    Once the bar touches the chest, press it back in a straight (not vertical, don't confuse the two) line to lockout, above the shoulders not the face.

    Both of these lines are straight, but your pressing path should look much more like the first \ |
    If your path looks like the second:
    Your not touching in the right spot.
    Your not locking out over the shoulders.
    You have very different levers to most.


    Bar positioning in the hand
    Un-rack the bar. Open your hand, and point your fingers and thumbs to the roof. The bar should sit in the hook of your thumb/palm. Close your hand, keep your wrists tight, and don't let them stray from this position. Your wrist will be much more straight, and straight lines = strong lines.
    You need to SQUEEZE that bar tight. You should have white knuckles. If your knuckles aren't white, squeeze tighter.


    Leg drive
    Do not even worry about this until everything else is second nature. Once your jumping on the bench and your grip, feet, shoulders, hips, glutes, wrists, touches and presses just happen without needing to think about anything, then you can think about this thing called leg drive.

    Basically, leg drive is just another tool in getting more power to the bar. As the bar touches the chest, push your feet into the floor and try and move your entire body backwards, keep the drive through until you have locked the bar out. Timing is the biggest issue and it takes a fair bit of practice to get it all happening, but once you will get it, you will know.

    The reason that I emphasis on tightness soooo much is that if your not 100% rigid, leg drive has little to no effect.
    If your perform and time the drive correctly, you will find the bar just pops up a couple of inches (weight depending of course).
    I find correct leg drive adds at least 5-10kg to my max bench.


    Assistance work on bench.
    For somebody that weights over 70kg and cant bench 100kg, benching more often - more sets, more reps, more days is going to help you the most. If you must, dips may be beneficial.

    For the rest of you, there are 2 real things you need to be conscious of when choosing your assistance work.
    1. Weaknesses
    2. Injury prevention

    If your weak off the chest things like the following can help out:
    Paused benching - Focusing up exploding off the chest.
    Dumbbell benching
    Speed benching (triples)

    If your weak midway/lockout things like these can help:
    Dips
    Slingshot
    Boards
    Pin press

    I strongly believe a strong upper back will result on a much improved bench so make sure your getting stuck into some of the following EVERY session:
    Dead hang WG pull ups, no fucking kipping. Pull your chest to the bar, not your shoulders.
    Barbell rows
    Pendaly rows (my preferred row)
    Trap bar rows
    DB/KB one arm rows
    High pulls (if no impingement occurs)

    Also some mobility work could be included in your warm up such as:
    Shoulder dislocations
    Foam/ball rolling
    Stretching of the lats, pecs, tris ect....
    Band pull apart, with a slow release.... I actually do these almost every time I go to the gym.


    Supportive gear.
    Supportive gear is used in the bench press, just the same as it is in the squat and deadlift. If your an equipped lifter, you probably have a coach, or have a good idea on what your doing anyway, so Im not going go into that..... Not that I know heaps about equipped lifting anyway.

    Wrist wraps are recommended once you start to bench heavy. What's heavy you ask? I think 1.5x BW if you weigh 80kg or less, or 120kg if your over 80kg. There isn't a real need for them before now, as long as you have no exiting injuries. They can be sourced cheap from underground elite or titan, both local businesses. I would only go through these company's as they sell quality gear, not all wraps are equal.

    Belts, unless you are an equipped lifter keeping your shirt in place are NOT needed. If you wear a belt in my gym benching 80kg raw, Ill throw an atlas stone at you (or at least drop it.... they are heavy)...... Don't be that guy.




    Some of the lifters reading this most likely cant bench 100kg yet, and thats fine, my first 1 rep max was 60kg. We all start somewhere. I cant stress enough though that the assistance work is pretty much pointless for you at this stage, with the possible exception of dips. You need VOLUME, thats all. If you weigh 75kg, get to 80kg.

    I hope you all took at least something away from this write up, and if you have any questions feel free to post in this thread. El Freako and myself both coach powerlifting teams, so we should be able to point people in the right direction.

    Now get off the forum and start lifting ;).

    -Sticky.
     
    Tac, Peteswah, Greazy and 5 others like this.
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  3. Jdiaz

    Jdiaz New Member

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    Mate what are your thoughts on using the mark Bell slingshot to help raw benching?
     
  4. Teste-cules

    Teste-cules Cast the biggest shadow

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    ........
     
  5. tbone

    tbone Still benching..

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    Good write up. Cheers.
     
  6. RimKing

    RimKing Rim King Approved AGJ Premium Supporter

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    im not a powerlifter by any means but I used it as guide/mental thing into 180kg+ lifts. got to 4 plates and got the jitters to go any heavier, basically turned into a pussy after unracking.
     
  7. Alpha1

    Alpha1 Well-Known Member

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    loved it :)

    ive always been told if you need straps it means its to heavy and to look at ways of strengthening your wrists.. Im a power lifter 85kgs my lifts are decent but no where near comp level... are straps aloud in comps ?
     
  8. lucky

    lucky Muscleworx stringer free

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    Thanks heaps!
     
  9. dippa66

    dippa66 Member

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    LOL [MENTION=426]clive[/MENTION], go the smith machine mate, not for the purists, but looks impressive with
    4 x 20's hanging off each side ;-)
     
  10. RimKing

    RimKing Rim King Approved AGJ Premium Supporter

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    Lol all good now mate, it worked cos no longer a pussy with 4+ plates ;)
     
  11. Aces

    Aces Member

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    Good write up will use in my bench sessions
     
  12. Teste-cules

    Teste-cules Cast the biggest shadow

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    So I don't really care about weight at all mate but I'm just curious what kinda weight you pushing in your chest work outs ATM mate?
     
  13. RimKing

    RimKing Rim King Approved AGJ Premium Supporter

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    1rm 190kg if I'm feeling good, usually just doubles of 180kg. I've had 5 plates on using the slingshot, got me Fukd how guys can press that kind of weight raw.
     
  14. Teste-cules

    Teste-cules Cast the biggest shadow

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    Fuckin strong bro. Nice man!

    Slingshot hey. Interesting...do you think it improved your overall strength without it?
     
  15. RimKing

    RimKing Rim King Approved AGJ Premium Supporter

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    Only in that it helped me mentally to lower the bar over 180kg mate. I don't use it very often at all and I don't train for strength. My mate who is a pl rates it tho.
     
  16. Paz9

    Paz9 Bi-Winning

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    fucking hell [MENTION=426]clive[/MENTION]
    your not a PL and your lifting that kind of weight.

    i hope you used a spot with that weight?
     
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  17. RimKing

    RimKing Rim King Approved AGJ Premium Supporter

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    Definitely mate, I don't go over 140kg without a training partner!
     
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  18. Amidoingitright?

    Amidoingitright? New Member

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    Great post mate will use from now on
     
  19. Bigted

    Bigted New Member

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    Lots of good advice there.

    The more I learn, the more I realize how much there is to learn.

    Just lifted over my bw for the first time so pretty stoked but may improve with these bits of advice.
     

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