Read Bench Like An Animal: Part 3
Read Bench Like An Animal: Part 4
Read Bench Like An Animal: Part 5
There are many milestones when entering the world of bench pressing. When starting into the gym life, you might see others in the gym benching big weight and wonder how you too can get there. Benching is an eye-catching movement that draws a big crowd. It never seems to fail, that if a conversation starts between two people in the gym, one will ask the other, "So how much do you bench?"
In a normal gym, you might observe lifters benching in the three hundreds, but watch someone load 8 plates on the bar and people will stop to see if the lift goes up. If that lifter does 405 for more then one, people will come from other rooms to watch. If that lifter goes higher into the mid-400s or even crosses into the 500-pound press, well then, all eyes in the gym will be focused on him and all movement in the gym will come to a standstill.
BREAK THAT MARK
People will always ask the lifter how he got there, the 400, 500, or 600 pound bench press. Have you ever been one of them? Are any of these weights one of your goals? Have you been training for months and not seen any improvement in your strength? Are you frustrated because it seems there are so many techniques and magazines with so many different ideas that can't possibly be done in a normal lifestyle? Here are my basics. My routine mixes old school intensity with some new school methods. It ought to help with your training as well.
Listen, training for strength is a tough thing to do. In bodybuilding, a competitor must peak at the right time to insure the best results. In power lifting, a competitor must do the same to insure a best lift. However, in order for a power lifter to be the best at his best, he must first keep the "beast fed." This means eating, then eating, and then eating some more.
Natural power lifting is very tough on the body. The main things the body has to restore itself from the beating is rest and food. I hate to use a cliché¬ but you definitely are what you eat. If you want to be strong, you have to eat for it.
Now bear in mind that this article is specially geared for the natural lifter. I know there are many out there who want to perfect the bench press, naturally. I personally believe lifting natural is the best way to go. Plus, it's a whole hell of a lot cheaper. But your choice is your own. OK. Let's start.
START OFF RIGHT
Too many beginners start right off the bat eating a diet a bodybuilder two weeks out of a show would be proud of. You know what I'm talking about: no fat, no carbohydrates and usually only moderate protein intake. When you're training for strength or size (or both), you should be taking in, minimum, at least a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight every day. Hard, heavy lifters (those athletes getting ready for a power lifting competition, for example) should take in as much as a gram and a half for every pound of bodyweight per day.
There are some people who say that the body only needs 50 grams of protein per day and anything over that will only be eliminated. I can tell you from personal experience that recovery time is cut down dramatically when you follow a high protein diet.
Remember, the body uses protein to rebuild the muscles that get torn down every time you lift heavy. Common sense should tell you that the harder you lift, the more protein you'll need to fix the damage you cause. If you run your big 4x4 truck hard, does it use more gas? Hell yeah!
Calculate your protein intake HERE!
Now young, inexperienced lifters should take special note here. Too many of you are under the impression that the diet of the bodybuilder and the training of a power lifter go together. They do not. Let me repeat: they do not. If you want to be cut and ripped, you have to train and eat for that physique. If you want ultimate power, you have to train and eat for that instead. Very few athletes can look like a hard core bodybuilder and bench like a world-class power lifter, as this usually involves more then just training and diet.
HAVE AN EXTRA STEAK
So, if you want that big bench, make sure to eat a ton. I am not giving you a license to eat all the sweets and chips you want. What I am saying is to make sure you have an extra steak, eat 2 more potatoes, or even throw in an extra meal because taking in at least 5000 calories a day is not uncommon for a serious power athlete. I'm going to say it again because it's that important: Heavy training and a big diet is the way to gaining size and strength.
We all have a comfort zone. The key to diet is to see what yours is. When first starting out, don't be afraid to eat when your body craves extra food. The addition of heavy training will add many calories to your diet. Trust me. Eventually, your body will find out where it wants to stay. Only then can you start to plan out your route for competition.
In addition, drink at least a gallon of ice cold water a day. For those in doubt about eating so many calories a day, drinking the water will help keep extra weight down (not that the beginning power athlete should worry about that right now). Why ice cold water? Because it will help keep extra weight down since your body will burn calories to warm the water up. Another reason that a power athlete should drink a lot of water is because most of the supplements on the market are water-soluble.
Speaking of supplements, if you're just starting out, focus on the nutrition you get from the foods you eat. If you're eating a wide variety of foods, you won't need to start with supplements. Remember, supplements are just another tool for helping you reach your goals. They're not a magic pill. Supplements, in the absence of a solid diet, hard training, and plenty of rest, will be a waste of your hard-earned money. But when you're ready for that extra edge, start with a basic protein powder, maybe some extra amino acids, and a good multivitamin. My feeling is, since the training at the initial stage is not advanced, why should the supplement plan? A beginner should not be worried about supplements so much. Advanced lifters who have more knowledge and experience, on the other hand, should formulate their own opinions about what they want to take.
As an experienced lifter, I personally rely and Animal supplements. During the year, I use Animal Pak and Animal Stak religiously. Lately though, I've been using some Animal M-Stak right before a meet and getting great results. Whatever supplements you use though, if you want to train naturally and you want to get strong, take supplements that will increase your body's ability to train and recover.
Check out some supplements HERE!
THROWING IT ALL TOGETHER
Heavy training, a huge diet, a good supplement plan, and plenty of rest is the only way to gain size and strength. So if you're training hard but having trouble getting strong, start by looking at your diet. After all, if you are unhappy with the way you look, you can always cut weight. It is much easier to cut the weight off then put muscle on. And unfortunately, eating big is the only way, naturally speaking, to put on a lot of size. A solid supplement plan will get you to the next level. On top of all that, get your sleep at night. All this will lay the foundation for the next step: training. Next month, I'll specifically talk about training for bigger gains in the bench. Until then, work hard and eat big.
Paul S. Vargo Nationally-Ranked Bench Presser