Are you sure you are doing a routine that would be considered a "strength" routine? If you are doing a progressive routine, step-by-step, week-by-week, you might not be accomplishing what you think you are training for. Let's talk powerlifting.
Utilizing Powerlifting To Make Gains...
I have talked in past articles about power training, now we are going to get into it. In my article "Bench Like an Animal", I gave a starter workout for someone wanting to perk up their bench, or for someone wanting to enter the power life. Now, we need to advance that training so that we can start developing some new bench freaks. I also have spoken about education. With education comes options. With options come advancements. Simple formula, freakish results. The difference is in the training.
Repping weight will make you good at repping weight. It will not work toward your ultimate one rep max. It will make you stronger, but it will not make you powerful. If you want to become a good competition bencher, it doesn't matter what your second or third rep or fourth rep is. You want to train so that your first rep is your best rep, because you only get one shot at competition. How many times in your training has your first rep not been your best? That tells you that your training methods need to be adjusted, because in powerlifting three reps will make you strong, but one will make you a power monster.
Using Bench Shirts To Up Your Bench
If you really want to push the limits of your max, we can talk about bench shirts. Never heard of one? Never seen one? Let me give you a bit of background. Picture a shirt made of a polyester material. When you first get this thing in the mail, you will not be able to fathom how you will get this thing on. The chest is cut way too small, and the shirt is so tight that it probably will turn you arms blue and make it hard to breathe.
It takes three of your biggest friends to get it on you. You'll need talc powder and some work to pull the shirt down to get it "seated" right. Make sure those big friends ain't pissed off at you when they are putting the shirt on, cuz you are pretty helpless with the thing on. They will beat your ass just putting the shirt on; imagine if they aren't real happy with you to start with. What I am saying is don't talk too much shit until you are done benching.
The idea behind this piece of equipment is to raise your one rep max. If you bench 325 raw, then using a regular polyester 1-ply bench shirt will raise your max to somewhere into the 350-60 pound range. Of course, there are tons of factors that will govern what your assisted max will be. When we talk about competition, the assisted class uses bench shirt. In the raw division, you are only allowed a belt. If you can't for the life of you figure out how this thing would work, let me try to give you a visual.
Bring both your shoulders forward and then fold your t-shirt over in the middle vertically as tight as it goes and hold your arms in the bench position and act like you are bringing down the bar. The fold in the shirt will open up as the bar comes down. That simulates the shirt stretching. When you bring the bar down, the shirt nearly stretches to its ultimate max. It wants to stretch back, and this force helps you get the bar moving back up. The downside? The shirt is tight, hard to put on (putting it on drains energy), and it cuts under your arms as you use it. The shirt will actually cut you when you bring it down and create some pain. It gives you "sucker bite" marks. But what's a little pain among power athletes, brothers?
The single ply polyesters usually provide around 30-40 pounds on your max. If you go to a double ply poly, then you can get 50-70 pounds. If you decide to go denim, then a single ply can work you up around 80-90 pounds. Double ply denim can give you over 100 pounds depending on how you use it. There are other types available. You can also buy canvas shirts in multiple plies. There is also a new poly-type material available that is thicker then a regular poly. It is the new hardcore material.
When you are trying out bench shirts, I recommend starting with a single ply poly, getting used to it, and learning how they work. Getting into more than that is strictly for the advanced lifter. In Part 2, I'll talk about how you can train properly with a shirt to achieve monster lifts. Until, stay strong brothers.