Read Bench Like An Animal: Part 2
Read Bench Like An Animal: Part 3
Read Bench Like An Animal: Part 4
Alright Animals, here we go. Wake up and get ready. This is where old school meets current technology. So get ready to bust some ass to maximize your iron moving capabilities. We are going to talk about the things available today that will teach the body how to move the massive pounds.
Train For Your Sport
First, you have to train for your sport. If you want to be a power lifter, you don't want to set up your routine to pound out 3 sets of 15 for each body part. That would accomplish tone. You might end up looking damn good, but not be very strong.
Of course there are many variations on this, but generally speaking, these are the ranges upon which we can base a workout.
So if you wanted to enter a bench press competition, you probably wouldn't do 10 reps per set to achieve your best max at contest. Too many rely on total poundage moved during the workout.
See, the "workload" does not always account for your best max at contest. If two guys compete in a contest where a one max lift is the goal, then the style of training will determine the outcome. One of the guys might be able to rep 365 pounds 8 times, while the other might only be able to do it 4 times.
But, the guy that does it 4 times might be able to nail 500 at the contest, while the other might be only able to do 435. How can this be? Shouldn't the guy that reps 365 for 8 should be stronger? No, not when it comes to max lift. Even though endurance is an important part of power training, it is not the main focus.
I usually do my endurance training at the beginning of a routine and, as the contest gets closer, drop the reps. This allows my body to handle the reps while eventually moving big metal. It's called "transfer of training."
You have to be able to rep weight in order to get stronger, but you need to handle the big weight in order to get that big max. So, by doing endurance training before big weight training, as the contest approaches, you are used to just handling heavier weight for low reps.
In addition to training for your sport, avoid draining excess energy by doing too many reps. You want to save that energy for going big in the gym. When you get the big weight in the gym moving, you'll feel ready for the meet, physically and mentally. During the contest, it all comes down to being a warrior, a true Animal.
In order to achieve this level of intensity, you must be not only a focused predator, but you need to be smart about the kill. The kill in this case is winning the meet with you best lift. I train with this in mind, always. If I lose, it's because I did something wrong with my training or preparation.
Here?s another example tailoring your training program to meet your goals. I bench with a shirt. This means I compete in the assisted division. So it would only make sense that I train that way. Let me explain.
In a previous article I have talked about guys who train "like a bodybuilder when they think they are training like a power lifter." This comes into play now with training assisted and raw. I have seen many people entering contest and them training their ass off for many weeks then the day of contest putting on shirt and thinking that they can go big. This is so wrong.
The body is "ignorant." Now being ignorant is about not knowing, while being dumb is about knowing better and not doing something about it. When you walk into a gym for the first time, the body can do a certain amount of weight naturally.
If you are a laborer, then you might be naturally stronger then someone that has never been dirty his whole life (dirty jobs usually bust ass more then clean ones). Now, take this idea to the next level.
You walk into the gym to get stronger. You can do a certain amount of weight naturally, but if you put on a piece of equipment that's going to allow you to do more, then you're going to try to bench a weight that your body has never felt before. How is your body going to know how to handle this? See my point?
If you train raw for a contest for weeks then put on a bench shirt the week before, or the day of, do you really expect your body to know what to do with it? It knows what to do up to the raw max, but now the shirt is on and it is probably going to take at least 30-40 pounds over that to get the bar down.
Your body is going to go into shock when you suddenly throw all that weight above you. It'll seems like you are asking it to do the impossible. I say do training weeks in advance with the shirt on, and then the week before the contest, do a test run with the attempts you want to do to see how everything is going.
Getting back to the shirt, it'll be useful to talk about the physics behind the bench shirt. Most have never heard of a bench shirt, so they have no idea what they are how they work. A bench shirt can be made of polyester, denim, or canvas.
They come in different plies (up to 3 ply), and have different cuts depending on how someone benches. Trying to keep up with technology is like trying to piss up a rope, so I'll just give you a basic summary of bench shirts.
There are some new materials out that look like the polyester shirts but are made of an advanced material. Single ply polyester shirts should be worn by beginning shirt wearers (they can later work their way up to 2 ply). Only advanced lifters should go into a denim shirt as these are not made for a lifter who hasn't had one on.
You have to remember, these shirts put you under weight that you might not have tried before and might not be able to control. The stronger shirts take more weight to stretch out, which means if you don't have enough weight on the bar, the shirt might not let the weight touch your chest. Yes, the shirts are strong enough to not let massive weight touch your chest.
Now pay close attention, as this will come into play throughout the "Bench Like an Animal" series. It will also help you understand the reasoning for the training methods I am recommending. Imagine a 2 to 4 inch thick box sitting perpendicular on the chest across the nipples.
It stops on your chest and the top ends at your lockout. To help you visualize, hold the bar out, then bring it down to your chest. The box is a range about an inch or so above the bar and an inch below. It creates a "box" or "benching zone."
Now take your shirt, bring your shoulders forward, and cross your shirt over vertically and pretend to bench. As the bar comes down the shirt will open up. This simulates a bench shirt.
The bench shirt has the chest cut intentionally small to stretch out instead of opening up. This creates a "spring-like" effect off the chest. The shirt will help you get the weight moving off the chest and help it up to about half way, but then you are on your own.
In short, it comes to an ultimate stretch, and gives ultimate help at the chest, then progressively gives less to half way up. Now that we have an understanding of how shirts work, we have to start thinking about the different parts of the bench that make up the whole.
Training For Assisted Lifting
If you want to train for assisted lifting, there are two parts of the lift to consider. From chest to half, and from half to lockout. I am not going to jump too far at once, because you have to understand boards, bands, and chains to see how they can be applied.
There are also different levels of training for each part of the bench in order to improve those parts we are weak in. You first have to find out where you are getting stuck when you fail. Only then can you can use a training technique to strengthen it.
Don't worry BLA (Bench Like an Animal) fans, I am committed to Animal and that also commits me to building bench freaks. As I said, this isn't a lifestyle to "try." We are going to build some massive bench animals so we need to be committed. Until next time, trample the weak, hurdle the dead, and out bench the rest.
Paul S. Vargo, Nationally-Ranked Bench Presser