Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lessons from my bench press

When I was a bodybuilder I could barbell bench press 275 for 2-3 reps, on a good day. Most time I could only use 225 for 5s and I rarely did it as it 1) killed my shoulders( even the "good" one) and 2) did nothing for my pecs, which was the muscle I was using it to train.

At the same time I could incline db press 140's for 4 reps strongly and without pain.My incline barbell press was way stronger than my flat bench and didn't cause pain. The difference was on the inclines I could get my chest up( arch) retract my shoulder blades into the sockets and 'pack the shoulders'.

I didn't analyze it then as I didn't care what exercises I used, I just wanted chest development.

But when I became a powerlifter I was stuck with the bench as it was one of the three lifts of the total, which determined the best lifter.Just like All Around in gymnastics. You're only as good as your weakest event, so I had to get better at the bench.

Luckily I discovered Louie Simmons and WSB and the idea of the vertical forearm in the bench. Lowing the bar with a totally vertical forearm meant the barbell came to rest about 2 inches below my sternum, not on the top of the pecs as the bodybuilders did.

To my surprise this didn't hurt my shoulders in the least and Louie's admonition to not press up , but to push away from the bar as you "shoved " it made a huge difference in power AND strength.

With this technique I benched 435 at 181( with a bench shirt) and did 490 in the gym. I regularly used 400+ lbs in various "special exercises"  in our weekly max effort workouts on  1,2 and 3 board close grip presses, barbell inclines, floor presses and declines. So I know if I got the shoulder in the right position it would be strong. Just a bit off, nothing. Except Pain. It dawned on me this weekend that I should try to emulate the same "feel" I had benching in my Kb pressing. Forget about the "right" way to do it and find the "strong" way, for ME. So far so good.It is, however,entirely different than what I have been doing so it will take some time.

My press has sucked of late and I have to find the answer so today I played around with mimicing the  vertical forearm position I used in my bench press. In RKC one is supposed to keep the forearm vertical but  once I lay the lower arm across the chest I lose it.

I focus on pressing back into that position but it hasn't worked of late and it makes my shoulder make weird noises. Then it aches. not good.

In my rack walks I discovered that holding the elbow lower resulted in far less "clunks" and seemed more stable. So I tried using that as the starting position of the press today and it worked brilliantly.No adjustments in the shoulder at all and I got a great vertical forearm throughout.

As usual my form doesn't look like "the" form but it's the best I got.

One arm swing warmup
16 kg x5/5/5 x3

Mil Press
16 kg x5/5 x2
20 kg x5/5 x 5

One arm swings
24 kg x 10/10 x 5

Two Hand CB arm cast 
25 x 10/10 x 3

Triceps band extension
black x 15 x 3

definitely feeling beat up and tired so this was a much needed back off workout. Left feeling like I didn't do enough which is perfect:)) Need to do more handstands though.



Boris Terzic said...

Impressive numbers you've put up. Also great form advice.

Mark Reifkind said...

thanks Boris, I finally seemed to get a breakthrough that my shoulders like, it was logical but I hadn't put it together until now.

jockeRKC said...

There are only one wau to press, the right way ;) but the right way is whats right for you =)right ?
If it hurts its not functional =)
way to go Mr Sisu