Posts Tagged ‘BENCH PRESS GAINS’

If you are an advanced trainee how would you like to add 10-15 pounds to your bench as well as increase your pec and upper body mass in 12 weeks. If you are an intermediate, how does 15-20 pounds sound?
The so-called “secret” to these gains involves using the bench press in the power rack. The power rack is an advanced tool and is not for beginners or early intermediate trainees. It is a largely neglected method since it is not in style and is very difficult work. Many sources have espoused the use of the power rack including Bill Starr, Brooks Kubik, and Dr. Ken Leistner to name a few.
To further convince the reader of the power rack’s efficacy is not difficult. Consider the following scenario. A certain trainee had been stuck at 255 for 5 repetitions on his best set of bench presses. This stagnant period lasted for an incredible 2 years. This certain trainee gave the power rack a shot and lo and behold at the end of the 12-week routine he performed a 275 for 5-rep set.
The routine calls for the chest to be worked heavily once per week while cutting back on work for the shoulders and triceps. Say about 3 heavy sets for each of these groups no more than once per week. Don’t let this low volume of work scare you. You will not get weaker or smaller. Do not accept this mindset. Push hard on the sets that you have limited yourself to.
Before we get into how to use the rack, let’s discuss form. Most trainees (the author included) have learned to press the bar in a vertical line off the chest with the elbows flared out at 90 degrees from the sides. This is great in placing stress on the pectorals, but will inhibit your poundage potential and size and strength gains in the long run. Try this version instead. Lower the bar under control, not necessarily super slowly, to the nipple line while keeping the elbows in towards the lats. Shoot for 45 degrees or so between the upper arms and the ribcage. If you are a wide grip bench presser, this may necessitate moving the grip in several inches so that this can be accomplished. This increases the distance the bar must travel, but the payoff is that you are now coiled like a spring at the bottom portion of the movement. Drive the bar off the chest while simultaneously digging in with your feet and exploding with your chest as well as your latissimus. The first 2-3 inches can be a vertical drive off the chest. At this point allow the bar to drift back towards the clavicles while still driving upward. When it feels right, swing the elbows out to 90 degrees and drive the bar back towards the eyes to complete lockout. Be sure to have a spotter stand by, as this form feels very strange to “vertical” bench pressers. It just so happens that an easy place to learn how to do this is in the power rack. Warm up by doing two to three sets of benches with the form described earlier. If you are new to this, allow yourself a few weeks to learn the form before pushing hard on the rack program. Place the pins in the rack such that the bar is resting just above the chest. Prepare to do a few more warm up sets before reaching a weight that is about 40 pounds or so below your best set of 5 in the bench. The start position is with the bar resting on the pins. Explode the bar off the chest in the form described earlier in the article. Lower the bar back to the pins in the same arc that the bar followed on the way up. The bar should gently come to rest on the pins. Without bouncing, repeat for the required number of repetitions. Resist the temptation to bounce the bar off the pins. Do not relax in the bottom position. This would be defeating the purpose of the rack. Do another set at this height in the same good form. Next, raise the pins up to the next available hole. You may want to do a practice set at this height before moving to your heavy set. Generally, one can use about 25 more pounds at this height. After your heavy set at this hole, raise the pins up to the next hole. A whole lot of weight can be used at this height since it is generally past everyone’s sticking point. About 50-75 pounds more can be used here. After this set, you will perform a regular set of bench presses in good, strict form. On this set you will experience what I call the” medicine ball effect.” Did you ever pick up a medicine ball in gym class and pass it back and forth for a few minutes, followed by the same with a basketball? Remember how light it felt? The same rule applies to this last set of bench presses. Your nervous system has been primed to “over recruit” muscle fibers for the lighter task at hand. The weight will feel lighter than if you had worked up to it in the traditional fashion because you already have had a set where maximal recruitment is necessary. The critical first few reps will feel lighter which is good psychologically for a strong finish on the set.
All heavy sets in your routine should be cycled for maximum success in the long run. Start out at eighty percent of your previous best poundages for week number one. Work up to your previous records over 6 weeks. During the next 6 weeks add 1 to 2 pounds per week(no more even if you could) to your exercises. You may add slightly more per week on the bigger, basic moves like the squat and bench. Do not add so much that you fail to achieve the required number of reps. This will kill your momentum and shatter your confidence. Tease the mind and keep it hungry for more weight. Feel free to take a light week on weeks seven and eleven. You will be surprised at how strong you feel after you take a week in which you use about eighty-five percent of your scheduled poundage. Cycling is not new and has been around in some shape or form for many years.
In summary, although the program is brief and focused, it is a specialization program that has worked time and time again. Almost all of my trainees have had great success with it as I alluded to earlier. Rid yourself of the mindset that your muscles must be annihilated with multiple sets in order to grow. This is simply untrue and leads to overtraining for most trainees. The intensity that one puts out during the set as well as poundage progression provides the stimulus for muscle growth. In order for the body to elicit the response, however, adequate rest and nutrition must be a given. A solid 7 to 8 hours of sleep and maintaining as tranquil a mind as possible should cover rest. A multivitamin supplement and a moderate protein, high carbohydrate, low fat diet with enough calories to at least maintain bodyweight should cover nutrition. Focus on the above routine, believe in it, and grow in size as well as strength.