Deepsquatter's Random Thoughts

    The bar flew off my chest like I was warming up. The secret? A new bench shirt? No,  I wore the same one that  bore the mark of past failures. Creatine? Nope, same as before.  Basically, I owe some "thanks yous" to  Louie Simmons, Dennis Tsurumoto and Frank Cable.  Louie for coming up with the chains idea ,  Frank for helping me with my technique and Dennis for handing off  at my meet and in countless workouts and just generally helping me through my training cycle.  

The Problem
      I've always been pretty  strong off the chest. The bench shirt just made my strong point stronger.  I'd get to the middle of the lift and gravity would say, "NOT " and I'd hear  the referee say, "take the bar."  So what changed? 
The Solution
    1. I added chains to the bar on the speed day. 
    2. Frank taught me to lower the bar using my upper back muscles.
    3. I added a separate day for delt training to my routine and also did a bit more direct pec work.
    I've been using a Louie Simmons style routine -a max effort day and a speed day for my bench for a while. Doing so , I was able to take my bench from the 350-360 range to the 390 range. Unfortunately,  I plateued there andseemd to plant roots.  Before this, I performed regualr progressive resistance bench work.  I'd could get just about anyting, within reason, off my chest but I'd fail at the lockout. Since I am one of the few people that a) doesn't like to train arms and b) was born wothout triceps the Simmons routine with it's emphasis on lockout strength was a perfect fit. My problems were solved.....partially. My lockouts got stronger almost immediately. I made the jump to 390 withing about 12 weeks. Then I stayed there for a looooong time. 
      The one thing I've questioned about the Simmons system was the lack of direct pec work. In recent articles, Lou has mentioned that some of his guys are benefitting from 'illegal grip' benches. This made sense to me in that I've always felt that keeping a strong point strong is just as important as making a weak point stronger. Also, I felt that getting stronger off the chest would help me move the bar through  
my sticking point even faster. 
      Here's what I did.  On Wednesday, instread of the usual max effort work I did a regular progressive workout including both shirtless and 'shirted' benches. On every rep I concentrated on lowering the bar with my back muscles. Frank taught me to acually pull the bar down to my chest. This leaves the pecs, delts and tris with more energy to drive back up. Second, when I got to three reps and below I paused every rep on this day.  
      I used to do delt work right after  benching but this time did it a day later. The workout consisted of behind the neck presses, front raises, lateral raises, bent raises and a bit of  rotator cuff work. This workout was brief, 30 minutes or so. The extra rest really helped as my shoulders got stronger and  several people remarked that I looked wider at the meet. (gotta stay pretty!) 
      Finally, on Saturday, I did my speed benches as usual - 10 sets of three with  205-225 lbs (52.5-57.5% of my 1RM  of 390) on the bar. The BIG difference was the addition of  40-100 lbs of CHAINS to the bar. The chains are set up so that when the bar is on the chest al the chain is on the floor. As you lift the bar the load is increased and you have to push harder to maintain bar speed. All sets were done with closer grips - 18", 20" 22" 24" and 26" - than my contest grip. Also,  we generally would add about 40lbs to the bar for the last 2 sets. The first few sets are easy but the last few make you fight to even maintain the speed off the chest.  
      As usual, when  trying any new thing, I was a bit nervous on meet day. When I called for  402 on my second attempt,  I sat down an mentally prepared for  a 30 second fight with the bar.  I got that handoff, lowered the bar and waited for the signal. "Press", and I pressed with everything I had.  The bar took off and actually sped up as it approaced the top.  I could actually feel my body pushing against the added resistance of the chains but...THEY WEREN'T THERE!!! 
      The same thing happened with 413. John Ford,  who has witnessed the debacle that was my bench many times, told me later that he thought I was nuts when I called for 413.  I think the only one that was more surprised than him went it flew up was me. 
If you are weak between the middle and the top chains  might be the answer for you too.  
      I'm going to repeat this experiment for the Nationals in July to make sure it wasn't a fluke. My goal is 440 lbs. I'll let everyone know how it turns out. 
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