Probably the most commonly asked question of a weightlifter (grouping Olympic Weightlifting, Powerlifting, and Strongman together) is “how much do you Bench?” Actually this drives me just a little nuts, although I admit nowhere near as much as being asked what supplements I use!
The reason I slightly sigh when asked “How Much Do You Bench?” is because I believe that the Bench isn’t even the best test of upper body strength (Press), let alone whole body strength. I find the way that the Bench Press has become the coming of age lift slightly distasteful. Bench more than 100kg / 225lbs and you’re a man my son! But having said this I still believe the Bench to be an excellent exercise for increasing upper body muscle mass along with being second only to the Press as a strength builder. I would even argue that the Bench, or one of its many variants can be excellent as an aid to many sports; which is where at least some of the “functional training” gurus would disagree with me.
But the main reason is that the ladies (and guys) love the chesticles!
Coaching the Bench
You would think that’s there’s no way anyone could mess this up but you’d be very wrong. I’ll go into this in greater detail in the Podcast about this but for now back to coaching. There are 3 main sections of the Bench Press, which all need coaching, and these are the MAIN points.
The Set Up
Before taking the bar out pull your shoulder blades down and in, a cue I use is “shoulder blades in your back pocket”. Once this is done pull your hips up to your shoulder blades. This is not comfortable but it helps you Bench more weight so shut up and get on with it.
For most the command “chest up” will fix most issues. You should be lowering the bar to the high point of the chest / ribcage, not the neck! By thinking “chest up”, or “chest to bar” you’re trying to make that high point of the chest even higher, and avoid collapse of the chest which I often see.
Think push yourself through the bench, or “away from the bar”. The other issue many have is breathing out too soon; only exhale at lockout.
Me being coached by the great Jim Wendler – an excellent and funny coaching video. (To skip to Jim coaching go to 4.11 in)
There are literally hundreds of Bench variations; but you can narrow this down by asking the usual questions – “where am I strong?” And “where am I weak?” Both of these need to be addressed. Remember work on your weaknesses but keep your strengths your strengths.
In the Bench most are weak off the chest and strong at lockout (I am now talking to at least intermediate trainees); to keep your lockout a strength you might perform Board Presses once in a while; and to build your weakness you might do 3 second paused Bench Presses on occasion too.
I believe we’ve already covered that a boy becomes a man when he Benches 100kg! Most guys should be able to Bench Press 100kg within 6-12 months of serious training; quite often sooner but I’m being general here. It might take another 6-12 months to get to 120kg which is pretty good. Very good is 140kg, and excellent is 160kg. If you get to 180kg then you’re at elite level.
For the ladies take 40-50% of the above as your mark. Please remember that these figures are drug free, and without a Bench shirt; both of those enhancements make a huge difference.
Now I’ve written this, and Nick and I have done a rather excellent podcast on the same subject I don’t want to see any silly shit going on; no more Benching with the feet up; no more half reps, unless you’re doing Board or Pin Presses; and no more Bro Benches where your training partner pulls the weight off your skinny neck and you still claim the lift…. No More! Big benches, and large chesticles only from now on.