Mechanical disadvantage to get strong in the Bench Press

Powerlifting, Girl bench pressing,  

Written by Gage Reid of Nova Strength

In Powerlifting it's constantly preached to perfect your form in such a way as to put yourself in the best possible position to perform a lift with maximal weight and precision with the highest success rate possible. In the Bench Press, this could be improving your arch and moving your grip out further; both are excellent ways to decrease the range of motion, thus allowing for the shortest distance from 'Point A' (the bottom position of the Bench Press after receiving the start command and performing a pause) to 'Point B' (lockout of the lift). In the Squat, it could be to move your feet our further, allowing for a wider stance and more hip involvement (typically wearing flat heeled shoes, but not always) or having a narrower stance to allow for more quadriceps involvement--- although this is a very general assumption, there are many different variations to the standard competition Squat, so generalizing is not typically recommended, but these examples allow you to get the big picture that using leverages and strengths to your advantage is key in the Squat. In the most general sense, Powerlifters have spent years working to make the lift more advantageous to their individual forms. But, what if the constant adherence to their most advantageous way to do the lift has compromised their abilities to make gains. In this particular case, we are discussing the Bench Press, and I'm here to say that if you've been stalled on the lift for weeks, months or years, then I suggest you adhere to the follow:

If you're currently performing your competition style bench press 1-2 times a week, stop. If you're a beginner or intermediate lifter, you can get away with having a lower level of specificity in the main lifts far out from a meet. By not performing the competition style Bench Press for 4-6 weeks at a given time during a Hypertrophy or General Strength Block you can allow for a new stimulus and attack the weak points of the lift through similar exercise variations, such as the Wide Grip Bench Press and the Close Grip Bench Press. Right now I have a female athlete following this protocol, benching twice a week with one day as a Close Grip Bench day and the second for Wide Grip. Her old 1RM on the competition Bench Press was 145, but judging by the progression in her close and wide grips, we are expecting a 20-pound carry over once we peak for her up and coming meet. Once you've eliminated the competition bench press and replaced it with the variations for a given number of weeks, once you go back to the competition bench your body will be faced with a "new" training stimulus since you haven't performed that movement in awhile, and the close variation that the CG Bench and WGBP provide will ensure that once you go back to your normal benching style, you will not be "rusty" on it.

Although I just described the "repeated bout effect" in a very general and non-scientific way, there is a very scientific and logical reason as to why you should attack your training in this particular manner. Below is an article written by Layne Norton (aka BioLayne) on how the Repeated Bout Effect can affect your training and how doing the same thing over a long period of time will not continue to exhibit the same results.


"The Repeated Bout Effect: If Nothing Changes, Nothing Is Going to Change"

It is constantly preached on the Internet and on forums everywhere--- "move your grip out", "just get more flexible!" Although these can be good suggestions to the athlete whose form is not as precise and mechanically efficient, we are more focused on those who have somewhat "perfected" their form and have plateaued significantly. If you're scared of changing your position and grip for a short period of time because it'll limit the amount of weight you can use on the bar, then maybe Powerlifting isn't for you. But, if you're willing to do whatever it takes to be a champion, which sometimes mean taking 1 step back so you can take 3 leaps forward, then this is definitely an approach that can benefit you. The Bench Press is a very, very technical lift that requires flexibility, dynamic strength and the confidence to let a bar rest on your chest with a weight that could kill the average person. It can take a very long time to become good at the lift, and an even longer time to become great, but if you understand what it takes to keep moving forward, then maybe you'll reach that level sooner than you think.

1 comment

  • Maggie: August 29, 2016

    The links didn’t work for me. Did anyone else have trouble? Would love to read the articles.

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