ARTICLES

Bench Press for Strongmen

By Mike Jenkins | In Bench, Strongman | on March 20, 2013

How much you bench bro? I always lie and say like 700 and the response I get is “That’s not too bad!” Are you kidding? Now I come up with the most ridiculous number I can imagine and few are phased, I guess it would be like me responding to someone telling me about their Medical School entrance tests, I don’t have a damn clue but I would say “Not bad!”.

Now to the matter at hand! Many of you have heard, or read that I do not bench very often.  That would be a true statement. However I did for years and do have a real, actual respectable bench but I found other things help me in my quest to be the first man to press a 500 log in a contest. So, if you are just getting into the sport, bench away, bench your little ass of, do anything that gets you stronger as a whole. But for you that are looking to maybe bump your overhead up 25 or so pounds I am talking to you! When you look at any other athlete the use other forms of the same movement to get better at what they are elite at. Take a long jumper, he or she does not only go to practice and just jump, jump, jump! They do sprints and plyos to make then a more efficient jumper. Those movements are tools in their arsenal. Something you are familiar with and Brandon Lilly discusses this in the Cube, which I did read, probably five times and had this belief before and reassured my belief after. Brandon benches in competitions, fact, he does not do military press, dumbbell shoulder press or incline in contests. Though he does not do them on the platform he does however use them as tools to get a big bench. Now to my sport, I do not stand in the rack and only press logs or axles every workout. By doing certain movements in certain ways I can activate muscles that I would not be able to in a standing strict position. What do I do you ask? Though I do not flat bench I do however use incline, close grip floor press, floor press and variations of the same with dumbbells.

Mike Jenkins pressing some big weight on the incline bench with a log.

Mike Jenkins pressing some big weight on the incline bench with a log.

So, why do I use variations of bench for a huge overhead? After I do my strict work I will resort to something that focuses on either some form of shoulder recruitment, some chest and tons of triceps. All the lifts that I mentioned before I rotate, Cube shout out bro, different weeks and with different bars, axles, swiss bars and logs. I had been doing this for a while now, just never knew how similar I thought to Brandon, great minds think alike! My main staple is floor press with either an axle or swiss bar, simulates a log but harder because the different range of motion, it’s longer then a log. Well what the hell does lying on a floor pushing weight off your chest have to do with lifting something heavy as hell off your shoulders over your head? Well think about the last over head, or even bench you missed. Where did you miss it? You probably didn’t get stapled to the bench unless it was just too damn heavy, I bet you missed it the last two inches of the lift. I know that’s where I missed my 484 log at WSM, my left arm was less than an inch from being locked out, triceps weren’t strong enough! The floor press smokes your triceps and you even get a chest workout too but the triceps the limiting factor in most failed lifts. By using the different bars its challenges you to adapt each week and will carry over to a log and axle. Ok, makes sense right so why the incline? Once again you are lying down and taking weight out of a rack and stable, unlike standing with a log or axle on your chest. Take a look at anyone who close to a max effort log or axle at WSM, they have a serious arch in their back, in somewhat of a standing incline position. On the incline you are able to overload your body by being in that position without compromising your back rep after rep, you are stable and flat against the bench. Like the floor press does to the top of the press I feel the incline does to the bottom of the overhead press. The beginning of the lift starts on your chest just as an overhead does once you clean it. Your triceps cannot do jack if they do not get a chance because it doesn’t get by your fat chin. This is a lift I believe will get it going to where you need those triceps. To be good at this lift you need to be fast off your chest. How do I generate speed, I generally start with the axle or log already on pins, in my case I have them on my Rogue spotter straps so it can easily move and doesn’t damage the bar. Yes that’s correct, shameless sponsor plug! By taking the weight off my chest, not out of the rack, I have zero rebound. Like anything else I but the lift together in pieces to come to a final product, an overhead that makes dudes feel bad about their benches! Like I mentioned before you can exchange these with dumbbells if you see fit, that also helps with stabilizing each hand not just a single bar. I know people are wondering about hand placement, again, I rotate them. I do hit close grip floor press and close grip incline, just another variation to the lift. Obviously that will hit the triceps a little more I think it’s the actual movement that is more important.

So, like an overhead press can help a powerlifter’s bench go up, a variation of a bench can help your overhead go up! If you are looking to boost your overall strength with no contest in site the big thing is to rotate bars and types of pressing each week, only after you strict press though. If I am not getting ready for a specific show I will press with a log then floor press with an axle or vice versa, strict with axle and bench movement with swiss or log. If I am leading up to an event with a log in it I will hit only log for strict and incline or floor with swiss or log to simulate that same movement pattern. A for the love of baby Jesus or whoever it is you pray to please do not, do not, do not do your log or axle on event day. You need to work it in the gym and hit these accessories.

Mike Jenkins is one of the biggest and fastest rising names in the World of Strongman. The 2012 Arnold Strongman Classic Champion (and 2011 runner-up), Jenkins is also a 2x finalist at World’s Strongest Man. Jenkins is based out of Harrisburg, PA, where he trains at 13 Stripes Crossfit. Mike offers online training for Strongman, Powerlifting and Crossfit athletes and can be reached at JenkinsStrength@gmail.com
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