Written by Brandon Lilly
I wrote in my last article about overhead presses being a huge part of my bench press success, the other key has been a commitment to varying intensities. By default each lift on the Cube is given a 3 week wave, and you only lift “heavy” on one of those weeks, so how can we increase intensity without actually increasing weight on the bar?
The three exercises I rotate on my Heavy day for the bench are Floor Press, Board Presses, and 1” Bow Bar. On my Rep, and Explosive days I always use a straight bar for my main exercise, and this can be a little monotonous so after talking with a lot of lifters, and specifically Eric Spoto, I have decided to incorporate “Pause Reps” into my bench work. Now, you may be asking, “Why is that important? It’s nothing new.” But the way that I am choosing to do them is a little different.
My paused bench approach
When looking at the bench press on most lifters, the majority that I watch fail to stay tight from the beginning of the bench, to the chest, and then back to completion. I watch over and over as guys touch their chest, reposition their arms, and move all over the place. It’s not just a lack of overhead work that causes shoulder injuries, its guys getting loose on the bench. So to teach myself to get tighter, and to increase the explosiveness off my chest I do the following:
- Lower the weight quickly to about an inch off the chest. In this position to maintain, and hold the weight there you will have to be unbelievably tight. Once it’s there, pause for a split second.
- Press the bar about 2/3 through the lift, and then let the bar lower. By pressing this far you are maximizing lat, pec, and delt recruitment without hitting the triceps just yet.
- As the bar lowers a second time you want to pause, just as before, about one inch off the chest. Then with all your strength you want to explode the weight to the top. Completion of this cycle constitutes one “rep”.
- You want to pick a weight that is challenging to get for 6-8 reps. I have found that 60-70% for 2-3 sets is very taxing, but still allows for maximum recovery, yielding the best result.
The reason this works so well is multi-dimensional, but basically on our heavy day we are “testing” ourselves by using boards, bow bar (similar effect to a deficit deadlift), and floor press, so we can see what is lacking. The other two weeks are “builders” and by maximizing time under tension, time with peak flexion, and maximizing fatigue with sub maximal weights we can actually promote new growth of muscle tissue, and attack all areas of the bench in one single exercise. If you bench regularly you never hit your weak spot directly, you only emphasize the weak area, just power through it. By doing this type of press you work every single aspect of the press, most considerably the mid-range because in 8 reps you have really pushed through the mid-range 16 times, and by the time you get to the lockout you are really fatigued emphasizing lockout power.
I am constantly bombarded by people with questions about why I don’t like bands. I do like them, I just think most people have failed to actually become strong before they implement them. Lets look at a typical Dynamic Bench Press Day:
50% Bar Weight + 25% Band Tension= 75% at lockout x 3 x 8 sets
Well for a raw lifter where do you need the most power? Off the chest. Where are the bands the lightest? On the chest. So doing work my way you use 60-70% straight weight so the weight is actually more off your chest than a typical speed day, and because of the fatigue factor the weight will feel like much more at the top than on a typical speed day. So for a raw lifter you can see why this style of work can be more beneficial for your training, and for a geared lifter why would you not want more real weight on your chest with just under the weight you would be handling with bands? Bar weight is real, bar weight removes the guessing game, and bar weight has never been trumped as the king for building power.
If You Have Questions About This Article-Ask Them In The Comments Section Below! Brandon Lilly is very well traveled, Elite powerlifter. He has trained at Guerrilla Squad Barbell, Westside Barbell, Lexen Xtreme, and is now home at Berea Barbell. In his strength journey he has competed in bodybuilding, strongman, and powerlifting. Brandon is one of only 19 men to ever total over 2200 raw, having 2204 which ties him for 16th all time (826.5 squat, 573 bench, 804.5 Deadlift). He also amassed a 2530 total in Multi-Ply, and has best lifts of 1005 squat, 820 bench press, and 765 Deadlift. Brandon is the author of The Cube Method and is aiming to create a paradigm shift in the Powerlifting world. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter