Written by Chad Wesley Smith
During my time as a shot putter, I considered myself a pretty decent bench presser, having pressed 500# when I was 23 years old, but when I made the transition to powerlifting, the pause that was required was a slap in the face. When shot putting I benched in a very ‘ballistic” manner (ie, bounced the hell out of it), which I think is very appropriate to the shot put and is a style utilized by top throwers across the world, so all the people who have commented about how I was gonna break my sternum, SAVE IT! Despite this style of benching helping me develop the speed and reactive qualities needed to throw the shot put far, it left people in an extreme lack of power off the chest when transitioning to a paused, powerlifting bench press. I was losing 75-85 pounds when having to pause my bench compared to my previous style.
Knowing that I needed to correct this weakness, I sought out the advice of Josh Bryant, the youngest man to ever raw bench 600 pounds, which he did at only 22 years old. Josh has gone on from his competitive career to develop a TON of great lifters. Josh prescribed the Dead Bench to me to cure my bench ailments and it was definitely the right medicine. The dead bench, along with a lot of other great training Josh helped me with, helped me add 50 pounds to my bench in a 13 week training cycle.
To perform the Dead Bench, you will need to set the pins in a power rack so that the bar sits 1-1 1/2″ off your chest and press up from that dead start position. To truly eliminate the stretch reflex you need this type of starting position because the eccentric phase of a lift will load the stretch reflex for up to 6 seconds. Eliminating any benefit of the stretch reflex will force your body to learn how to recruit more muscle fibers and turn them on more rapidly in its absence to overcome a heavy load and when you reintroduce the stretch reflex you will be that much more powerful. The dead bench needs to always be performed for singles because even with a significant pause, the stretch reflex will still reamin. If you want to use the dead bench for higher volume work, you can just utilize shorter rest periods and multiple singles.
Make sure to use your competitive bench setup when using Dead Benches and press the bar as fast as possible. Dead benches should be used as a supplement to your primary bench work, not in place of it. Work like dead benches should be thought of the same way that a drill is used at football practice. Offensive linemen need to work on their combo blocks but if that’s all the team does then they will be great a combo blocks and suck at everything else, so don’t focus on becoming great at special exercises and forget to practice what really matters.
Progressing in the Dead Bench requires manipulating rest periods, volume and intensity. Check out this progression on the Dead Bench and watch your power off the chest explode!!
Week 1-60%x8x1-30 sec rest
Week 2-60%x10x1-30 sec rest
Week 3-60%x12x1-30 sec rest
Week 5-65%x9x1-45 sec rest
Week 6-70%x7x1-1 min rest
Week 7-75%x5x1-75 sec rest
Week 9-80/82.5/85%x1-90 sec rest
Week 10-82.5/85/87.5%x1-2 min rest
Week 11-3×1 up to a 1rm-150 sec rest
Week 12-DeloadChad Wesley Smith is the founder and head physical preparation coach at Juggernaut Training Systems. Chad has a diverse athletic background, winning two national championships in the shot put, setting the American Record in the squat (905 in the 308 class, raw w/ wraps) and most recently winning the 2012 North American Strongman championship, where he earned his pro card. In addition to his athletic exploits, Chad has helped over 50 athletes earn Division 1 athletic scholarships since 2009 and worked with many NFL Players and Olympians. Chad is the author of The Juggernaut Method and The Juggernaut Method 2.0. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter