MetCon – MAP session:
8 min –
5 Burpees over the box
10 KB Snatches
Rest 2 min
8 min –
5 Push –ups
15 Walking Lunges
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Let’s talk about the bench press…
The bench press is a great upper body builder of strength, but also a movement laden with ego-driven mistakes like loading and poor movement patterns. I still do not understand why people who take their chest all the way to the ground in a push-up have to be reminded to bring the bar all the way to their chest in a bench press. I also cannot fathom why some people just fail to load it to a manageable weight. Another big problem is the dreaded super-wide grip and the impending elbow flare out during the rep. Because of some of these reasons, and a host of others like logistics and a population with already tight shoulders, we do not often bench press at Ktown.
Earlier this week we did, though. We did 3 sets of 5 reps. It was all supposed to be at the same weight – sets across. I went through a bench press setup speech beforehand. I likened the bench press to a movement many of us do well, the push-up. Then I likened the push-up to a movement that almost ALL of us do well, the air squat. I discussed setting the shoulders back, creating tension through external rotation of the arm or “breaking of the bar,” and finding extension through the thoracic spine with how we lay down on the bench. But the bench press is a tricky movement.
It is one of those movements that even if you are paying a subject matter expert (the coaches) good money to teach you good movement, a lot of you still resort back to bad habits. Maybe some of us just do not listen well. I can actually empathize with this. It is a movement that you have probably done thousands of times before even setting foot in Ktown. You listen well on a snatch because you have never done one before Ktown, but you drift off every time we start talking about bench press setup and technique. How hard can it be to lay down on a bench, lower something to your chest, and then press it up off of you?
Maybe others just let ego get in the way when it comes time to load the bar. This rarely happens in other movements like squatting. So many people go too heavy when loading their bench press for sets across. Even after I say there should be no missed reps, people go out and fail reps in their first set or two. People rarely do this in squatting. It could be that we are usually giving you a percentage for squats. So maybe it is a failure in the coaching. It can be hard to give percentages in the bench press because we do not perform it very often. But we squat twice sometimes thrice a week, so percentages are much more readily available there.
My intent with this blog post is to clear up a common error with loading the bench press. Clearing up this error alone will add strength to your entire upper body, and it will keep you progressing instead of plateauing in the bench press. So loading…
When we do a 3×5 of something, we are performing 15 reps of that movement at a certain, unchanging weight. So if I were to bench press 100lbs for my 3×5 (written like 100x5x3 – which is an entire other blog post, I know), I would be performing 15 reps at 100lbs. 15×100 equals 1,500. That means that my total volume or tonnage for the bench press working sets (not including my warm-up) would be 1,500lbs. It is this total volume that I need to accumulate in order to have my bench press go up. My body overcompensates and says, “Wow! We just lifted 100lbs 15 times! We better get stronger and have the capacity to lift 110lbs 15 times in case that ever happens.” And thus super compensation was born.
But here is the catch! Imagine if in my ego-driven weight selection I chose 110lbs for my working weight instead of 100lbs. Now imagine that I failed JUST the last rep of each set. Now my volume would be calculated like 12x110lbs which equals 1,320lbs. I have lowered by overall volume for this bench press session by 180lbs. That may not sound like much, but it is 12%. 12 PERCENT! A lot of us would not have graduated from university had we lowered our work output by 12%. Imagine cutting 12% less of the lawn every week. Think about shortening your 70 year life by 12% – that’s almost a decade. THIS IS SERIOUS STUFF!
So it might not be THAT serious. But I hope it is a compelling argument for you to take your weight selections a bit more serious. It only gets worse the heavier your working weights become. That percentage really creeps up there when you are benching 250lbs for sets and you miss the 5th rep of each set.
Be smarter than your ego. Be smarter than the bar.