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Explode Your Bench by Andy Bolton and Elliot Newman 2011, All Rights Reserved www.andyboltonstrength.net

Explode Your Bench


What Every Strength Athlete Should Know About The Worlds Most Popular Weight Training Exercise

By Andy Bolton and Elliot Newman 2011, All Rights Reserved

Explode Your Bench by Andy Bolton and Elliot Newman 2011, All Rights Reserved www.andyboltonstrength.net

Notice To Those Who Are Thinking Of Abusing This Book (Or in other words Who wants to get sued or go to jail?) This book is copyright 2011 with all rights reserved. It is illegal to copy, distribute, or create derivative works from this book in whole or in part or to contribute to the copying, distribution, or creating of derivative works of this book. If you attempt to copy, steal, or distribute all or any part of my book without permission, I will have my solicitor contact you and make you wish that youd never had such an idea in your life. You can count on this. I am a man of my word. By purchasing this book, you agree to the following: You understand that the information contained in this book is an opinion, and it should be used for personal entertainment purposes only. You are responsible for your own behaviour, and none of this book is to be considered legal or personal advice. I expect you to abide by these rules. I have people who spend a lot of time searching the Internet for people who violate my copyrights. Now that were finished with this notice, lets discover how to Explode Your Bench

Explode Your Bench by Andy Bolton and Elliot Newman 2011, All Rights Reserved www.andyboltonstrength.net

Table of Contents:
1. Introduction 2. Andys Bench Press 3. Bench Press Raw (for Athletes, Bodybuilders and Raw Powerlifters) 4. Benching Equipped (for Powerlifters) 5. Setting-Up 6. Un-Racking The Bar 7. Going Down 8. Coming Up 9. Racking the Bar 10. A Word On Technique 11. Mind-Set 12. About The Authors

Explode Your Bench by Andy Bolton and Elliot Newman 2011, All Rights Reserved www.andyboltonstrength.net

1. Introduction The Bench Press is the most famous and popular weight training exercise in the world and is, of course, one of the three official Powerlifts (along with the Squat and the Deadlift). Such is the prevalence of people performing the Bench Press, at some time or another every man is likely to have been asked the question, So, what can ya Bench? Well, one thing is for sure, if you improve your Bench Press technique your answer to that question will rise. However, before we get into the technique details that this book is all about, lets have a look at the Bench Press in more detail. The Bench Press involves laying on a Bench, un-racking a bar, lowering it to ones chest and pressing it back to the start position. This sounds fairly straight forwards. However, the majority of gym goers manage to make a real mess of this and we see all kinds of mistakes, performed in gyms all over the world. The downside to these mistakes are many, with some of the most common being a massively increased injury risk, a loss of power and people thinking they are much stronger on the lift then they really are. Talking of strength, what kind of numbers are the best strength athletes in the world putting up in competition on the Bench Press? Well, the average man weighs around 12.5 to 13 stone or around 180 pounds. The all-time Bench Press record in the 181 pound class is 750 pounds (340kg) by Jason Fry. This was done with the aid of a Bench Shirt (supportive equipment that helps competitors in Powerlifting meets lift more weight) and boggles the mind. Three men have benched over 1000lbs (455kg) in competition. The all-time record, regardless of weight class is 1075lbs (488kg) by Ryan Kennelly in the 308 pound (140kg) weight class. This kind of strength
Explode Your Bench by Andy Bolton and Elliot Newman 2011, All Rights Reserved www.andyboltonstrength.net

is outstanding and similar in terms of achievement to Andys Deadlift numbers. Without the aid of a Bench Shirt, monstrous numbers are still being put up. Scott Mendolson has the all-time raw record of 715lbs (325kg). Not so coincidentally, Scott is also one of the three guys who have benched over 1000lbs. So for anyone reading out there who thinks that its just the shirt doing the lifting; think again. You cannot lift world class numbers in a shirt and have a lousy Raw Bench. Its just not going to happen. Its not just Powerlifters who like to lift big on the Bench Press. Legendary Strongman, Bill Kazmaier, once owned the Bench Press world record at 661lbs (300kg). And all time Bodybuilding great, Ronnie Coleman, can be seen benching 220kg for 5 reps (with relative ease), on one of his Training DVDs. There are women out there putting up pretty fearsome numbers on everybodys favourite lift too. Check out Laura Phelps-Sweat, who has Bench Pressed over 500lbs (227.5kg) in competition, weighing just 165lbs bodyweight! Andys own Bench Press has always been something of a weak point. The Squat and Deadlift have always come very easily to him. (He Squatted 220kg and Deadlifted 260kg the first time he ever touched a bar). However, a much more modest 70kg (the first time he ever Bench Pressed) shows how much less gifted Andy is for the Bench Press than the Squat and Deadlift. (His long arms account for much of this). However, the Bench Press is not to be ignored, especially as Andy relentlessly pursues the all-time total and the magical 3000lbs barrier. To do this he needs a good Bench Press and in the past year he has made outstanding progress on this lift and is rapidly heading towards an 800lbs (362.5kg) Bench in competition.
Explode Your Bench by Andy Bolton and Elliot Newman 2011, All Rights Reserved www.andyboltonstrength.net

Andy would like to give thanks to Bill Crawford of Metal Militia for taking his understanding of technique and programming to another level and allowing him to make such rapid progress in recent months. We hope to pass some of this new found knowledge (as well as that collected through 20 years of hard training) onto you in this book and hopefully you will then use it to help you reach your goals faster, regardless of whether or not you are aiming for your first bodyweight bench press or your first 500lbs bench press. Outside of Powerlifting the Bench Press is held in high regard by many athletes and associations to do with many different sports. Perhaps the most famous use of the Bench Press in professional sports (outside of Powerlifting) is seen in American Football. At the NFL combine all athletes hopeful of landing a multi-million dollar contracts with a top team are asked to perform many physical tasks to prove their worthiness. The main test of Upper body strength and conditioning is the Bench press. In this test, athletes are asked to perform as many reps as possible with 225lbs (100kg). It is not un-common to see the best guys do in excess of 40 reps with this weight! So the Bench Press is known and practised throughout the world; by Powerlifters, professional athletes and weekend gym warriors alike. But what muscles does the Bench Press use? If the Bench Press is performed with good technique, as we will explain and demonstrate in this book, then the lift is truly a total body lift. Most people, especially those using the lift for aesthetic purposes, may think that the Bench Press is just a chest exercise. This is misguided and this illogical thinking can lead to poor technique and a high injury risk.

Explode Your Bench by Andy Bolton and Elliot Newman 2011, All Rights Reserved www.andyboltonstrength.net

A well performed Bench Press uses the pecs, anterior (front) delts and triceps as the prime movers. However, the entire back and legs are also important if you wish to maximise your Bench Press numbers. This may require a change in thinking for some of you reading this and the technique we describe in this book may challenge your beliefs. So, our challenge to you is to read with an open mind, practise what you learn here and watch your Bench Press strength and your physique improve dramatically.

Explode Your Bench by Andy Bolton and Elliot Newman 2011, All Rights Reserved www.andyboltonstrength.net

2. Andys Bench Press


Andys Bench Press History (Month and Year, Weight Lifted, Weight Category, Powerlifting Federation, Equipment used, Additional information if applicable)

- January 1988, 70kg, 110kg Bodyweight, 18 Years Old - January 1991, 150kg, 100kg Class, BAWLA, Raw, First ever competitive Bench Press - March 1991, 155kg, 110kg Class, BAWLA, Raw - June 1991, 165kg, 110kg Class, BAWLA, Raw - June 1992, 190kg, 125kg Class, BPF, Single Ply Bench Shirt - November 1992, 207.5kg, 125kg Class, WPC, Single Ply Bench Shirt - November 1993, 220kg, 140kg Class, WPC, Single Ply Bench Shirt - 1994 to 1999, Competed In Strongman Not Powerlifting - November 2000, 245kg, 140kg Class, WPC, Multi Ply Bench Shirt - June 2001, 260kg, 140kg Class, BPC, Multi Ply Bench Shirt - November 2001, 250kg, 140kg Class, WPC, Multi Ply Bench Shirt

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- November 2002, 267.5kg, SHW, WPO Qualifier, Multi Ply Bench Shirt March 2003, 272.5kg, SHW, WPO Arnold Classic, Multi Ply Bench Shirt, First 600lbs Bench

- March 2004, 280kg, SHW, WPO, Multi Ply Bench Shirt - March 2005, 290kg, SHW, WPO, Multi Ply Bench Shirt - November 2006, 300kg, SHW, WPO Semi-Final, Multi Ply Bench Shirt - March 2007, 305kg, SHW, WPO Arnold Classic, Multi Ply Bench Shirt, (551,305,417 = 1273kg/2806lbs All Time Total Record) - November 2008, 312.5kg, SHW, WPC, Multi Ply Bench Shirt - July 2009, 290kg, SHW, BPC, Multi Ply Bench Shirt - October 2010, 330kg, SHW, Bull Farm Pro Show, Multi Ply Bench Shirt, First Bench Over 700lbs - March 2011, 342.5kg, SHW, GPC, Multi Ply Bench Shirt, All Time British Record

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3. Bench Pressing Raw When we refer to a Raw Bench Press we mean performing the lift without the use of a Bench Press Shirt. This is how 99% of you reading this will be performing your Bench Presses. The only people using a Bench Shirt will be competitive Powerlifters who compete in equipped federations. A Raw Bench Press may be performed in just your gym kit, or with the aid of a weightlifting belt and/or wrist wraps. Wrist wraps go around the wrist and keep the joint tight. This can help to reduce wear and tear on the joint and the increased stabilisation should help you to handle heavier loads better than without their use. Whether or not you use wrist wraps on your Raw Bench Presses is personal preference. As a Powerlifter you probably should (nearly all Raw federations allow the use of wrist wraps). As an athlete competing in another sport it is up to you. You may feel that when you compete in your sport you cannot wear wrist wraps and you therefore want your wrists to get as strong as possible when you are in the weight room performing exercises like the Bench Press. In this case you may choose to disregard the use of wrist wraps. Or, you may feel that you want to protect your wrists as much as possible and therefore use the wrist wraps. You must way up the pros and cons and decide for yourself. The Raw Bench Press will see a touching point around the sternum, (lower chest) for most athletes. If the bar touches the chest at the Clavicle (upper chest) you will put excessive strain on the shoulders and lift less weight.

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4. Benching Equipped (for Powerlifters) As any Powerlifter who has competed Equipped knows; Bench Pressing in a shirt is a very different proposition than Bench Pressing Raw. Regardless of what shirt you wear, there will be a learning curve and some people will get used to wearing the shirt much faster than others. Some athletes, usually the ones who are most suited to the Bench Press, can see huge carryovers from wearing their Bench shirts. The best guys in the world can get around 300lbs (140kg) from their shirts. For clarification of this fact just check out Scott Mendolsons Raw Bench Press of just over 700lbs and his equipped Bench Press of over 1000lbs. However, smaller lifters and those who dont fall in love with their Bench shirts quite so easily may see much smaller carryovers of 10% or maybe only 5 to 10kg. Until you put a shirt on and learn to use it, it is not possible to guess what kind of carryover you will get. Bench Press shirts are manufactured by many companies these days; Inzer and Metal being two of the biggest out there. What kind of shirt you wear comes down to personal preference and what federation you compete in. For example, the IPF only allow single ply shirts (or 1 layer of material thick). They also do not allow their competitors to touch the bar to the belly on the way down. This will influence what kind of shirt an athlete competing in the IPF can wear. In contrast, the WPC allow any kind of Bench Press shirt. Some shirts, worn by the biggest and strongest lifters can be up to 12 ply in certain areas (such as around the collar). This means the shirt is comprised of 12 layers of fabric in that area. Shirts like these give more carryover, but are harder to use. In federations like the WPC,
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lifters can usually touch as low as they like and this means you will often see athletes touching the belly, as opposed to the lower chest. This is not advisable raw and is not allowed in federations like the IPF. Bench Pressing Equipped takes time to learn and experimentation with different sizes and styles of shirt to find one that works for you. If you want to compete equipped then study your federations rule book to make sure you buy a shirt that conforms to the rules. Other than that the next best advice we can give is not to start off with a shirt that is stronger than you or too tight for you as both these things will lead to problems.

Explode Your Bench by Andy Bolton and Elliot Newman 2011, All Rights Reserved www.andyboltonstrength.net

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5. Setting up The set-up is the most important part of the Bench Press. If you get this right you are paving the way for correct execution of the movement. However, if you have a poor set up you are likely to struggle the whole way through the movement and you will be making compensations all the time. This will increase the risk of injury and almost definitely result in a loss of power. Two things you definitely do not want! The issue of setting up correctly is often overlooked, both by novice trainees and more advanced athletes alike. Yet, if you pay attention to your set up, it can be one of the fastest ways to help eliminate any pains you have and make your Bench Press numbers go up. An excellent training program for an intermediate athlete could see him or her add 2% to their Bench Press for 3 months on the trot. However, technical improvements can see much greater increases in the same time frame. So pay attention to your set up. Setting up correctly is not just the most important part of the Bench Press. It is the most important part of nearly all technical sporting movements. Tiger Woods does not place his feet in just any old position before attempting to drive the Golf ball 300 yards. And Roger Federer does not stand in just any old spot before attempting to serve an ace past his opponent. In all sports, setting up a big key to success. So pay attention to this chapter very carefully. A good set up on the Bench Press involves being stable and tight. There will be three points of contact between you and the bench and you and the floor. These points of contact are your upper back (on the bench), your Glutes (on the Bench) and your feet (on the floor).
Explode Your Bench by Andy Bolton and Elliot Newman 2011, All Rights Reserved www.andyboltonstrength.net

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- Head Position Your head should be placed so that when the bar is in the rack; your eyes are directly under the bar or just behind it. If your head is too far back on the bench then two potential problems can arise. Firstly, your head will be off the bench and not supported. This is a terrible position as an injury to the neck could arise. Secondly, when you un-rack the bar it will be too close to the stands. This means that during the performance of the Bench Press you are likely to hit the rack. If you do this on the way down or the way up you will fail the movement in a Powerlifting meet. And if you do this is training you will lose a whole lot of power. So position the head correctly. - Upper Back Position The upper back must be as tight as possible when performing your Bench Presses. In order to assume this position, you must force your shoulders back and down and your chest out. Before un-racking the bar you should feel uncomfortable tightness in your upper back. Anything less and you are not trying hard enough. To understand the level of tightness we are talking about, try this simple drill with a Jump Stretch Band. Take a mini band or light band and stand tall with the band in your hands at the same width as you bench at and in line with your lower chest. Now pull the band apart by spreading your hands out to your sides and forcing your shoulders back and down. The tightness you now feel in your upper back is exactly what you want to re-create when you set up for your Bench Press.
Explode Your Bench by Andy Bolton and Elliot Newman 2011, All Rights Reserved www.andyboltonstrength.net

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Band Pull-aparts: Start Position

Band Pull-aparts: Mid Way Position

The reason for getting the upper back tight and forcing the chest out is twofold. Firstly, it creates a very stable position from which to press. And secondly, it makes your range of motion as short as possible. (The shorter the Range of Motion, the more weight you should be able to lift). Certain individuals may have problems assuming this position. Likely candidates are those with poor posture (think Neanderthal man). If this applies to you then try foam rolling your upper back and pecs and doing some upper body mobility drills prior to Benching. After your training sessions, perform some static stretching for your pecs, delts, lats and triceps. For Mobility Drills we highly recommend any of the Warm up/Mobility DVD programs by Eric Cressey, Mike Robertson and Bill Hartman. Over time your posture should improve and your ability to get your shoulders back and down and your upper back tight will get better.

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- Grip If you are Benching Raw you want to grip the bar so that when the bar is on your chest your forearms are perpendicular to the floor. It will take some experimenting to find this position and a good starting point is to try your pinky fingers on the ring. If you grip the bar too wide you will involve the Pecs too much and risk injury to them. If you grip the bar too narrow you will involve the triceps at the expense of the pecs, whilst also increasing the Range of Motion. So it pays to play around and find the right grip for you. If you are Benching in a shirt you will want a wider grip. The Shirt will offer protection to the pecs and thereby allow you to do this and at the same time you will benefit from a shorter range of motion and you will be able to touch the bar to your chest easier. Regardless of whether you are Benching Raw or Equipped, grip with bar with your thumbs around the bar. Or put differently; do not use a thumb less grip. - Abs, Lower Back and Glutes The Abs must be tight when performing the Bench Press. The Law of Irradiation basically states that if you tense a muscle as hard as possible, then the muscles around it will tense as hard as possible as well. To prove this to yourself, please perform the following exercise (first brought to our attention by Pavel Tsatsouline in his book Power to the People). Try tensing your biceps with your hands and forearms relaxed. Take note of how hard your biceps become. Now try the simple test again and this time squeeze your fists as hard as possible whilst flexing
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your biceps. Note how much harder you are now able to flex your biceps! Now lets get back to the abs. The abs are at the centre of the body so it is extremely important that they remain tight and braced throughout the execution of your Bench Presses and of course, in your set up. Do not suck your abs in. Rather, brace them or push your belly out against your belt if you are wearing one. To brace the abs, do what you would do if somebody was going to punch you in the gut. You will not go far wrong if you follow your instinct on this one. Your Glutes will be in contact with the Bench (and will remain so during your entire set of Bench Presses). The Glutes must not be relaxed, but rather, like the upper back, must be flexed and tight. If you have issues flexing your Glutes, then an excellent drill to include in your warm ups, (prior to performing your bench presses), is the simple Glute Bridge. Do 2 sets of 12 reps before every session and you will soon learn how to flex those Glutes as hard as possible.

Glute Bridge: Start Position

Glute Bridge: Mid-way Position

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In order to achieve the best arch you possibly can and thereby make your range of motion as short as possible you should try to get your upper back and Glutes as close to one another as possible when setting up on the Bench Press. Think of forcing your tail bone towards your shoulders in order to achieve this. If you are set up as described so far, then you will find that you lower back is not touching the bench. This is the correct position to be in. The amount of daylight you can see under your back will depend on how much of an arch you have managed to achieve. As with anything in sport, you must practise your set up over and over again and on every set up perform. Do not take your warm up sets for granted. Every set is a chance to work on your arch. Some people have naturally very flexible spines and can achieve a very good arch straight away. Look to Japanese lifters for examples of this. Other people have spines that do not really want to arch and will never achieve a great arch. Either way, as long as your upper back is tight, the Glutes are tight and the abs braced, then your torso is in a good position to Bench from. - Foot Position There are two ways to place your feet when performing the Bench Press. You can either have your feet flat or be up on the balls of your feet. Both methods have pros and cons.

Explode Your Bench by Andy Bolton and Elliot Newman 2011, All Rights Reserved www.andyboltonstrength.net

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Flat Footed: Start Position

Balls of Feet: Start Position

Before we get into the advantages and disadvantages of each method, we feel it necessary to say that the flat foot position is easier to learn for most people and for athletes and gym warriors, this is probably the way to go. However, for Powerlifters whose federations allow it, the up of the balls of the feet method is well worth experimentation with. Regardless of which foot position you do assume the feet should be placed symmetrically on the floor. This means that they should be an equal distance from the Bench to the left and the right and front to back. Any asymmetry with foot position can lead to strength leakages and an increased risk of injury. Due to the nature of the Bench Press it may be necessary to get a training partner to line your feet up in order to ensure symmetry. Over time you should learn to feel the position yourself and the need to be lined up by your training partner will disappear. The flat footed Bench position should involve having the feet spread as wide as possible. This ensures a stable base and a great position to bench from. Think of how a pyramid is built and you will get the idea. With the flat footed position most people will find that they will be able to get their best leg drive during performance of their Bench Presses with their heels under their knees. However, other athletes
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have found that having the feet out in front of the knees is their strongest position. Finding a sweet spot is a matter of trial and error. No matter which foot position you go for, aim to find a spot where you can drive with the legs, without your Glutes coming off the Bench during the execution the Bench Press movement. The advantage that Benching on the balls of your feet brings is that it will usually result in an athlete being able to assume a higher arch during the set up. This reduces the range of motion and could result in more weight being lifted. For equipped lifters, this method also allows them to drive their heels down towards the floor as they are lowering the bar towards the chest. This has the effect of further raising their belly into the air (creating a bigger arch) and this helps them to touch, which can be tough in a very tight bench shirt. However, some lifters who bench up on the balls of their feet experience stability issues; especially when they have their feet close together, nearly touching the bench. This is the main drawback of this method and can be seen when lifters un-rack near maximal weights and look like they are rowing a canoe as they try to get stable before performing their set. Andy himself had this problem for many years and experimented with the flat footed version in order to compensate. However; despite this curing his stability issues, it resulted in less of an arch and further to press the weight. So, Bill Crawford suggested that he try going back to the up on the balls of your feet method and this time having his feet out wide. And guess what, voila; stability problem solved and high arch achieved. Best of both worlds.

Explode Your Bench by Andy Bolton and Elliot Newman 2011, All Rights Reserved www.andyboltonstrength.net

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So foot position can be a tricky thing. Play around and find your ideal Bench Press stance. Athletes and gym-warriors are probably best sticking to the flat footed stance for simplicities sake. Competitive Powerlifters, must, as ever, know the rules of the federation that they compete in and then find their strongest stance, whilst conforming to the rules. - Putting it all together: finding the perfect set up There are many different ways to ensure that you achieve a good set up that encompasses the points above. In order to ensure that you get a good set up every time, Andy will describe a method based on how he assumes his set up for the Bench Press. Once you have a routine that works, use it on every set of every Bench Press you do. This way your set up will get better and better and more consistent every time you practise it. - Lay on the Bench with your eyes under the bar and an underhand grip on the bar - Using the bar for leverage, lift your upper back off the bench, squeeze your shoulders back and down and force your chest out and then place your upper back on the bench and maintain the tightness you have created during this phase of the set up - Assume your Bench Press grip - Force your Glutes towards your upper back in order to create the best arch you can - Place your feet where you want them - You are set up and ready to un-rack the bar
Explode Your Bench by Andy Bolton and Elliot Newman 2011, All Rights Reserved www.andyboltonstrength.net

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6. Un-racking The Bar When un-racking the bar you should be aiming to do two things. The first is to get the bar from the Bench Press Rack to the starting position of your Bench Press. And the second is to maintain the Bench Press stance, stability and tightness that you created in your set-up. In order to make both of these jobs as easy as possible it pays to look at what kind of bench you are using in your training. If possible, you want to use a bench that has very small lips on the j-hooks that hold the bar in place on the rack. Now, this can be easier said than done because a lot of racks are poorly designed. These poorly designed Bench Press Racks (and power racks) often have lips that are 2 to 3 inches deep. This basically means that you have to perform your Bench Press lockout just to un-rack the bar. In turn, this makes it very difficult to maintain that tight upper back, shoulders back and down and chest out position that you created so meticulously during your set-up. To avoid this ugly scenario, find a Bench with very shallow j-hooks. The j-hooks only really need to be a quarter of an inch high. This kind of Bench will allow you to pretty much drag the bar out of the rack, instead of lifting it too high over poorly designed j-hooks. These well designed benches will play a part in allowing you to maintain your set-up position as you un-rack the bar. If you are looking to upgrade (or start) your own gym, be it a garage set up or otherwise, we highly recommend that you look into Forza Benches. Costly, but worth every penny. Forza Benches allow you to adjust the height of the j-hooks, so the Bench works for lifters of all shapes and sizes. Ideally, you want it so that when the bar is in the j-hooks, your arms are just slightly bent.
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If your arms are massively bent, then you will perform half a rep just to get the bar out of the rack. This will waste energy, compromise your set-up and increase injury risk. And if the j-hooks are set too high and you have to stretch to reach the bar in the rack then you will again compromise your set-up and it will be very difficult and unsafe when you come to un-rack the bar. If you are training with a partner, here is how you and your partner should work to un-rack your Bench Presses: Your partner should know what you say before you un-rack the bar

- This should be the same every time (For instance: 3, 2, 1) - You should take a deep breathe into your belly immediately prior to the bar leaving the rack - Your training partner should lift most of the weight for you - You take all the weight when the bar is in the starting position (over your sternum) To get this process right takes some practise and a good deal of sound communication between you and your training partner. It pays to bear in mind that a few people die every year in the USA Bench Pressing; so your training partner (spotter) may save you from a nasty accident at some point. For this to happen; clear communication is vital! What you say before you un-rack the bar is vital so that your training partner knows when to un-rack the bar for you. Different lifters say different things; some just say lift. Others count down 3,2,1. Others count up 1,2,3. It doesnt matter what you say, but it does
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matter that you keep it the same and you training partner knows exactly when to un-rack the bar. Lets say you choose to say 3,2,1 and then your training partner will un-rack the bar immediately after you say 1. As soon as you say 1 you must then take that deep breath into your belly. This creates further tightness as your training partner lifts the bar out to you. In order to maintain your set-up position, your training partner should aim to lift the bar so that it just clears the j-hooks. If your partner lifts the bar way higher than the j-hooks you will lose some of the upper back tightness and arch you created in your set-up. This will increase your range of motion and make the set harder. Your training partner should take most of the weight between starting to un-rack the bar and getting it into the start position over your sternum. This movement is quite a few inches and it will take some practise for you to trust your training partner to do this efficiently for you. It is especially important on your heavier sets (even more so if you are wearing a Bench shirt). This is because lifting the weight out of the rack yourself, without a partner, and then getting it into position is extremely harsh on the shoulders. Over time this can take its toll and lead to shoulder injuries. So the message is, dont Bench without a good training partner who can lift the bar off safely for you. The pros are outweighed by the cons, especially if you are an athlete and are simply using the Bench Press to improve your upper body strength for another sport.

Explode Your Bench by Andy Bolton and Elliot Newman 2011, All Rights Reserved www.andyboltonstrength.net

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Flat Footed: Start Position

Balls of Feet: Start Position

A great drill for re-creating the feeling you should get during the unracking phase of your Bench Presses is the Straight Arm Pull Down. To perform this movement: - Stand in front of a high pulley station with a straight bar attached - Take two paces back, with the bar in your hands at around your Bench Press grip width - Assume an athletic stance (slight knee bend, lower back arched, push the Glutes back, lean the torso over until you are at around a 60 degree angle) - Force your shoulders back and down, your chest out and get that upper back tightness - Start with the bar at eye level - Keeping your chest out and shoulders back and down; lower the bar to your legs - Return to the start position and repeat for reps

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- The idea is to keep your chest out and feel the lats pull the bar from the start position to your legs and then back again - Moderate weight rules on this drill. If you allow your ego to get in the way you will not get the correct feeling

Straight Arm Pull-Downs: Start Position

Straight Arm Pull-Downs: Mid-Way

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7. Going Down Now that you have un-racked the bar and have it positioned in the start position, (directly over your sternum); you are ready to begin lowering the bar down to your chest. To begin with, do not be in a rush to start lowering the bar. Instead, hold the bar for a second once it is in the start position, prior to beginning the descent. This will force you to stabilise the bar and is a good technique to develop grip strength for the Bench Press. With your breath still held, squeeze the bar as hard as possible and start to lower it down. Feel like you are breaking the bar apart. To break the bar apart your left hand will feel like it is twisting counterclockwise and your right hand will feel like it is twisting clockwise. This squeezing of the bar should take place throughout the descent. Aim to keep the forearms perpendicular to the floor and touch the bar on your sternum/lower chest level. There is much talk of tucking the elbows. We have found that this is an un-natural command for many Raw lifters and causes them to tuck too much. Instead, if you just think of touching the bar to your sternum, you will find that you probably do just that and your elbows will naturally tuck to do this. With Bench Shirts things can change a bit because some shirts are designed for a lot of tucking and a touching point at the upper belly instead of the lower chest. We cannot go through different techniques for every shirt because it all depends on whos wearing it and where your federation allows you to touch. Regardless, in a shirt you must still think of breaking the bar apart on the descent and keeping the forearms perpendicular to the floor.

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To check your touching point is consistent, try this simple drill. Where a dark t-shirt and put some chalk on the middle of the bar. Now, as you Bench, you will mark your t-shirt. If you do a set of 5 and the mark on your t-shirt is around the thickness of the bar then you know that every rep touched in around the same place and your technique is consistent. However, if the markings are in different places you know you need to pay extra attention on the descent of your bench press.

Balls of Feet: Mid Way Position

Balls of Feet: Mid Way Position

If you go into any commercial gym today you will see a lot of guys benching in a style that involves touching the bar to the upper chest/throat area. This is probably because they are trying to isolate their pecs more. Never use this style and if you already do, please change to the one described by us in this book. Touching to the upper chest will severely chew up your shoulders and will almost definitely lead to shoulder injuries at some point. And when you are injured you cant train so your pecs wont be getting any stimulation then! Also, imagine if you drop the bar and you have been lowering the bar to the throat area! Which do you prefer: a broken jaw? No front teeth? Or a crushed windpipe? Because they are all on the cards with this style of Bench (especially if your spotter decides his phone is more interesting than you).
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If you require one further piece of information to stop you performing your Bench Presses this way then try this simple technique. Assume your Bench Press set up and hold your arms in the start position. Now, keeping your elbows out (which is what benching to the upper chest/throat requires) let your arms fall to where they naturally want to go. You will almost definitely find that if there was a bar in your hands it would be several inches from your chest, clearly showing you that you should not be benching this way if you value your shoulder health. Get with the program and break the bar apart, keep the forearms perpendicular to your chest, tuck the elbows, touch the bar to the lower chest and keep the Glutes on the Bench the entire time. Your shoulders will thank you and your Bench Press strength will go up. One final word on lowering the bar relates to the issue of pausing. When you touch the bar on the chest you can either pause on the chest for a second before driving the bar back to the start position or you can touch and go. Either style is correct and whether or not you choose to do one or the other will depend on your goals and why you are performing the Bench Press. Some points for you to consider regarding whether or not to pause your Bench Presses are: - If you are a competitive Powerlifter it probably pays to pause sometimes; because you have to in competition (practise as you play) - Pausing too often and for too long can kill your stretch reflex. This will not make you stronger, that is for sure - A 1 to 2 second pause is long enough
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- When you pause; stay tight. Do not let yourself lose tightness when the bar is stationary on your chest - Pausing may help to develop starting strength - Dont be afraid to use both styles. Pause for a few weeks in training and then do a few weeks of touch and go pressing - Remember, if you do the same things you always did, youll get the same things you always got

Flat Footed: Mid Way Position

Flat Footed: Mid Way Position

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8. Coming Up The ascent of the Bench Press is the phase where you drive the bar from your chest and back to the start position. To perform this phase as efficiently as possibly requires a lot of leg drive. This is where the Bench Press really becomes a total body movement. Your Pecs, Delts and Triceps are small muscles in comparison to those of your lower body; such as the Glutes, Hamstrings, Quads and Calves. If you learn to utilise a good leg drive on the Bench then your numbers will go up very quickly (especially if your legs are used to being passive on the Bench Press). As soon as you begin to drive the bar off your chest you must drive with the legs. If your feet are flat, with your heels more or less directly under your knees then think of driving the heels into the floor as hard as you can. Simultaneously keep forcing you knees out, keeping your Glutes tight and carry on driving the bar up in a straight line towards the start position. If your feet are flat but you are using the feet forwards position, (where your heels are in front of your knees); try to drive your feet forwards in your shoes. Imagine you are trying to force your big toe to touch the end of your shoe. Try this at the gym and you will soon get the feeling. At the same time keep forcing the knees out, keep the Glutes tight and drive the bar in a straight line back towards the start position. If you are Benching up on the balls of your feet then you will need to drive through the balls of your feet in order to utilise your leg drive. With this style, you still want to force the knees out and keep the Glutes tight; but the bar path will probably be slightly backwards towards your chin. This is a subtle difference with this style of
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Benching. (It becomes much more pronounced when a lifter has a Bench shirt on as he or she may touch the upper belly and then drive the bar back towards their face). During the driving phase of the Bench Press you want to maintain the positions you assumed in your set up. Your upper back must stay tight and your shoulders back and down. In order to do this it is often easier to think of pushing yourself away from the bar on the ascent instead of pushing the bar away from you. This is a subtle difference, but can work wonders for keeping the shoulders back and down. Once you have pressed the bar back to the start position, hold it there for half a second before beginning your next rep. You will want to take some more air into your belly before you start the descent of the next rep. You may find that you work up to being able to do triples (or the first 3 reps of any set) on the same breath you took when the bar was unracked. This takes practise, but helps to maintain tightness. A cautionary word on holding your breath For some people, usually those with high blood pressure and heart problems, it may not be advisable for them to hold their breath throughout the duration of each rep of the Bench Press. The alternative would be to hold your breathe on the lowering phase and then breath out with the effort on the way up. Please consult your doctor on this matter and before embarking on any new exercise routine.

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9. Racking the Bar Once you have completed the last rep of your set, hold the bar at lockout for a second. This will build strength and stability and if you are a Powerlifter you must do this in competition, prior to getting the Rack command from the judges. To rack the bar, move it backwards into the rack. Your training partner should help you do this by symmetrically placing his hands over the middle of the bar and taking some of the weight. (A mixed grip from a spotter never works as well as a double overhand grip as it often leads to a helicopter effect on the bar).

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10. A Word On Technique This entire book has focused on correct Bench Press technique because great technique will allow you to achieve your strength potential on the Bench Press and minimise injury risk. It is true in every sport that we have ever studied that the athletes at the highest level tend to have the best technique. This does not mean that they all look the same when competing in their given sports; but rather that certain communalities will exist. For example, every strong Bench Presser you see will aim to perfect their set-up, but you will see some top Bench Pressers with their feet flat on the floor and some up on the balls of their feet. Every top Golfer will keep a constant spine angle, but the way they use their arms during the swing may differ greatly (just go compare Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk). The bottom line is to practise your technique on every single rep, without exception. Also, use foam rolling and mobility drills to warm yourself up before Bench Pressing and use appropriate assistance exercises to bring up weak areas and make your Bench Press more balanced. Technique is much like your strength. Progress will not be linear. You will have good days and bad days. Regardless, do not let this get you down, but do make sure that over time your technique gets better, because thats one of the hallmarks of great athletes. They tend to have great technique. It has become common in recent years for Coaches of Athletes who are not Powerlifters to allow their athletes to let their hips come off the Bench when they are Benching. They rationalise this poor choice by saying that it makes the movement more athletic and that
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because the athletes are not competing in Powerlifting there is no need for them to Bench with their Glutes stapled to the Bench. Well, our opinion is that this is nonsense. There will always be some athletes who abuse this approach and end up with their Glutes extremely high and their lower backs arched more than they really can do safely. So now you have a room full of Rugby Players, Hockey Players (or whatever sport you care to name), who are performing extremely dangerous Bench Presses and all in the name of more athleticism. If you want your athletes to use their legs more in their upper body pressing movements then you have two choices: - Get them to learn to Bench properly; in which case the leg drive can be achieved with the Glutes still on the Bench, by utilising the techniques we teach in this book - Get them to do Push Presses Just dont bastardize a movement in the name of Athleticism without first understanding the technicalities of the movement and then thinking of the injury implications (in this case specifically to the lower back).

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11. Mind-set A bullet proof mind-set can be the difference between a PR and a disappointment, or a World Record and 5 spotters having to pull the bar off your chest. With that in mind, lets look at how Andy approaches his Bench Press from a mental point of view. 1. Get in the zone before you get to the gym. You can do this be listening to some empowering music in the car on the way to the gym. 2. Visualise your top set before you do it. The human mind cannot tell the difference between something strongly imagined and something you have actually done. So if you visualise lifts in your mind, with enough intensity and clarity, prior to doing them, you should find the performance of the lift much easier when you come to do it. 3. Never think of failure. This one is obvious but it is easy to let your mind play games on you if you are not careful. Do not think of missing your top set or a PB in competition. This is just weak. As soon as any negative thought like this comes to mind you must change your focus immediately to something empowering: like smoking the lift! 4. Never let a weight intimidate you. Think of others who have done what you are about to attempt and this way you will see that it is entirely possible 5. Commit to the lift. Once the bar is in your hands you must be aggressive and attack the weight once it touches your chest 6. Believe in yourself. A Bench Press is a solo physical endeavour and you and only you can break gym PBs and meet PBs. Nobody else can do it for you.
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12. About The Authors

Andy Bolton is one of the greatest Powerlifters of all time. A multiple world champion in the WPC and WPO federations, one of only 5 men to ever Squat over 1200lbs and the only man to ever pull in excess of 1000lbs on the Deadlift.

Elliot Newman is a competitive Powerlifter who has competed in the BDFPA, WDFPF, BPC and WPC. He has competition best lifts of 255kg Squat, 157.5kg Bench and 260kg Deadlift. He is passionate about all things related to nutrition and strength training.

For more information on how YOU can develop herculean strength, explosive power and muscular size, please check out: http://www.andyboltonstrength.net

Explode Your Bench by Andy Bolton and Elliot Newman 2011, All Rights Reserved www.andyboltonstrength.net