Beginner Mistakes, Part II: The Dynamic Bench Press

TAGS: too heavy, timing, motivation', mistakes, beginner, wendler, bench

Having coached for several years and after attending several Force Training seminars, I see the same problems on dynamic bench day no matter where I am. These problems aren't always reserved for the beginner; I seem to make some of these same mistakes and have to take a step back and re-evaluate. Let us first take a look at the general parameters on this day so that we are all on the same page.

1. Perform 8 sets of 3 repetitions at given percentage. (see below for percentages)
2. Rest periods between sets falls between 45-60 seconds.
3. Use three different grips; all grips should be inside the power rings.
4. The bar must be pushed with compensatory acceleration. This means that the concentric, or raising, portion of the lift must be done explosively.
5. The bar must be lowered quickly, but under control. Remember that the faster the bar comes down, the faster it comes up.
6. Your form must be perfect on each rep. See Dave Tate's article "How to Bench Press 600" in the articles section at EliteFTS.com for more information on correct bench press form.
7. The bar weight remains the same throughout the training cycle. This is referred to as a smooth wave. It does not wave like the dynamic squat. Once you find the correct bar weight, stick with it.

Here are the percentages used on this day. Estimate which category you fall into and start with that percentage. Adjust from there.

Beginner - 60%
Intermediate - 55%
Advanced - 50%

Note: This percentage changes when using bands. This will be addressed below.

Let's examine the most common mistakes that are seen on this day and what you can do to correct them or avoid them.

1. Training too heavy

This is probably the biggest mistake that is being made. Most of it has to do with ego and gym machismo. Let your competition bench do the talking and let the critics laugh during your workout. One of the best ways to know if you are training too heavy on dynamic day is if your max effort work is not going well. This does not mean that once you have 1 or 2 bad max effort days to immediately change your bar weight. But if it becomes a trend, it may be time to back off. Another great way to see how fast a bar should move is to watch Westside Barbell's Reactive Method video. It has great footage of a dynamic bench workout and you will have a better idea of what kind of bar speed is needed.

2. Your back comes off the bench

I hear this all the time. It's almost like the people are bragging as if to say, "Look how explosive I am! I can lift myself off the bench." Unfortunately, this just means that your form is terrible. You should push yourself through the bench, not push the bar away from you. Your upper back and lats must be driven into the bench. You cannot do this if you are constantly throwing yourself off of the bench.

3. Improper set up/use of chains and bands

First, let me say that the new wave of "geniuses" in the strength training world have finally embraced using chains. Unfortunately, they know nothing about lifting, why the chains are supposed to work and the whole concept of accommodating resistance. If they did then they could easily see that the set up that they sell is, and I am putting this kindly, retarded. There must be a total deload at the bottom portion of the lift. This can only be done if all or most of the 5/8 inch chain is on the floor. Simply attaching the large chain to the bar ensures that about 5 links (probably 5lbs) is being deloaded. See the exercise index at EliteFTS.com for a better understanding on how to set up chains. When using bands the set up must be done correctly. There must be tension at the bottom of the lift and mini-bands should be used. Again, see the exercise index for information and pictures on how to correctly set up the bands.

When using the bands you must account for the tension at the bottom of the lift. This is unlike chains. Remember that when using chains, there is a deload at the bottom of the lift thus the bar weight should remain the same. But with bands, there is tension at the bottom of the lift and this must be accounted for. You can save yourself some time and headaches by not measuring the tension but by performing some simple math and coaching. If you loop the mini-band correctly around one dumbbell, estimate that there is 30lbs of tension at the bottom of the lift. Take your bar weight and subtract 30lbs. This is the weight you should use for your sets. If the weight is moving too slowly, take some weight off of the bar. It's that simple.

Another big mistake that I see and read about is the use of bands and chains on this day. Many times people want to use bands during every workout. This can be tough on the shoulders, chest and elbows. There are many ways to use bands. Here are a few examples;

3 weeks bands/ 3 weeks chains
3 weeks bands/ 3 weeks straight weight (this means no chains or bands on the bar)
1 week bands/ 1 week chains or straight weight

There are numerous combinations. Those listed above are some of the most popular. You have to decide what is best for you.

4. Using time as your guideline

Too many times people use the "3 second rule" as if it were written in stone. For those that don't know, Louie Simmons timed competition bench presses and they were all around 3 seconds or slightly above. Louie knew that explosive strength is best developed around 60% of one's max. Louie timed his lifters at 60% and found out that they could perform 3 reps in about 3 seconds. This is why 3 reps are used on this day. Unfortunately, too many lifters want to rush their reps to fall within this time frame. This leads to reps that are not locked out, sloppy form and a complete waste of time. Remember that time, like the percentages, is a guideline. If I feel as if I am rushing through my reps, I will remind myself to perform each rep independently. I will also make sure to tell my training partners to remind me as I prepare to do my set and during my set. This always leads to better form and better speed.

5. Lack of understanding and importance

Of all the days in the training template, I feel that this day is the most overlooked. I have told the following story several times, but I feel that it is worth mentioning again. One Sunday, I was lifting with Dave in London, Ohio and after our dynamic bench presses we moved into lockouts. For the record, Dave's best bench press is 605 and mine is 575. We moved to high pin lockouts and started with 315. After my set, we moved to 365 and Dave started to psyche himself up. At first I thought he was joking, and laughed at him. He stared back at me, grabbed the bar and proceeded to grind out 3 reps. I think he ended up doing 455 for 2 reps and burst every blood vessel in his face in the process. I moved to doing 500 for two easy sets of 3 reps. So how did he bench 605 and but can barely lockout 450? It has to do with bar speed. Without that component, Dave would have never come close to bench pressing over 600lbs.

Before you start each workout, whether it be a max effort, dynamic or extra workout, ask yourself why you are doing it. Have a clear understanding of why you are doing what you are doing. If you cannot answer the question, do some reading and you'd be surprised how much better your training will become.

These five mistakes are the most common that I see and receive questions about. I hope that this article answers some of your questions and that you can better your training and your total. If you have anymore questions see the FAQ or ask the Q/A staff at EliteFTS.com. Be sure to check out the exercise index and other articles to help with your training questions.

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