Part III: So You Think You Can Bench?

TAGS: Hachat, form, bench, dave tate

The first thing I learned here was I wasn’t using the proper intensity and mindset in my warm-up. It shouldn’t be too surprising considering my entire bench press technique was lacking so much, but this was another thing that became clear.

In getting set up in my warm-up, Dave relayed the importance of using great form and getting set up correctly on my warm-ups. That got me in the proper state of mind and absolutely drilled the importance of technique and form into me for my more demanding sets to come.

Think of it as an “On/Off” switch. If you just turn it “On” when you get to your heavier sets, I'd be willing to bet you’re not going to be where you want to be technique-wise unless you're an absolute expert at benching. Since I'm not, my switch has to be “On” all the time so all the technique and form cues become second nature.

I didn’t move my grip out much, but putting my pinky finger on the ring did make a difference.

I believe the most important thing of this segment was learning I have to be uncomfortable when I bench. Dave said it best, “When you bench, it is extremely uncomfortable.” That doesn’t make it a walk in the park, but you will reap the benefits. It also let me know that every part on my body (shoulder blades, lats, traps, lower back, legs, abs) was doing its part. Like I learned, this is a full-body exercise.

The grip change made a big difference, too. The bar distance was much shorter and my elbows were barely getting to the bench pad. Before, I was missing at the bottom because my elbows were going well below the pad, a recipe for disaster for someone who is trying to get significantly stronger. I also found out I wasn’t squeezing the bar hard enough, something I never considered...not a surprise if you’ve been reading along in this series. That led to me not pulling the bar apart and was another big error in a comedy of them.

The band was a great teaching aid and could really be useful for anyone to use in their warm-up sets to learn about squeezing the bar and pulling the bar apart. The mental process point Dave made is also very important. It’s just a good idea to constantly drill those into your head.

I realized my lower body still wasn’t as tight as it needed to be. I didn’t even realize it until Dave pointed it out to me. That’s just years of bad, bad bench habits. I didn’t have the proper leg drive, something that’s hampered me for years. I previously thought I was getting leg drive, but as Dave showed, I was not. Again, it’s something I have to drill into myself when I’m benching. My leg drive from the floor wasn’t transferring through, so that cue Dave made was big. As soon as I tightened everything there, my whole body pressed through the bar. That was a huge deal for me and I think it can really make a difference down the road.

I’ve done three bench workouts since this first video and the results are already there.

I’m currently following 5/3/1 and on the first day, I did three more reps with the same weight.

A week later, I jumped up 10 pounds and matched my reps and I’m confident it could have been a 15-pound jump.

On the third session, I jumped five reps from the same weight, giving me a bench press PR (and a projected raw max of around 325 – stop laughing!).

This remains a work in progress as I have a ways to go to perfect my technique, but it’s a start and I’m already in a much better place than I was before.

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