Part IV: So You Think You Can Bench?

TAGS: Hachat, form, tate, bench

The good news was that my shoulder felt fine with the much-needed grip change. There wasn’t any bad news, but I did realize how out-of-breath I was.

According to Dave, that meant I was finally warming-up properly.

Previously, I'd only be sore in the chest and shoulder areas. After doing all this technique work – and doing it with measly weight, mind you – I was sore everywhere the next day. My lower and upper back was sore, my traps were sore, my hips were sore...everything was sore.

To be a really good bench presser and to constantly improve, I needed to involve my entire body correctly to progress. That was one of the biggest things I gained, from all of this.

But there was plenty more I learned, including several key things in this segment.

My upper back still wasn’t tight enough when Dave let me set up on my own. I thought I was tight and with my untrained eye, it was difficult to spot what Dave picked up on. But Dave immediately saw that there was too much flexing in my chest and I was too far under the bench. He found out if I get too far under the bench, I don’t get as tight of an arch, something I probably would never have picked up on.

His advice is invaluable because a good arch is crucial to a good bench. Arching correctly also sucked. I mean sucked as much as anything I can remember in a while. It was torture on my lower back, but it made everything tight and the weight flew up very fast. Dave joked it felt like my head was going to pop off, but when everything was tight and uncomfortable, the press was at its best. For me that’s an important reminder – get uncomfortable to have a good press.

The next thing was getting my grip set before I set anything else up. Once I do that, I arch my back, find that trap pressure, get my legs tight and then pull the bar out with my lats.

It’s funny, but I’m not even thinking about my triceps or my chest when I’m doing this. Before, it was the only thing I had in mind, which explains a lot of things.

By now, I was sweating and breathing hard and I haven’t even approached a work set. That’s another good gauge for where you should be after your warm-up sets. You should feel like you’ve done some work and your technique is in a good place before you get going with the real stuff.

Now, Dave wanted a perfect rep but I stumbled at first. I messed up where to put my feet and that screwed everything up. Dave told me to reset, explaining that if your feet move, you have to start over because your feet are the base for everything. I can’t drive my heels into the floor, but trying to is what I have to do to get my lower body ready to press. I pulled air into my stomach, tried to push my heels down and had a pretty strong lift, again using a warm-up weight.

The most important thing?

No harm on the shoulders. Like Dave said, the shoulder aching was probably poor technique and I totally agree with him. Since I’ve followed his advice, my shoulder has felt fine and I’ve been using more weight (and doing more reps) than I’ve ever used before.

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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