My Pilgrimage to Mecca

TAGS: Pilgrimage, Mecca, matt ladewski, bench, powerlifting

My Pilgrimage to Mecca

In the land of corn, lies a small town where the Wal-Mart is not super and the country roads have no lines.  After driving two-and-a-half hours through the orange barrels of summer, I finally reached my destination – just a normal looking house. Behind the house and garage is what the owner (World-class bencher, Rob Luyando) refers to as "Mecca," an extra four-car garage behind the two-car garage. This was my first visit to bench with Rob and I don't plan on it being my last.

That first three-hour bench session helped me pick up a few new tips and I also found some problems I created for myself. The problems I created weren't so much with my technique, but in my approach to my training. There were a few "tactical errors," if you will, that kept me from numbers that I should be hitting.


My first and biggest mistake is my progression on max effort day. If you look at Rob's training, you'll notice that every week he tries to improve more than just the max effort sets in his bench shirt. Every week, he tries to improve the weight he uses for his last set of five, last set of three and Sling Shot singles. I put too much focus on singles and not enough on building volume up through my lower sets. The two or three attempts above 90 percent are extremely important, but so is adding volume over time. I might not set a new one rep record, but I might break my five or three rep record on that day.

Sling Shot

Rob and his crew all use bench shirts, but no one is lacking in their raw bench press. I'm not sure if it has to do with the Sling Shot, but they seem to be using it with great success. After they top off their full-range raw work, they add the Sling Shot for two or three sets. This is all done before they do their shirt work. If you wear a tight shirt, this seems to be a great tool. My raw bench is about 100 pounds under what I can touch in my shirt. The Sling Shot will (when I order one) will allow me to handle a little more weight before I toss on my shirt.


Rob approaches every attempt with the same mindset, speed and effort. There is very little (if any) difference in any of his lifts. Whether it's his shirted, Sling Shot or raw bench, every set is approached like a world record. You can't slow down the lift or change something because of the number. The number on the bar can take a hold of us quite often. If you're attempting a 600-pound bench, there's nothing that should be done differently from your 500-pound bench. Don't let the numbers beat you before you have the bar in your hands.

Missing weights and training partners

When it is max effort day, that means pushing the limits. It also means that there's a good chance you'll miss, which is why training partners are so important. You don't want to be afraid to miss weights. You want training partners who are willing to save your life every week. Rob is clearly out to hit his numbers each week, but if he misses, his life is in good hands. We're talking 800, 900 or even 1000 pounds that is over his face almost every week. Your training partners will also count on you, so make sure you are trustworthy.


There seems to be two camps with shirt benching. Those who will shirt bench to boards and those who don't. According to Rob, if you have trouble touching, you shouldn't bench to boards. It becomes a crutch and you never learn to touch in the shirt. If you can touch, then Rob might give you the approval to take a single or two above your max to a 2-board. This will allow you to work with the shirt "gangstered" up a little more and handle weight you normally wouldn't. However, this is only allowed if you can touch in your shirt.

Nothing in this article is ground-breaking, but at a certain point, we all need to tighten things up to get all the gains we can. It's not always the x's and o's of a training program that can restart progress. Consistency, attitude and a great atmosphere may be what you're missing. For myself, with a little guidance from Rob, I plan to take my bench to new heights.

Loading Comments... Loading Comments...