Six Hundred Pounds of Raw Bench

TAGS: six hundred pounds of raw bench, Vincent Dizenzo, matt rhodes

In June of 2007, my training partner, Vincent Dizenzo, set an IPA World Record with a 600-lb unequipped bench press. Vincent had been chasing that number for two years. He suffered through some injuries and setbacks but finally got himself healthy and mentally focused. He put a 16-week plan down on paper and followed it to the end.

Vincent called me one day all fired up about something. He had stayed up until 2:00 am on a school night reading EVERY Westside article he could find and had decided to add speed work back into his plan. He had also decided that he would be off the bench three weeks of every month. He figured he’d be so fired up about getting to bench when he was finally able to that he’d have a great night.

Vincent also set a number for each exercise. When he hit it in training, he was done for the day. Even if we all knew that he had more in him and Vincent knew he had more in him, he saved it for the next time the exercise came around. He never wanted to miss a weight.

This is Vincent’s basic template that he put together:

Monday: DE bench

1. Bench (3 grips) 9 X 3 at 25–70% (I’ll explain later)

2. JM presses 3–5 X 5

3. Standing military press 3–5 X 1–5

4. Rows 3–5 X 5–10

5. Biceps 3–5 sets

Friday: ME bench

1. ME bench, work to heavy single (I’ll list exercises later)

2. Board press (lockout) 2–5 X 3–5

3. Rows 3–5 X 10

4. Rear delts 3 X 10

5. Biceps 3–5 sets

Saturday: Core day

1. Squat 5 X 10

2. Deadlift 5 X 10

3. Shrugs 3 sets

4. Abs 3 sets

Speed work

Vincent started his training cycle using 550 lbs as his best unequipped bench. He had done 575 lbs in competition and 585 lbs in the gym. He purposely set his percents low so he wouldn’t over-train or injure himself during his 16-week cycle. Vincent’s first week of DE work was performed with 135 lbs. He kept it really light so his body could get used to the new exercise and the added volume. He hadn’t benched two times per week for about eight years. When he felt “fast” with 135 lbs, he moved up to 185 lbs. Once he became comfortable with that weight, he moved to 225 lbs. He made plate/quarter jumps until he reached his final training weight of 315 lbs for four sets and 365 lbs for four sets.

Vincent continually talked about not feeling fast and taking the weight back down until he felt fast. Then, he would move back up. The important thing to remember is that DE work is about SPEED! If you don’t feel fast, take some weight off until you do feel fast. Then, try to add a little more weight. Speed is king.

Max effort work

The four exercises Vincent chose are the bench, incline, floor press, and 2-board. He rotated these every week so he went through four 4-week cycles of this. There are a few alterations he made, but the spirit of his plan was always intact.

With the bench work, he didn’t want to take 600 lbs in the gym. So he took two heavy attempts with straight weight and one attempt each with bands and chains. The floor press, 2-board, and incline were always performed using straight weight. When Vincent started his training cycle, he set his first weight that day in the gym. He had an idea of what he wanted to hit and then saw how things played out.

On the incline, his first weight was 495 X 1. The next time around, he hit 525 X 1 and then 545 X 1. With the floor press, his first weight was 515 X 1. Then he hit 535 X 1 and 555 X 1. The 2-board was a fun exercise. I don’t remember his exact weights, but one night was a classic exercise in determination and just nutting up and lifting the weight. He worked up to 605 X 1 and missed it. His goal was to never miss a weight so he took it again. Seven attempts later, he smashed 605 lbs. He was determined to hit that number and not leave the gym with a missed weight.

We all learned a great deal from this training cycle. Some of the key points we still follow are:

  1. Never miss weight. Set yourself up to succeed and build confidence. Go into the gym with a number in your head. Don’t go crazy and lift over your abilities. Set a number that you’re going to hit and then shut it down. It’s more important to leave a little in the bag then to cash in and burn yourself out.
  1. Have a plan. It will change but have a plan to follow.
  1. Don’t choose a million different exercises. Find the ones that work and stick with them. Don’t change for the sake of change. If you do this, you’ll never find out what works for you. Vincent chose these four exercises because he didn’t do them. He hadn’t inclined in about 10 years. He used the floor press 2–3 times in the three years I’ve trained with him. Sometimes, just doing something completely new will spark some progress.

This training template helped Vincent to reach the goal he had had since he started powerlifting. It was a long process with many bumps in the road. However, a little perseverance, some stubbornness, and a good plan helped him reach a goal that is probably his most memorable accomplishment as a lifter. Stay tuned for his “equipped comeback” real soon.

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