elitefts™ Sunday Edition 

Originally published on October 18, 2007

If you haven’t been reading the training logs, you’ve been missing out on some great “in the trenches” training advice. Bob Youngs has been a part of the Q&A team since 2001. He is an elite lifter and past owner of Southside Barbell in Florida. He coaches aspiring and elite powerlifters and has become known for his keen eye and programming abilities.

The Bench Press

Here are some tips for how to improve your bench press:

  • Tuck your elbows. Most beginners tend to bench like bodybuilders, with their elbows at 90 degrees to their body. Your elbows need to be at about 60 (or less) degrees to you body.
  • It’s incredibly important to squeeze the shit out of the bar. You need to squeeze that thing like your life depends on it. It will tighten up your whole body and lock your wrists in.
  • Get used to wearing and using wrist wraps.
  • Even if you bench with your feet flat on the floor, you need to work on your arch. You can still get an arch flat-footed.
  • While I understand that most people who are new to the sport need a plan, you can’t get consumed with a plan. We just go in and figure it out once everyone gets there.
  • Don’t always try to calculate your total lifts over 90 percent. Again, I understand the need for a plan. Pay attention here. I’d much rather see you just lift some f'ing heavy weights on max effort day. Yeah, you may miss on some days, but just go at it hard.
  • Don’t think yourself out of the weight. You need to attack the bar. Forget the number and execute the lift.
  • If you want to be a leader, you need to lead and not talk. The legendary Seal, Roy Boehm, said it best: “Leadership can be defined by two words—FOLLOW ME.” You need to lead by example instead of with your keyboard.
  • When you’re benching, your fists need to stay over your elbows. If you tuck to the point that your elbows are lower than your fists, you will have no push off of the bottom.
  • Wear the longest wrist wraps that your federation will allow.
  • When benching in a shirt, you need to try and bring your belly to the bar.
  • One of the reasons for doing high boards for the bench is to teach you to “throw” the bar back.
  • Consistency is the key to progress. If you only train hard for the eight weeks before a meet, you won’t make much progress.

Teaching a New Guy How to Set Up for the Bench

We had a new guy start at the gym. Here is how WE started teaching him how to bench. This is what we do at SBC, and it may NOT be what the others on here do. We always start with the set up. Before we even start worrying about bar placement or pressing, we get the new lifter to set up right:

  • We showed him how to set his feet so that he is up on his tip toes.
  • We then had him grab the bar reverse grip to set his arch. He will then pull himself up to the bar.
  • When he comes back down, we tell him to try and pull his shoulder blades toward his butt.
  • We then teach him to make contact with the upper part of his torso in a specific order. We have him come down on his traps, then his rear neck, and finally his head. We are yelling “traps, neck, head” throughout the set up. He will then take his regular grip.
  • After he gets used to doing this for a couple of sets, we begin to work on having him get a bigger arch. We do this by first placing the half moon foam roller under his lower back. When he gets “comfortable” with that, we use a full foam roller under his lower back. This one is a MFer to get used to. But it will teach you how to arch.
  • As you can see, we really haven’t even gotten into how to do anything with the bar yet. We make sure that he is comfortable with his set up before we start to spend time on what to do with the bar.

The Squat

Here are some tips for the squat:

  • How you start in the squat will determine how you finish.
  • Nothing is more important in the squat than your set up. Why you ask? Because if you start all screwed up, you can’t fix it as you go. Most people set up wrong and wonder why their technique sucks.
  • You need to treat your warm ups with respect. You should be working on perfect technique from the start.
  • Your head needs to be back. I don’t care what you look at. You can be looking up and still have your head forward. So “look up” is not a good coaching queue. Get the lifter to drive their head back into the bar.
  • One side of your body needs to look exactly like the other side. If your left knee is in good position, but your right isn’t, you need to figure out why.
  • Coach your lifters/partners. Don’t be a cheerleader.
  • You need to train with the strongest guys in your area. If you aren’t, ask yourself why. Most times it will be because you’re too lazy, too intimidated, or have too big of an ego.
  • You can’t get so psyched up that your technique goes to shit. I don’t care how excited you get. You’ll miss heavy weights with poor technique every time.
  • Have a set-up routine. Our guys all have different set-up routines, but they go through their own routine each time.
  • Fix one thing at a time. If you give a lifter five things to fix at once, none of them will get fixed. That’s not bad lifting. That’s bad coaching.