The elitefts Learn To Train X (LTTX) seminar took place in early August, bringing together trainers, coaches, athletes, and competitors across the powerlifting industry for the intensive three-day event. Participants were able to attend lectures from respected strength and performance educators, and also had the opportunity to experience hands-on instruction at training stations dedicated to perfecting squat, bench press, and deadlift techniques.

At each station, participants received individual instruction from esteemed industry coaches to help improve their performance, implement injury-prevention strategies, and elevate their strength training. At the bench press station, elitefts Coach Vincent Dizenzo brought his expertise and energy to push participant performance to the next level.

An impressive self-coached athlete himself, Dizenzo has benched 600 or more raw in three different weight classes and has a 900-pound equipped bench to his credit. Dizenzo held an all-time world record in the bench press and was a top ten ranked lifter for over a decade. As such, there was perhaps no one more qualified to coach LTTX participants at this particular station.

Set It Up Correctly

As participants rotate in and out of the station, Dizenzo calls out cues to coach them in their bench press technique. Although his instruction differs slightly depending on the individual participant’s needs, there are a number of cues that he repeats consistently across the sessions.

Dizenzo’s coaching begins with the proper setup to establish a strong foundation before attempting a bench press. He urges participants to maintain tight form, encouraging them to turn their elbows in, squeeze their glutes, and angle their knees and heels outward as they prepare to take the rack. Dizenzo advises them to push back into the bench and through their toes as they set up to press. This helps participants avoid sloppy form that could cause potential injury or prevent them from reaching their optimal bench press potential.

Don’t Be Too Quick

Eager to begin their sessions, many LTTX participants begin to press before they have the opportunity to establish a strong grip on the rack as a foundation. Dizenzo cautions against this behavior, repeating to participants to “wait, wait, wait” as opposed to timing it themselves in an anticipatory manner. Bench press calls are valuable in this way as they help to condition trainees to wait for the optimal time to press. Meeting the rack and then driving will help improve strength training and performance.

“I promise all of you, you’ll be stronger if you wait to touch it before you start pressing. If you’ve been watching everyone bench, you’ll notice: every time someone meets it and touches, they’re faster and more explosive than when they time it.” 

Avoid Exhalation

One of the simplest and yet most overlooked cues that Dizenzo provides is with regard to bench press breathing techniques. Many participants un-rack the bar and then take a deep breath before they begin their press. However, this approach does not allow them to breath fully and effectively brace their midsection before taking on the extra weight from the bar. By properly breathing and bracing in advance, more force will be transferred from participants’ lower bodies and into the bar. Dizenzo is adamant about this corrective technique, emphasizing that he should not see an exhale during a press.

“Don’t exhale, ever! Especially on a single, never let your air out. You all really have to train that way…just never exhale. Practice holding your breath for fun.” 

Power of Bench Press Cues

As LTTX participants rotate through the bench press station, it is clear that Dizenzo’s instruction has an immediate and powerful impact on their performance. With the precision and detail required to properly execute a press, it is no wonder that thoughtful cues from a seasoned elitefts coach can make all the difference.

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