This is a quick follow up to last weekend at the compound with Dave Tate and Matt Smith. Both of them helped me tremendously in just one training session, and I can't thank Dave enough for all the help he's given me since joining team EliteFTS.

The problem going into last weekend- I was losing the leg drive that I previously had gotten so much better with.

I told Dave that I felt like this was the problem, so I showed him a couple videos to which he agreed that's what it looked like. So on Friday after shooting the bench videos I did some 'speed' work and ended up working up to about four plates for some singles.

Dave started with trying to get my back tighter. He had me put my feet up on the bench, get up on my traps, squeeze the pad with my shoulder blades, then set up my feet. I tried this for a few sets and felt all f#*ked up. I didn't get frustrated but you can bet I wanted to let Dave know I was getting irritated- and this wasn't his fault- I have a short fuse when it comes to trying new things.

Then we started playing with my feet. he had me move them out way further (probably only a few inches but it felt like a lot more than that- that's what she said). What we figured out at this point was I need to set up the same way I was before- I was getting tight enough that way. But I needed to engage my leg drive harder from the beginning instead of relaxing it and then engaging on the press.

So I tried a few singles that way and felt OK, but my chest was still caving as the bar touched. At this point I jumped off the bench and yelled "WTF." Dave and Matt could sense my frustration so I walked away for a few minutes before another set. I mentioned to Dave "I can't get any tighter. I can't take in any more air. I take a huge breath and feel the tightness all the way down my legs and into my hip flexors."

Dave just looked at me. At this point a light bulb went off- "Are you breathing into your chest at all?"

Well no, as a matter of fact I wasn't. I was breathing like a shirted bencher, trying to fill my belly with as much air as possible to 'meet the bar' at it's highest point.

So I laid down, set up like I normally do, put my feet out a little further, took a big breath (half into my belly then finished the other half in my chest), took four plates out, and benched it the way I was supposed to. Tight. Met the bar with my chest. And right back up with no caving.

Then Dave gave me one final cue. I was getting tight AS he was handing the bar out to me. Well think about it like squat- once you stand up with the weight you can't really get any tighter at that point. You are at the mercy of the weight especially when it gets heavy.

So the next rep I put about 200# of tension in the bar before taking it out- squeezing as hard as possible, flexing my lats, and then using them to pull the bar out. Boom. The rep felt perfect and it clicked.

So will these cues help fix your bench? Maybe. But here is the real reason I put this in words...

I shared this with Todd Hamer, he made the comment "strengths become weaknesses and weaknesses become strengths." Just like "what works for you today might not be the same thing that works for you tomorrow."

(1) Over the last year or two I became MUCH better about breathing into my belly and getting tight- mainly regarding the squat and deadlift. I wasn't doing this at all before and it was killing my technique and strength.  Well I was carrying that over to the bench and it wasn't helping but I never made the connection.

(2) I took for granted getting tight before taking the bar out. I thought I was getting tight enough AS I was taking it out. Well it became apparent that I wasn't as Dave was working with me.

Lessons learned:

  • Constantly analyze your technique and have a trusted coach do the same
  • Question what you think you know
  • Get back to the basics every once in awhile to check yourself

Dave's comments on my FB post

"David Tate Some take always: first read Casey bullet points at the end of this article. They are critical to getting stronger. I also want to point out I knew going into this it was going to be hard to find the issue. He already knows his muscular weakness and I knew this had to be technical. The problem was from the videos I saw it was really hard to see what was going on and I knew he wouldn't need a total overhaul. Finding the correction to a technical flaw for an advanced lifter is a bitch (but I do love it more than all other aspects). Seeing the flaw is easy - fixing it is another story. I asked Matt Smith to help with this as another set of eyes reduces to correction time significantly. Matt, aside from being one of the best SHW of all time, trained st Westside for 14-15 years with many of those years overlapping when I was there. It was drilled into our heads how to find these issues with those we trained with. Louie gets a lot of credit for the lifters he's created but not enough for the coaches he created. Matt used to help me with the very early seminars so I knew he would be a huge asset with this. The point of all this is these corrections are very specific to the lifter. I could very well tell another lifter to breath into their chest and it screw their bench all up. This is what was needed to unfuck Casey's bench. 

I did laugh reading this because I knew he was frustrated as hell. So was I but note that's not a reason to keep working and communicating. You suppress it and stay on point. As he needed our feedback we needed his more. We did video all of this and should have it up sometime soon."

Notice both videos, about a month apart. Look at the last set of each video (around four plates).

Video 1- 4 plates and lighter band tension, chest sinking too much


Video 2- 4 plates with a heavier bar and heavier band tension, chest not sinking, after Dave worked with me