Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Weightlifting: Embracing the Inner Bro--Building a Bigger Bench Press

Bench and curls every workout, bro.

I've always hated the bench. I'd much rather squat or power clean or even deadlift than lie down on a bench and work my chesticles. Last year I hardly benched at all, focusing instead on the military press as my main upper body lift (benching also hurt my right shoulder, which has some sort of chronic issue). However, after spending over two months working my military press damn near every day of the week, I finally said "screw it" and decided to take some time away from the lift. After all, all that pressing hadn't really added up to much. Sure, I hit a few rep PRs, but I was unable to raise my max beyond 190 lbs. So I decided to try the bench press again, and lo and behold, I was able to press without much shoulder pain. After tweaking my form, pressing felt fine, and I was transformed almost instantly into a bro. Who wants to suck at the one exercise everyone does? When someone asks if I lift weights, their next question is inevitably "How much do you bench?" Which answer is worse: "I don't" or "290 lbs?"

The most success I ever had at increasing my bench was performing a workout by the late, great Anthony Ditillo (link). It's a three time a week routine, but the amount of volume contained in each workout demands more time than I have. I usually only have about fifteen to twenty minutes to workout, so I tend to workout every day. Taking inspiration from the Ditillo workout and Bulgarian routines, I've started benching five times a week. I'll warm up with three sets (135 for 5, 185 for 3, 205 for 2) and then perform three more sets, varying my rep range depending on how I feel, then maybe add a back off set. Twice a week, I'll max to a heavy single. I vary my grip between close grip (pinky on power ring) to competition grip (index finger on power ring) from workout to workout. Below are my workouts from last week:

Sunday: Warm up, 225 paused, 245 paused, 255, 275, 225 for 5.
Monday: Close grip 135*5, 185*5, 205*10
Tuesday: Warm up, 245*3*3
Thursday: Close grip, warm up, 225*5, 205*5, 195*8
Friday: Warm up, 240 paused, 250 paused, 260 paused, 215 for 5 paused.

Each week I'll try to increase my weights, though each workout is determined by how I feel. This type of self-regulating training is a different approach than your typical set program, but it leaves room for bad days as well as good ones. As far as assistance work goes, I usually do light biceps and triceps workouts twice a week after benching (3 sets of 12 reps of curls and pressdowns), as well as some sort of upper back work (rows, pulldowns) and shoulder work (side laterals, DB presses) once a week. So there's the plan, we'll see how well it works.

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