Bench Shirt Training by Matt Rhodes

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I’ll start out by saying that I’m not a bench specialist, or even a guru, for that matter. I’m putting together the ideas that we use at Southside Gym that have given our group two, 800-lb benchers (Vincent Dizenzo, 800 lbs at 308 lbs and Rob “T.T” McCray, 830 at SHW). We train with a group of 10–12 guys every Friday night. Our group varies from 20-year-old kids who just want to get bigger and stronger to Vincent and T.T. and everywhere in between. The training that I will outline is the basics that we use when getting ready for a contest.

The most basic, tried, and true shirt bench training cycle is this one:

3 weeks of triples

1 week out of shirt

3 weeks of doubles

1 week out of shirt

3 weeks of singles

1 week out

From here, there are a few options.

  1. If you’re getting ready for a meet and you’re a beginner, it’s good to take your opener the week before your meet.
  2. If you want to repeat the cycle, put a very realistic goal in your head, reset your numbers, and start over again.

Here are some random thoughts, in no particular order, that are very important.

  1. Hold your breath for the entire set or do it again no matter how great the set was.
  2. DO NOT rack the weight before you attempt the prescribed number of reps for that set. At Southside, you won’t be allowed to put the bar back in the rack. And because you’re holding your breath, you'll either pass out or have to take a breath, which means that you have to do the set all over again. Nut up and do the reps even if you know you’re going to miss. This kind of strain teaches you many things about yourself and the bench shirt.
  3. The triples will teach you to touch weights that you “can't” touch. After you touch these “impossible” weights, you'll never have a problem touching again.

This was my first experience with triples/doubles/singles when I got to Southside. My best bench in competition was 465. That day I did 405 X 3, 455 X 2, and 470 X 1. So we set up my training cycle like this:

Week 1: 395 X 3

Week 2: 410 X 3

Week 3: 425 X 3

Week 4: full range, work to a single

Week 5: 440 X 2

Week 6: 455 X 2

Week 7: 470 X 2

Week 8: full range, work to a single

Week 9: 485 X 1

Week 10: 500 X 1

Week 11: 515 X 1

Beginner’s template

  1. ME work to a heavy single
  2. Shirt work (follow triples/doubles/singles plan)
  3. Lockout work (high boards), 1–5 reps
  4. Upper back
  5. Light shoulders (by feel)

Beginner’s notes

ME work

  • Come to the gym with numbers in your head and try to set PRs every time.
  • Choose four exercises and rotate them each week (2-board, 3-board, 4-board, full range (out of shirt week).
  • Try not to miss but don’t worry if you do. Just don’t miss every week. It will build bad habits and an expectation that your last lift of each week will most likely be a miss.

Board work (lockout)

  • Push it hard.
  • Use the two highest boards that you can use (for me, it’s 5- and 6-boards).

Intermediate template

Follow the same plan. You may find that you can’t set PRs week after week. That’s fine.

Intermediate notes

You may not set PRs every week. Don’t worry. You might only try for a new one when you're feeling really good or really bad. You'll learn to know when to shut it down and move onto the next exercise. As far as trying when you feel like crap, this will build confidence and let you know that you can hit big lifts despite the conditions.

Advanced template

Things may have to change after the first run through with this. As you know by now, you’ve got a pretty good grasp on what works for you and what doesn’t. This might be a little tool you can use to overcome a plateau or to just try something different for a while.

I hope this gives some of you a few ideas that will help you take your bench to the next level.

Elite Fitness Systems strives to be a recognized leader in the strength training industry by providing the highest quality strength training products and services while providing the highest level of customer service in the industry. For the best training equipment, information, and accessories, visit us at www.EliteFTS.com.









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Submitted by DMorgan on Sat, 04/05/2008 - 4:56pm.

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