Bench Pressing Tips
Bench Pressing Tips
By: Louie Simmons
Westside has had six men hold the all-time bench press record along with Dave
Hoff making the biggest full-meet bench of more than 1,000 pounds. Many women have held the all-time bench record as well—from Doris Simmons at 105 pounds to Laura Phelps at 165 pounds benching 530 pounds and then at 182 pounds benching 540 pounds.
Is there a secret or a system that led to 10 Westside lifters breaking bench world
records spanning 30 years? Of course there is. It is a system built over three decades of training.
Many men have helped build the foundation of the Westside bench program.
Larry Pacifico was the first in the early 1970s. Larry said that 75 percent of your bench is the triceps, plus he added that gaining weight would push up your bench record as well.
Larry could back up what he said. He had a 530- pound bench at 198 pounds
bodyweight in a full meet with no gear. He made 590 pounds at 228 pounds bodyweight in the early 1970s eight weeks later. Remember, there was no bench shirt until 1985.
To build your triceps, try extensions with dumbbells, elbows out to the sides in
the Jim Williams-style and also dumbbell roll-backs with heavy weights. Kenny Patterson and Mike Wolf would use 125-pound dumbbells for six sets of eight reps. Ted Arcidi would use EZ curl bar extensions with 350 pounds for sets of five reps. Ted could bench 600 pounds raw for nine reps.
Do seated French triceps presses—now lower the bar behind the head to fully
stretch your triceps. This can also be done by lowering the bar behind your head onto the power rack pins at several positions to overload your triceps. Push downs are last on the list because they are less effective to all extensions. Two compound exercises for the triceps are close-grip dips with weight and close-grip pushups with weight with feel elevated.
One-third of your bench training should be seated presses. They can be done on
M-E Day or many sets on Speed Strength Day. When done on M-E Day, do a second special barbell exercise, like declines, or a heavy dumbbell workout.
The oldest way to push up your bench is to do close-grip benches. Larry P would
train the bench only close-grip and made a 460-pound meet bench. Then, he moved his grip out to legal and his bench shot up to 500 pounds in the first meet with a wide grip.
But Larry was smart enough to go back and train his bench close-grip.
A second man that helped Louie with his bench was Bill Seno from Chicago who
not only was a great bencher, but also a national caliber body builder who won several Best Chest awards at the Mr. America contests. He looked at Louie and his 172-pound body at 5’6” and said, “You need to bench with a one-inch illegal wide grip.” This meant the hands would be one-inch past the power ring.
The workout is to work up to a set of six reps each week adding a small jump
each week until it was impossible to go higher. At that point, start over with a lighter
weight and do eight reps week after week until you cannot go higher. Then, start at a lower weight and do 10 reps on each set week after week until again you still can’t go higher. Now go down to the six reps set and start over. This can be a big boost to your bench. After benching, go to dumbbell presses. Pick two angles.
A way to push up your volume in the pressing muscles is to come in the gym and
do two sets of dumbbell presses on every training day. This means on your squat and deadlifts days also. If you get bored, switch to two sets of pushups for high reps.
A third method is to do one set close-grip and one set wide-grip with a weight
you can do 20 reps with. These warmup workouts really work.
We have talked about mostly M-E workouts or a secondary barbell exercise, but
now let’s look at Speed Strength Day.
Westside uses nine sets of three reps for Speed Strength Day. This would call for
using three grips:
The average weight is 80 percent. You can use only barbell weight or you can use a combination of band tension, or you can use chains or bands and chains.
If you choose to use chains, do 5x5 reps or 6x6 reps to raise the total volume by
adding the reps; the bar speed can be maintained when doing six reps per set. This can add muscle mass to the lifter.
We have talked about some new ways to train your bench. Switch your small
special exercises every three or four workouts to avoid accommodation.
The key to a big bench is to push up the special exercises with barbells or
dumbbells. Check out our books for more information.