Justin Inacio's 8-Week Bench Press Breakthrough

Justin Inacio's 8-Week Bench Press Breakthrough

In his rookie season, when athletes often focus just on their games, Justin Inacio, a professional lacrosse player, decided to take on an additional challenge. He increased his training intensity at Westside Barbell. 

It's rare for athletes to push their physical limits during the competitive season, as the focus is usually on maintaining peak performance for games. 

However, Justin aimed higher to improve his strength and conditioning during this crucial time. His actions demonstrate a solid commitment to personal growth and athleticism, surpassing rookie athletes' expectations.

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From Strong to Stronger: The Journey from 315 to 340

In just eight weeks, Justin increased his bench press from 315 pounds to 340 pounds. This achievement is particularly noteworthy not only because of the significant weight increase but also because it occurred during the competitive season. 

Typically, athletes focus on maintaining their strength during this time, not necessarily on making substantial gains. 
This makes Justin's progress a standout accomplishment, underscoring his dedication and strategic approach to training.

How Did Justin Do It?

Justin's secret recipe wasn't magic. He consistently followed a well-planned method based on over 40 years of actual results and research. His training was split into three main sessions each week:

Dynamic Effort (DE) Combo Day: 

Dynamic Combo Day is a training strategy Justin uses, tailored for professional athletes like him who must juggle intense physical training, skill development, and recovery.

In this approach, Justin combines both upper and lower body dynamic effort lifts and accessory exercises into one efficient workout. This smart consolidation optimizes his training schedule, addressing the typical challenge of fitting everything into a busy timetable.

The essence of Dynamic Combo Day lies in its focus on efficiency and effectiveness. Justin can keep up his strength, power, and speed without sacrificing workout quality by including dynamic effort (DE) exercises for both the upper and lower body in a single session. 

These dynamic effort exercises involve lifting lighter weights as quickly as possible, helping to boost explosive power and the quick muscle actions vital for lacrosse.

Adding specific accessory exercises to this combo session allows Justin to focus on particular muscle groups, addressing any imbalances or weaknesses. 

These additional exercises complement the main lifts, ensuring a comprehensive approach to physical conditioning.

One significant benefit of this approach is the extra time it frees up. By packing key training elements into one session, Justin gains another day to concentrate on developing his lacrosse skills and techniques. 

This extra focus on skill work is crucial for professional athletes, where technical expertise and game understanding are as important as physical fitness.

Overall, Dynamic Combo Day offers a holistic training strategy. It ensures athletes like Justin build physical strength and endurance and hone their sport-specific skills, leading to well-rounded development and better preparation for high-level competition.

Max Effort Lower Body Day: 

The Maximal Effort Method for the lower body involves Justin lifting the heaviest weight he can manage in a single attempt. This approach is crucial for a couple of reasons.

First, it's an excellent strategy for Justin to set personal goals. Each time he discovers his maximum lift, he sets a new target to surpass. It's about him pushing his limits and witnessing real progress.

This method also significantly challenges and stimulates Justin's central nervous system (CNS). The CNS is key in controlling how his muscles respond, vital for improving strength and performance.

By lifting his maximum weight, Justin is teaching his body to adapt to handling heavier loads. Unlike other training methods focused on increasing muscle size through multiple repetitions, the Maximal Effort Method focuses on pure strength development for Justin. 

It's not about how many times he can lift a weight but how much he can lift in one go. This clarity helps him in setting specific, measurable goals.
In his sessions, Justin switches up the exercises weekly to challenge his body in new ways. 

This variety ensures that he doesn't hit a plateau and that his lower body strength continues to grow. Whether it's squats, deadlifts, good mornings, or any other lower body-focused lift, he aims to keep improving his performance, one max lift at a time.

Max Effort Upper Body Day: 

This session aimed to maximize Justin's upper body strength, directly influencing his bench press.

The Maximal Effort Method for the upper body, as Justin utilizes at Westside Barbell, focuses on lifting the heaviest weight possible in a single attempt. 

This approach isn't just about testing strength; it's a strategic way for Justin to set personal benchmarks and challenge his central nervous system (CNS), which is essential for muscle coordination and power.

Justin varies his Maximal Effort (ME) exercises weekly, following Westside Barbell's practice to keep training dynamic and prevent accommodation. One session might involve a floor press; the next could introduce a football bar or incorporate bands for added resistance, offering new challenges and continuously testing his limits.

This method affects not only Justin's physical capabilities but also his mental resilience. Lifting at maximum capacity requires focus and determination, pushing him to overcome obstacles. The visible progress in his max effort weights is a motivating factor, evidencing strength gains.

Justin confronts his limits in this training method by lifting the heaviest weights and setting a concrete performance benchmark. This direct approach eliminates guesswork, providing a clear and measurable goal for future training.

A Closer Look at the Exercises

In this part, we'll look at the exercises Justin did to get stronger. We'll see how each one helped his upper body get more powerful. 

Understanding how and why Justin incorporated these exercises into his routine  is an opportunity for anyone looking to improve their athletic performance to learn from the practices of a professional athlete.

Williams Press:  

In the Williams Press exercise, Justin begins by lying flat on a bench, gripping a dumbbell in each hand, positioned directly above him. The dumbbells start off touching side by side, parallel to the floor, with his palms facing forward.

As he lowers the dumbbells, Justin ensures his elbows are pointed outward while keeping his upper arms still, guiding the dumbbells straight down towards his chest. He visualizes his thumbs descending to meet the center of his chest as the ends of the dumbbells make contact with it. 

Then, Justin presses the dumbbells back up to the initial position, concentrating on maintaining his palms facing forward and his elbows pointed out.
For this exercise, Justin performs 3 sets, with 15, 12, and 8 repetitions, respectively.

Heavy Dumbbells: 

The heavy dumbbell press is a crucial exercise for upper body strength that Justin incorporates into his training at Westside Barbell, utilizing dumbbells for enhanced range of motion and stability. 

He selects dumbbells that challenge him while allowing him to maintain good form, begins by sitting on a flat bench with the weights resting on his thighs, and then leans back to start the press.

Justin brings the dumbbells to his chest and pushes them toward the ceiling, fully extending his arms and ensuring smooth and controlled motion. He pays attention to his form as he lowers the dumbbells, slightly flaring his elbows to manage the descent pace.

In his routine, Justin targets 3 sets of this exercise, with the repetitions set at 12, 8, and 6, progressively increasing the weight to continue challenging his strength.

Strict Tricep Extensions: 

Justin carefully selects challenging yet manageable dumbbells, positioning himself on a flat bench. With a dumbbell in each hand, he extends his arms above, palms facing each other.

Justin then slowly bends his elbows, lowering the dumbbells toward the sides of his head, keeping his upper arms still and elbows up. He aims to bring the weights down until his forearms form a bit more than a 90-degree angle, ensuring the movement is controlled and focusing on isolating his triceps.

To complete the exercise, Justin activates his triceps to press the dumbbells back to the starting position, keeping his upper arms stationary. He maintains a focused effort throughout the movement, which is crucial for targeting the triceps effectively. 

(Westside Tip: Try Twist the dumbbells at the top when finishing each rep)


Dips were a part of Justin's routine for strengthening his upper body, including the chest, triceps, and shoulders. He begins by gripping the dip handle, pushing himself up until his arms extend fully. 

Then, he lowers his body by bending at the elbows until they reach about a 90-degree angle before pressing back up to the starting position.

Justin adjusts his body's angle during dips to target specific muscle groups more intensely: leaning forward works the chest more while maintaining a more upright posture puts the focus on the triceps. 

He sometimes adds weight using a dip belt with plates, chains, or bands to increase the challenge.

For his training, Justin performs dips using his body weight, completing 3 sets with repetitions ranging from 20 down to 10, enhancing the strength in his chest and arms.

Dumbbell Static Shoulder Press 

The Dumbbell Static Shoulder Press adds variety to Justin's shoulder training, focusing on muscle engagement and stability.

He either stands with his feet shoulder-width apart or sits on a bench without back support. He holds the dumbbells at shoulder height, palms forward, aligning his elbows directly under his wrists for the best form. He starts the exercise by pressing one dumbbell up until his arm is straight while keeping the other arm still, holding its dumbbell at shoulder height.

This technique of alternating between active pressing and holding provides a strength boost to Justin's shoulder muscles and aids in muscle balance and joint health. Justin focuses on engaging his core throughout to prevent any back arching.

By alternating arms for the set number of reps, Justin maximizes the exercise's benefits, aiming for stronger, more balanced shoulders and enhanced joint stability.

For his training, Justin performs dips using his body weight, completing 3 sets with repetitions ranging from 20 down to 10.

Heavy Rows: 

Heavy Rows are important for building strength in his back, shoulders, and arms. Justin begins by choosing a weight that's tough but allows him to keep good form. Justin stands with his feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and leans forward from his hips while keeping his back straight.

He grips a barbell or dumbbells, with hands just beyond shoulder width, palms facing him. Justin then pulls the weight towards his lower ribcage, making sure his elbows stay close to his sides.

He squeezes his shoulder blades together at the top of the movement to activate his muscles fully. Then, Justin carefully lowers the weights back to start, making sure every movement is controlled.

In his routine, Justin targets 3 sets of this exercise, with the repetitions set at 12, 8, and 6, progressively increasing the weight to continue challenging his strength.

Speed Bench: The Game Changer

Another important component of Justin's training regimen is the Speed Bench, or Dynamic Effort Bench.

This method involves Justin actively lifting sub-maximal weights (50 to 60% of 1 rep max) with maximum speed and intent, conditioning his muscles to adapt to faster movements. 

This practice is vital for athletes like Justin who aim to improve their performance, focusing on the development of explosive power and operational efficiency in their sport.

By incorporating accommodating resistance, such as bands or chains, Justin introduces an added layer of complexity to his exercises. 

The use of bands or chains brings in variable resistance that evolves throughout the movement, providing Justin with challenges across the entire range of motion and significantly aiding his strength gains.

This sophisticated technique is instrumental in helping him overcome sticking points more effectively and in boosting the force-producing capacity of the muscles involved.

Additionally, the dynamic effort method plays a crucial role in enhancing neuromuscular efficiency, enabling Justin's body to recruit muscle fibers more effectively during explosive movements.

For an athlete like Justin, improved neuromuscular communication is essential, leading to quicker and more powerful actions in competition.

The emphasis on performing rapid movements with moderate loads is directly aligned with the development of power, which is the combination of force and velocity. This approach trains Justin's muscles to exert maximum force in the shortest possible time.

Through Justin's dedicated application of the Dynamic Effort Bench and its foundational principles, his training at Westside Barbell surpasses strength enhancement, aiming instead for a comprehensive improvement in speed, power, and overall athletic performance.

Keeping the Shoulders Healthy

To ensure his shoulders remained healthy and capable of supporting his enhanced strength, Justin practiced specific exercises like:
  • Shoulder Cars: Rotating the shoulders in controlled motions to increase mobility.
  • Shoulder Pails and Rails: Applying pressure against resistance to strengthen and mobilize the shoulder joints.

With the support of his therapist, Alyssa Coons, DPT, every aspect of Justin's internal training and recovery was expertly managed, contributing to his success.

What Can We Learn from Justin?

Justin Inacio's training at Westside Barbell teaches us the value of setting precise goals, embracing change, balancing effort with rest, adding complexity to challenges, focusing on efficiency, and aiming for well-rounded growth. 

His journey shows that success is not just about hard work; it's also about smart strategies, adaptability, and maintaining a holistic view of development. 

Justin's example serves as a powerful reminder that achieving excellence in any field requires a thoughtful approach that goes beyond mere effort, integrating lessons that are applicable far beyond the realms of athletic training.

Keep pushing, keep learning, and stay strong!


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