Tout dans la vie est une question d'équilibre d'où la nécessité de garder un esprit sain dans un corps sain.


Everything in life is a matter of balance therefore one needs to keep a healthy mind in a healthy body.


E. do REGO

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


How long does it take to get in a great cardio workout? Not as long as you might think. That is, unless you’re thinking 4 minutes.


Our proof: The fast and furious routines that follow, courtesy of fitness expert BJ Gaddour, CSCS, owner of—a web site that offers follow-along, bootcamp-style workouts (that you can stream to your TV, tablet, smartphone, or computer). These 4-minute workouts are all based on the “Tabata protocol.”

For background, the Tabata protocol is a training method that was originally used by the Japanese Olympic speed skating team, and named for the scientist—Izumi Tabata—who studied its amazing effect on a group of male college students. The study subjects were all fit P.E. majors, and most were members of various varsity sports teams.

You might think it sounds too simple—and short—to work: On a stationary bike, the university students did seven to eight 20-second, all-out sprints, each separated by just 10 seconds of rest. Total time: 4 minutes. (They also did an easy 10-minute warmup before each session.)

The results were fantastic: After doing the routine 5 days a week for 6 weeks, the college kids boosted their aerobic fitness by 14 percent. By comparison, another group—who performed a steady but moderate pace on the bikes for 60 minutes—increased their aerobic fitness by only about 10 percent. (Is your workout dangerous? Find out by reading my new story, America's Scariest Fitness Trends.)

The upshot: The high-intensity 4-minute workout was more effective than an hour of moderate cycling. Even better, the Tabata participants saw a 28-percent improvement in “anaerobic capacity”—a measure of how long the men could exercise at their top effort. The second group saw no such improvements.

So why isn’t everyone doing Tabata workouts? Well, most people would vomit—or come close to it—if they actually tried the routine that was used in the study. That's not good. Plus, to burn as many calories as you might like, you need to regularly exercise longer than just 4 minutes. (The study participants literally exercised themselves to exhaustion, making additional work unlikely.)

The good news: Gaddour has a way to solve both problems—while also making the Tabata method even more beneficial.

Instead of doing a single mode of exercise for each sprint, Gaddour alternates between two body-weight exercises that work your muscles in different ways. This way, fatigue doesn’t overtake you as quickly—such as was the case with the stationary bike. So you’re still working hard for each 20-second interval, but you’re spreading the challenge around. (Makes sure you don't negate all your hard work in the gym: Avoid The Worst Desserts in America.)

Will it improve your fitness as fast as it did for the Japanese college students? No one knows. But you’ll no doubt find it highly effective. “Whether you’re short on time and need a quick workout, or just want to add some extra intensity to the end of a longer session, one of these 4-minute routines will do the trick,” says Gaddour, who calls each mini-workout a “finisher,” since he often ends his fitness bootcamps with them.

There’s more: Because this style of Tabata training allows you to better manage your fatigue, you can “stack” multiple 4-minute routines together. The key is to simply take 1 minute of rest between every 4-minute mini-workout. This way, you’re able to recover briefly between routines, and give it your all each time—while creating a longer workout for greater calorie-burn. And by stacking these routines, you can choose exercises that work your muscles and joints in multiple directions—which helps you build a stronger, more fit body.

Ready to get started? Check out the three 4-minute finishers on the next page. Gaddour refers to them as “cardio-core” routines because each combines a total-body calisthenic with a cutting-edge core exercise. “The cardio exercise burns the fat covering your belly, while the core exercise strengthens and tightens up your midsection,” says Gaddour. “That makes it a fantastic one-two punch for achieving flat, sexy abs.” (Speaking of flat, sexy abs, make sure to check out this list of The 100 Hottest Women of All-Time.) How to do the workouts: Choose one finisher and perform the first exercise for 20 seconds. Then rest for 10 seconds. Do the second exercise for 20 seconds, and rest for another 10 seconds. Continue to alternate back and forth for 4 minutes—a total of eight 20-second intervals. That’s it!

If you want an even greater challenge, simply do Finisher #1 for 4 minutes, then rest 1 minute. Next, do Finisher #2 for 4 minutes. Rest for another minute, and do Finisher #3 for 4 minutes. Do the math: That’s a 14-minute high-intensity cardio workout. It’s guaranteed to blast fat, boost your fitness, and get you in shape in (almost) no time.


The Tabata Cardio Workout

By Adam Campbell

Finisher #1
Exercise 1: Stationary running
Exercise 2: Mountain climber

Finisher #2
Exercise 1: Seal jacks
Exercise 2: Push-up jacks
(Note: If you haven’t ever seen a pushup jack, you must check out the video. It’s an awesome and unusual variation of the push-up.)

Finisher #3
Exercise 1: Skater jumps
Exercise 2: Plank to push-up

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

10 Exercises You've Never Tried: Backside Edition

One of my favorite T Nation article series is the 20-installment monster called Exercises You've Never Tried Before. I like it so much that I want to bring it back.
Rather than list a bunch of random exercises though, I'll base my installment around a common theme: the backside of the body (aka the posterior chain). And more specifically, low back-friendly exercises to work the backside of the body.
Maybe you've hurt your lower back and can't load your spine with the heavy basics like deadlifts and barbell rows but still want to strengthen your posterior chain. Or maybe you're already banging away with heavy deads and squats and just want some accessory work that won't hammer your lower back any further.
Either way, these exercises may be just what the doctor ordered.

1. L-Sit Chin-ups

For this chin-up variation, raise your legs until they're parallel to the floor and don't allow them to drop for the duration of the set.
Once you've established good body position, perform chin-ups as normal, pulling your upper chest to the bar on each rep. If you can, try to angle your torso so you're leaning back slightly to further emphasize the lats. You can use any grip you'd like, but it's best to vary it periodically.
This is a great one because it effectively kills two birds with one stone, functioning as both a back exercise and a core exercise. Having your legs raised in front of you also keeps you honest because you can't use momentum from the lower body to propel yourself up.
You may initially lack the core strength and/or hamstring flexibility to do this with straight legs, in which case you can start with your legs bent and work on straightening them over time.
The position of the legs makes it difficult to add weight with a dip belt, so if you're looking to make it harder, you can slow down the tempo, add a weight vest, put a small dumbbell between your feet, or use light ankles weights (absolutely brutal)!

2. Lean Back Chin-ups

Here's one I picked up from Charles Poliquin, who refers to them as subscapularis chin-ups.
Using either a pronated or neutral grip, pull yourself up until your upper chest touches the bar. Your chest should be puffed out and your elbows pulled down and back – no rounded shoulders or sunken chests allowed.
Before you begin the descent, squeeze your lats, brace your core, contract your glutes, and begin to lean back as you slowly push yourself away from the bar. Use a controlled eccentric and continue to lean back as far as you can the whole way down.
Your torso should be at approximately 45 degrees to the floor. At the bottom, return your torso to an upright position and repeat for the desired reps.
Strive to keep your torso as straight as possible throughout the set. I recommend dorsiflexing the ankles to help lock the lower body into position. If you do these correctly, they'll not only smoke your upper back and lats but fry your core as well.

3. Gironda Sternum Chin-ups

If you type "sternum chin-ups" into YouTube, you'll get a whole bunch of videos showing guys doing standard chin-ups where they simply pull their chest to the bar. That's a great exercise, but I wouldn't call that a sternum chin-up. I'd just call that a good chin-up.
Chin-up standards have become pathetically low. In my mind, a properly executed chin-up should always be pulled to the upper chest. It's like saying a full squat: it's redundant and shouldn't be necessary. Sadly, I guess it is.
A true Gironda sternum chin-up (as prescribed by the legendary Vince Gironda) is a whole different animal.
Right as you begin the pull, tip your head back and try to look behind you as if you were attempting to do a backflip. Continue looking back as you pull while keeping your chest elevated and your lower body still. Depending on the length of your arms, you should contact with the bar anywhere between your lower chest and mid-abdomen.
Poliquin has referred to these as the king of upper back exercises, and for good reason. If done correctly, the contraction you get in your upper back will be unparalleled and your lats will be on fire after just a few reps.
This is an extremely advanced exercise, so make sure you've mastered other easier variations first before trying it. Furthermore, the arching required to complete the movement may be too provocative for extension-intolerant individuals, so if you fall into that camp and it causes you any pain whatsoever, choose something else.

4. Inverted Rows (1.5 reps)

10 Exercises You've Never Tried: Posterior Chain

Inverted rows are extremely underrated. Fact is, over the past couple years, they've become my favorite rowing exercise, especially for those with back pain. They allow you to attack the upper back without putting pressure on the lower back, and they also help to activate and strengthen the glutes, which are generally underactive in back pain sufferers.
If you have suspension straps – TRX, blast straps, rings, etc. – they're also very shoulder friendly because they allow you to rotate your hands through a natural range of motion from pronated to supinated, which strengthens the rotator cuff. If you don't have straps, you can use a bar in a power rack or Smith machine.
The reason most people blow these off initially is that they just seem too easy. However, I'd urge you to try them first before jumping to conclusions. Elevating the feet on a bench so that the torso is parallel to the floor increases difficulty. Lying plates across the chest or wearing a weight vest are further progressions.
Once you've mastered regular inverted rows, try using "1.5" reps. Row up, come halfway down, row up again, then come all the way down. That's 1.

"1.5" reps help ensure that your form stays tight and allows you to concentrate on retracting your scapulae and getting a good contraction on every rep. If crappy form on rows has kept you from experiencing what an upper back pump feels like, you'll quickly find out with these. And you know what Arnold said about the pump, right?

5. One-Arm Inverted Rows

These are the mack daddy of all inverted row variations.
Set up as you normally would for an inverted row except hold only one strap. Extend the other arm straight up toward the ceiling and place your feet a little wider than normal for a more stable base.
To do these successfully requires extreme total body stiffness, so contract everything – glutes, core, lats, grip, the other arm – literally everything. When you're ready, row yourself up and reach the non-working arm straight towards the ceiling.
Your torso will want to rotate slightly towards the side of the working arm, which is fine as it allows you to achieve a greater range of motion on the row. Just don't allow your hips to sag. Lower yourself under control and repeat.
Each rep should be performed under control such that you could pause each rep at the point of contraction if need be. That's actually a good rule of thumb for all rows, but it's especially important here – if you start to get sloppy, you're putting your shoulder at risk of injury. You can also start with your feet on the floor if elevating them is too challenging at first.
While this is ostensibly a back exercise, it's really a total body exercise because every muscle from head to toe must fire to stay tight or you simply won't be able to do it.
I promise you that after trying this one, any preconceived notions you may have had about inverted rows being a sissy exercise will go right out the window.

6. Inverted Row "Slides"

Here's a good alternative if you don't have suspension straps.
Set up using a pronated grip with your hands slightly wider than what you'd use for the bench press. Pulling primarily with your right arm, pull yourself up towards your right hand until your chest touches the bar. From there, keeping your chest close to the bar and your torso level, slide yourself over to your left hand and lower yourself primarily using your left arm to bear the load. Alternate which side you pull to first on each successive rep.
Adding a unilateral element into the mix significantly enhances the difficulty of the row by forcing each arm to lift a greater percentage of your total bodyweight. Moreover, performing the slide at the top amplifies the intensity of the contraction and increases the core demands by forcing the torso to resist rotation.

7. Inverted Face Pulls

10 Exercises You've Never Tried: Posterior Chain

Face pulls are an excellent exercise to promote good shoulder health and strengthen the middle and lower traps. They should definitely be a mainstay in your program, especially if you emphasize the bench press (i.e. 99% of you reading this).
The inverted face pull using suspension straps is a great variation because you get all the benefits of a regular face pull with the added benefit of core stability that comes from handling your own bodyweight.
What's more, when you do these using cables or bands, you're forced to stand in an asymmetrical split stance and brace yourself to keep from getting pulled in towards the machine. Using suspension straps allows you to be more symmetrical and focus your efforts completely on the task at hand since you aren't being pulled off balance.
Set up just as you would for an inverted row, only instead of pulling your hands to your sides, pull just to the sides of your head. Control each rep and make sure to squeeze your scapulae together at the point of contraction. These are much tougher than they might look, so you'll want to start with your feet on the floor.

8. Inverted Row/Hamstring Bodycurl Combo

This is a cool exercise that works both the back and the hamstrings at once.
It's essentially an inverted row combined with an inverted hamstring bodycurl, which I discussed here. I like both exercises on their own, but they work even better in tandem.
As a standalone, the hamstring bodycurl is much harder than the inverted row. However, because you must hold an isometric contraction on each rep of the inverted row while you perform the leg curl, the difficulty of the row increases greatly. You're actually working both your back and hamstrings to the max. In terms of exercise economy, that's hard to beat.
That's all well and good if you do full body training, but where does it fit in if you follow an upper/lower split?
It depends. If you're quad dominant and want to bring up your hamstrings, you could include these on upper body days for some supplemental work. Conversely, if you need more upper back work – which most do – you could use it on your lower body days.
I use it on lower body days, but it doesn't really matter. While these are challenging, they won't tap into your recovery stores too much so it shouldn't throw off the rest of your training.

9. Banded "Iron Cross" Glute-Ham Raise

Speaking of combination exercises that work the whole backside at once, here's another doozy. It's a glute-ham raise, which I've written about extensively here, combined with an isometric band pull-apart.
Along with engaging the upper back and traps, holding the band in an isometric pull-apart helps ensure good posture and body positioning throughout the exercise. Some people have a tendency to slouch their shoulders and round their lower backs, but having the scapulae pinched together has a trickle-down effect throughout the body to help maintain rigidity and alignment.
If it's too much to handle at first, you can always use some band assistance to make it more manageable.

10. Back Extension/Rear Delt Raise Combo

Any time I mention the glute-ham raise, I invariably get the question: what about if I don't have access to a glute-ham apparatus?
You might think my answer would be to revert to the "natural" glute-ham raise – otherwise known as the Russian leg curl – but I'm not a fan. It's just flat-out too hard.
Very few people can do them without using a pushup for assistance at the bottom, and even fewer can do them with good form and hinging dramatically at the hips. They usually look ugly, so much so that I worry about the potential for a pulled hamstring.
Besides, I'm big on progressive resistance, and it's nearly impossible to gauge progress on an exercise where you can't even do one unassisted rep.
I think a better choice would be a 45-degree back extension, which is typically much more common in commercial gyms and can create a similar training effect as the glute-ham raise when done properly.
The problem with this exercise is that because it's often referred to as back hyperextensions – people are under the impression that the primary movement should be initiated by the back, so they flex the lumbar spine at the bottom and hyperextend at the top. Not good.
Instead, think about it as a hip extension where the glutes function as the primary extensor and the lumbar spine stays in neutral. You want to feel these almost entirely in the glutes and hamstrings; if you feel it a lot in the lower back, it's a sign you're probably doing it wrong.
To include some work for the upper back and posterior delts, you can add a rear delt raise. It won't take much weight to be challenging, but adding even a little weight to the arms in an outstretched position will significantly increase the challenge for the glutes and hamstrings by slowing down the movement and decreasing momentum, as well as slightly increasing the length of the lever arm.
Have Fun!
It should go without saying that the vast majority of your training should be built around the simple basics. But when you hit a plateau or grow bored of doing the same old stuff day in and day out, here are some cool tweaks you can try to spice things up.
Have fun and post your questions in the Live Spill!

Half-Pulls - Not Half-Assed

Half-Pulls – Not Half-Assed
That's what grandpa used to say when I'd help him with the yard work. Admittedly, I was quite the lazy ten year-old, but when the threat of the boot came down I'd straighten up and get the raking and mowing done. Instead of a half-ass, I'd become a full-ass.
Partial range of motion deadlifts, unfortunately, often receive a similar half-assed treatment. That's a downright shame as partial pulls can transform anemic deadlifts and skinny hamstrings into impressive full deadlifts and a posterior chain that gets noticed. It's time partial pulls get the respect they deserve.

Educating the Hips

Most of us have stupid hips. Sitting all day kills our hip IQ. It's like the old egg in a skillet as your brain on drugs metaphor. "This is your ass. This is your ass after eight hours in a chair." For normal working stiffs that just hop in the car and head home after work without a thought of deadlifting, that might be okay (although, it probably isn't).
But we're out for pulling dominance, so we need to reeducate our hips to recruit the right muscles at the right times.
Unfortunately, postural issues such as anterior pelvic tilt dominate many of us. This results in short (and usually weak) hip flexors, weak/inhibited glutes, and hamstrings that bail on us like a Kardashian with a pre-nup.
Without strong hamstrings to pick up the slack when our quad drive dies out, we're left incapable of pulling the bar past the knee barrier – too low for our glutes (if they're firing well) and lats to finish off the pull.
Basic partial-range pull variations like the rack pull and deadlift off blocks are great for taking the glutes and hamstrings to deadlift school. Because the bar is set anywhere from low on the shins to just below the knees, the involvement of the quads is limited. This gives the hamstrings a chance to let their true colors shine. Rather than hanging the glutes out to dry, the hamstrings get back to keeping the weight moving through the mid-range of the pull, provided we use weight that keeps us within the confines of good form.
As a bonus, we can also position our hips advantageously (with good hip-hinge mechanics) to recruit the hamstrings and glutes while the bar moves through the mid-range. Some coaches take exception to this notion, arguing that "pulling from an advantageous position doesn't carry over to the full range pull," to which I respectively say, "bullshit."
A good coach teaches movements in segments so their clients and athletes learn good form through each portion of a movement before being subjected to the Full Monty. This is referred to as a top-down training progression. The deadlift is no exception.
Teaching the hips to pull from different starting points gives the body a memory to draw on when the going gets tough and form starts to break down. And this lesson isn't just for the newbies – we veterans also need refreshers. Training for longer periods can often lead to subtle bad lifting habits. Breaking down the deadlift helps prevent these habits from becoming major issues.
Check out the video below for a rack pull refresher.
Notice that my hips are positioned where they would be if it were a full range deadlift. The glutes and hams squeeze the weight off the pins and the lats finish it off.
Below is an example of the deadlift off blocks. While they're less convenient than rack pulls, they more closely replicate a deadlift off the floor as the plates are resting on an elevated surface rather than the bar resting on pins. As you initiate the pull, the "slack" will come out of the bar and you'll get an inch before the weight starts moving, much like a full range deadlift.
The hip positioning is similar to a rack pull and deadlifts off of blocks can be loaded intensely. But if you're planning on training with Jim "Smitty' Smith of Diesel Strength, don't make the mistake I did. Start out with a hook grip, not an alternated one.
Smitty recommends the double overhand grip (with or without the thumb hook) because it's safer. Many athletes and gym goers alike stand with excessive internal rotation at the glenohumeral joints and kyphotic upper-back posture. This suboptimal posture puts stress on the biceps of the supinated arm during an alternated deadlift grip, thereby increasing the chance of a tear.

Finishing Power

Half-Pulls – Not Half-Assed

Speed-strength (high velocity low load) and strength-speed (high velocity high load) are both important for maximal strength. There are many technical terms that can be used here: rate coding, motor unit synchronization, and rate of force development are a few. But the important take away is the faster you move – or attempt to move – a weight, the more motor units you'll recruit. It's about hot, nasty speed.
Speed off the floor is necessary for a successful pull, and training for speed-strength can raise a deadlift number steadily, at least for a little while.
But where do we go when speed deads are no longer effective? When we've exhausted dynamic effort deadlifts versus bands and chains? When pulling from a deficit is no longer stoking the flame and heavy pull attempts are again failing at the knees, there has to be another strength catalyst. Thankfully, there is: the rack pull versus bands.

Rack Pulls Versus Bands

Half-Pulls – Not Half-Assed

With speed deads being an application of speed-strength, rack pulls versus bands work well as an application of strength-speed.
Training speed-strength will take you a long way, but as the weight you're able to move becomes heavier, strength-speed must become a focus. When max effort attempts become slow grinders it's strength-speed that maintains the power you've generated off the floor. Having good levels of strength-speed means you'll be able to keep the weight moving at a constant rate, rather than feeling it slow down as it approaches your knees.
Bands provide accommodating resistance by overloading the lockout, forcing bar acceleration throughout the entire pull. When training for speed, a standard rack pull won't cut it because deceleration will take precedence over acceleration as the bar approaches lockout.
The bands also keep us honest. Rather than slapping plates on the bar with typical meathead disregard, we have to account for the tension of the bands. Add too much bar weight and you'll be left doing the involuntary shakes when the bar hits mid-thigh.
To generate the most speed off the pins you must concentrate on tension and breathing. Make sure you're belly breathing, setting your grip as hard as possible and bracing your core hard (lats pulled tight, abs contracted). Also, reset between each rep. This will make the exercise safer and give you a chance to produce more power.
Like regular rack pulls, rack pulls versus bands can be done with the bar set anywhere from low on the shins to just below the knees. Just remember that the higher up your shins the bar is, the more band tension required.
Here are two examples of rack pulls versus bands; one mid-shins and one just below the knees.

Serious Back Mass

What if your goal isn't to pull as much iron as possible? Maybe you just want bigger, thicker lats and traps; perhaps an upper-back that makes shirt collars scream uncle? Partial range deadlifts can help build a yoke that would turn an ox green with envy.
The "how-to" is relatively simple and follows the normal rules of muscle hypertrophy. More weight plus more time under tension equals bigger muscles.
Rack pulls, along with other partial range deadlifts, can be loaded at a higher intensity than a full-range deadlift can be, creating greater amounts of muscular tension. Since the range of motion is decreased, we can also work with higher loads for a greater amount of reps, increasing the total time under tension.
So rather than being able to pull 400 pounds for 1-2 reps with a rack pull, you can rip it for a set of 6-8. It's a perfect equation for fantastic lats and traps, with the bonus being that the weight is moving mainly through the top half of the deadlift motion, where the lats are increasingly active.
Strong guys know that burning out your nervous system and diminishing your ability to recover by hitting high rep, full deadlifts isn't necessary. Keep the full range deadlift sets heavy and for low reps (1-5) and then add in partial range pulls during your assistance work for higher reps (6-8). If you want to get your back big in a hurry, high-rep rack pulls are a tool you can count on.

Pulling into a Partial Range Cycle

Half-Pulls – Not Half-Assed

A little while back I went through some deadlifting woes. Although it was a long, frustrating ordeal, it did allow me to experiment with my training. I eventually came up with a partial pull progression that had a great deal of carry-over to my conventional deadlift. If your deadlift is in a bad way, this cycle could be your guide back to the right track.
Check it out:
1Reverse band deadlift71*
2Mid-shin rack pull52-3
3High Bartley pull4/22/1
4Reverse band deadlift41*
So how the hell did reverse band deadlifts sneak into this cycle? It's supposed to be a partial range of motion cycle, right? Well, I count reverse band deadlifts as a partial range deadlift movement because the full effect of the weight isn't felt until the bar travels to your mid-shins, or beyond.
Not familiar with the reverse band deadlift? Here's a video demo:
Notice the bands going slack as the bar approaches lockout? Take another look at the video. Right before the bar gets to the knees the band tension dies, so does the assistance provided by the bands. I'm left by my lonesome to lock out the weight – but this is a good thing.
Again, the concentration has to be on bar speed. As the plates break the floor, the goal is to "race" the bands to the top. If you win the race you'll generate enough bar speed to keep heavy weights moving when the band tension dies, thus training you to pull fast during the top half of your deadlift. Lose the race and you'll be a hunched, frustrated man with iron in his hands that's dangling in rubber bands.
This cycle is great for training the lockout because it progresses from an assisted movement (reverse band deadlifts) to a movement that uses accommodating resistance (high Bartley pulls), then allows for the realization of the training adaptation during the fourth week.
You get faster while moving heavy weights because the focus is always on bar speed. The reverse band deadlift during week four can be replaced with conventional deads if you want to take advantage of the bar speed you gained during the previous three weeks. When I used this cycle, however, I waited until week six to test my deadlift, using week five as a down week and stepping away from the bar.

Pulling it all Together

I've got a little too much of my grandpa in me, so I'll never pardon a half-assed effort, be it in the weight-room or out in the real world. And considering partial range pulls can save your deadlift and kick-start some serious posterior chain development, you're only shooting your skinny self in the foot by not doing them.
So roll up your sleeves and hit those pulls with focus and intensity, and free yourself from deadlifting mediocrity. But before you do, finish your yard work – those leaves aren't going to rake themselves!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Nutrition and fitness resolutions for 2012 - The Washington Post

By ,

Jan. 1 is still a few days away, but it’s not too early to start thinking about ways to make 2012 your most healthful year yet. I touched base with some of the folks I interviewed for this column during 2011 to ask them about their plans for the coming year. Here are some of their resolutions for eating, drinking and being healthful through the holiday season and beyond.
Plant-based diet
“In 2012, I will be eating a mostly plant-based diet of root vegetables, lentils, garbanzo and black beans, unprocessed grains and my homegrown herbs and spices — and my own-grown papayas and pineapples — to target my entire detox system and for immune-strengthening benefits. My 2012 fitness goal: Bones willing, I am training to improve my marathon time, ride my bike more and maintain general fitness with yoga.”
Setting a good example
“God willing, I’ll go another year following my nutritionist’s plan for me, which proscribes not only refined sugar and refined grain but several other foods that I’ve proven I don’t eat moderately. I’ll continue to seek out whole foods grown sustainably, including in my two organic veggie gardens. My goal is not only to feed our family tasty, nutritious food but to show our 2-year-old, Joseph, that nutrition matters, and so does living our values. And I’ll keep spreading the science and experience of food addiction to all who will listen.”
Self-control strategy
“I find big resolutions are often broken. So I incorporate small steps along the way to long-term good health. For example, I’ve just begun an exercise in self-control that’s working. I start my lunch with an apple and a glass of water, and then I wait. Ten full minutes. Then I eat my actual lunch. The apple, the water and the food pause help me feel fuller, making my sandwich or salad more satisfying. In the new year, I’m going to try a similar exercise with dinner.”
— Duffy MacKay , vice president, Council for Responsible Nutrition
Treadmill trick
“Even though I’m a longtime vegan and eat healthfully, I’m a lazy exerciser. A few months ago, I set up a board on my treadmill so that I could place my laptop on it and walk slowly while working. Added to brisker outdoor walks, it’s amazing how easy it is to rack up 5 to 6 miles per day — sometimes more. In addition, I try to make each meal at least 50 percent raw. Between these two strategies, that stubborn weight creep around the middle has been melting away!”
— Nava Atlas , author of “Vegan Holiday Kitchen” and creator of the Web site VegKitchen
Greater grains
“The gluten-free diet can be high in empty carbohydrates, calories and fat. I write about and live the gluten-free lifestyle every day and even spent last year testing nearly 200 recipes for a gluten-free cookbook. You see where I’m going with this? I’ve got to lose five pounds. But I am not great about dieting to lose weight. After all, one diet is enough. So I am going to try to eat more legumes, vegetables and high-fiber gluten-free grains like quinoa, buckwheat groats, brown rice and amaranth. More grains and fewer cookies is my mantra for 2012.”
Nurturing others
“Staying healthy is not just for ourselves, nor even just for those we love, but for everyone our lives touch — even in the most indirect ways. Nurturing others often sets up a positive feedback loop, reducing our own stress, improving our health, giving us more to give. This holiday season, I’ll try to sing in harmony with my family, laugh with little kids and listen to my elders’ stories. As for food, health comes not just from what you eat, but how you eat (slowly enough to savor) and how you share — in peace. So that’s what I’ll try to pay attention to.”
How to incorporate veggie days
You may have noticed that a number of folks here mentioned making plant-based foods a bigger part of their diets. That’s a great idea. D.C.-based dietitian Jennifer K. Reilly advocates taking that effort a few steps further. Reilly, author of “Cooking With Trader Joe’s Cookbook: Skinny Dish!,” follows a mostly vegan diet and thinks many other people could benefit from eating less animal-based food.
Reilly knows that might be a daunting prospect for those who, like me, can’t imagine life without meat, cheese, milk or eggs. So she offers these ideas for easing into vegetable-oriented eating habits.
1 Workweek veggie days: “If you can’t move to a completely plant-powered diet, then a Monday-through-Friday or Monday-Wednesday-Friday plan is fantastic,” she says. “Enjoy beans and lentils for protein, and load half your plate with veggies to encourage satiety without breaking the bank on calories.”
2 Once-a-week vegan detox: Reilly says this is “a great way to keep your body running smoothly and keep your youthful looks and energy.” During the detox day, your diet should be free of gluten and refined sugars, and include 60 to 80 percent raw foods, lots of filtered water and herbal teas.
3 Sample vegan day: Green smoothie, raspberries, vegetables and hummus, brown rice and lentils, a large green salad with raw sunflower seeds and avocado, curried sweet potato soup, and raw vegetables dipped in tahini dressing. Says Reilly: “After 21 days of these new habits, they’ll be as solid as gold!”


Best Fish Oils | Fish Oil Supplements - Consumer Reports

Is fish oil right for you?

The super-popular supplement has its pros and cons

ShopSmart: December 2011

Supplemental education
Don't buy the claims about fish oil hook, line, and sinker. Photo by: Ted Morrison/Getty
People are snapping up more fish-oil supplements than ever. They're taking them to treat a long list of ailments: menstrual cramps, heart disease, asthma, bipolar disorder, high blood pressure, depression, psoriasis, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and pregnancy complications. But the supplements—made from mackerel, herring, and other fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA and DHA—aren't a cure-all. And based on our new tests, some of them aren't as pure as you might expect. (See Fish-oil pills vs. claims.) So who should take fish oil? Here's the answer to that question, plus some other essential information.

Who should take fish oil?

It could help people who have high levels of triglycerides, an artery-clogging fat that increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Fish oil may reduce those levels by 20 to 50 percent. People who have coronary heart disease should also consider taking it. Fish oil may lower their risk of a second heart attack, possibly because it slows or slightly reverses hardening of the coronary arteries.

How much?

Those with high triglycerides may need as much as 4 grams of combined EPA and DHA from capsules a day, used under a doctor's care. People with heart disease should consume 1 gram of those two fatty acids a day, either from eating 3.5 ounces of fatty fish, such as salmon, lake trout, or sardines, or from capsules after consultation with a physician. Healthy people should protect against heart disease by eating fatty fish at least twice a week. But women who are or may become pregnant and nursing mothers should avoid eating fish that is high in mercury, such as shark, swordfish, and tuna, and should eat only up to 12 ounces of fatty fish a week.

Who else might benefit?

Although the evidence isn't overwhelming, the supplements may modestly lower high blood pressure, ease menstrual and rheumatoid arthritis pain, and improve the symptoms of ADHD and asthma in children. They might also help with osteoporosis, kidney disease, bipolar disorder, and Raynaud's syndrome, a disorder that affects the arteries to the fingers and toes.

Who shouldn't bother?

Fish oil is unlikely to lower blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes or help gum infection, liver disease, migraines, allergic skin rashes, and stomach ulcers. There isn't enough evidence to say whether it protects against Alzheimer's disease, heart arrhythmia, depression, dry eyes, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, pregnancy complications, or cancer.

Is fish oil fattening?

A capsule containing 500 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids in 1 gram of oil has about 13 calories.

Who should never take it?
Fish oil is probably safe for most people in doses of 3 grams or less per day. Higher amounts might increase the risk of bleeding, increase LDL (bad) cholesterol, and impair immune function. And talk to your doctor before taking it if you have liver disease, bipolar disorder, depression, or diabetes, or if you take a blood pressure-lowering drug or a blood-thinning drug such as aspirin, or if you're getting chemotherapy treatments for cancer. (It's always a good idea to tell your doctor about all the supplements you take, whether you have one of those conditions or not.) Skip fish-oil supplements if you're allergic to fish or seafood, or if you have an implanted defibrillator to prevent irregular heartbeat.
This article first appeared in the January 2012 issue of ShopSmart Magazine.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Best Damn Bench Press Article Period

The Best Damn Bench Press Article Period

Like it or not, the bench press is the gold standard of upper body strength lifts. Critics frequently try to knock it down, calling it "over rated," "injurious," or the dreaded "not functional," but the bench press isn't going anywhere.
And for good reason. There's no better upper body lift than the bench press. What other upper body lift requires a good amount of leg drive, sufficiently activates the lats, delts, pecs, and tri's, is stable enough to allow for the hoisting of huge loads, and is specific to many sports due to the horizontal pressing nature of the lift?
The answer is, none!
  • Powerlifters perform the bench press as one of the "Big 3" lifts in their sport and have developed numerous variations to boost their strength.
  • Bodybuilders bench to build the pecs and triceps.
  • Bench pressing is so revered by everyday gym rats that the first day of the week has been renamed "International Bench Press Monday."
  • The bench press is used to measure upper body strength endurance in the NFL Combine Test, and it's correlated with many different sports performance markers.
Interestingly enough, despite all this, the bench press wasn't readily accepted by the weightlifting community.

History of the Bench Press

At the time when pressing from a lying-down position started cropping up around the lifting communities, standing exercises were the only lifts deemed "manly." Weightlifters scoffed at the pretty-boys who would lie on a bench to "expand their pecs." However, once women started swooning over the broad-chested bodybuilders, the weightlifters soon jumped on the bench-pressing bandwagon.
Interestingly, the bench press has evolved over the years, from floor, bridge, and belly toss variations to the methods used by bodybuilders and powerlifters today.
At first the strict floor press was the most popular method. In 1899, using a barbell with 19-inch discs (plates), George Hackenshmidt, inventor of the barbell hack squat, rolled a barbell over his face (which was turned to the side) and performed a strict floor press with 361 pounds. This stood as a record for 18 years until Joe Nordquest broke it by 2 pounds in 1916.
Around this time, new methods started gaining ground. Lifters started figuring out that strong glutes could help them get the bar from the ground to overhead. They'd lie on the floor and position the bar over their abdomens, then perform an explosive glute bridging movement, thus catapulting the bar overhead and catching it at lockout.
The heaviest weight lifted by way of this method belonged to heavyweight wrestler-strongman Georg Lurich, who "belly-tossed" 443 pounds in 1902. Critics argued that the "belly toss" method was more of a hip-power exercise rather than an upper-body strength exercise, as the triceps were simply being used to support the weight in a locked position.
In a lighter weight class, Arthur Saxon pressed 386 pounds using the same belly toss method, a record that was later bested by Joe Nordquest, who broke it by 2 pounds in 1917. This technique remained popular through much of the 1920s and 1930s.
Here's George Lurich, circa 1885:
The Best Damn Bench Press Article Period
Soon it became the norm to set up in a bridge position and perform a "press from back" variation, essentially turning the lift into a modified decline press. The other option was to set up normally and use the hips for a boost through a "bridge press" method. This variation differed from the belly toss and press from back methods in that the bridging motion (hip thrusting) was performed under control and held into position while the pecs and tri's contracted concentrically to finish the lift.
However, when Bill Lilly started setting records by bridging his surprisingly flexible spine and hips all the way to where the bar was locked out, with no separation of the barbell from the abdomen until the lift was completed, people started realizing the absurdity of this method as a demonstration of upper body strength.
Fortunately, Lily's flexible spine and hips sparked changes in acceptable form, although Lilly's 484-pound lift remained unchallenged throughout the 1930s.
The AAU outlawed the bridging maneuver by standardizing the pullover and press in 1939. This technique involved keeping the legs straight, the feet together, and the buttocks on the ground. Nevertheless, many wrestlers would still bridge, arching up onto their heads and performing "wrestler's bridges" while pressing, which required unbelievable neck strength.
Eventually floor pressers realized that small boxes and crates could be used to increase the exercise's range of motion and pectoralis activity, and before long specialized pieces of equipment were being manufactured. Throughout the 1940s, several types of horizontal presses were popular: the strict floor press, the belly toss, the press from back, the bridge press, and the bench press.


The Best Damn Bench Press Article Period

By the 1950s bodybuilding was on the rise, and full range of motion was deemed the best method for hypertrophy. At this time the bench press was crowned the king of upper body lifts. As benches grew sturdier, spotters gained competency, form improved, and supportive equipment evolved, bench press numbers have continued to rise.
In the 1950s, Doug Hepburn became the first man to bench 400 and 500 pounds with a pause on the chest. The first 600-pound lift belonged to Pat Casey in the 1960s while the first 700-pound bench is credited to Ted Arcidi in the 1980s. Tim Isaac became the first 800-pound bencher in the late 1990s while Gene Rychlak became the first 900-pound and 1,000-pound bencher in the early 2000s.
The current record belongs to Ryan Kennelly, who benched 1,075 pounds in 2008 with supportive equipment, while Scot Medelson holds the raw record at 715 pounds, which he performed in 2005.
Indeed, the bench press has received its fair share of controversy every step of the way. From day-one, lifters claimed it produced unequal chest to back development and created poor posture. This debate rages on today, with coaches questioning its functional transfer, safety, and optimal technique.
Just as the arched back technique was questioned long ago before actual benches were used, the current arched back technique popular in powerlifting is still frowned upon by many, as is the use of bench shirts.
One thing is certain; lifters will always seek ways to increase their strength on the bench. Before we delve into the various methods used to increase bench press strength, let's examine what the literature has to say about this exercise.

A Review of the Bench Press Literature

The Best Damn Bench Press Article Period
Substantial research has been conducted regarding the bench press and its variants. Probably the most important yet overlooked component to bench press performance is the importance of technique. Less experienced lifters differ from more experienced lifters in setup strategies, execution strategies, and overall technique (Madsen & McLaughlin 1984).
Researchers have debated the mechanisms behind the "sticky point," but we recommend that the sticky point not be thought of as a "point," but a "region." This region is characterized by a period of lower external force in relation to gravity resulting in a slowing of bar speed and a decrement in momentum.
A typical 1RM-attempt repetition may last around 1.8 seconds. The sticky region starts at around 2-4 tenths of a second into the concentric portion of the repetition and ends at around 8-9 tenths of a second, comprising around 25% of the duration of the shortening motion (Van den Tillaar & Ettema 2010; Elliot et al. 1989).
Two predominant theories exist which explain the reasons for the sticky region. Elliot et al. (1989) found that muscle activity remained unchanged in the prime movers and suggested that the occurrence happens as a result of the termination of the period of increased elastic strain energy from the reversal portion of the movement.
But the elastic assistance ends very quickly, thereby creating a burden for the active contractile components of the muscle fibers. This makes a lot of sense, but Van den Tillaar & Ettema (2010) found otherwise.
They showed that muscle activity in the prime movers was diminished during the sticky region, and proposed that a neural delay is created between the point where the muscle's leverages diminish and where the brain ramps up muscle activation to complete the movement., which we'll discuss later in the article.
Any serious lifter understands the importance of mental preparation before a heavy lift. Tod et al. (2005) conducted a very interesting study where they found that "psyching up" led to an 8% increase in force production compared to controls.
They also took a look at force production in a bench press when distracted and found that distracted lifters were unable to produce maximum force. A 12% difference existed between psyched up lifters and distracted lifters. This could amount to a 36-pound difference for a 300-pound bench presser!
Furthermore, we recommend that you concentrate diligently during your lifts and ditch any workout partner who likes to tell jokes or talk during your sets.
Power output during the bench press was shown to increase from 10% to 50% of 1-RM and then decrease from 50% to 90% 1-RM (Stock et al. 2010). This jibes with the findings of Siegal et al. (2002) who found optimal power loads at 40-60% of 1RM. Similarly, Jandacka & Uchytil (2011) found optimal loads at 30-50% of 1RM, while Pearson et al. (2009), found that maximum mean and peak power in the bench press occurred with loads of 53% and 50%, respectively.
Regarding tempo, Pryor et al. (2011) found that fast eccentrics with no rest in the bottom position resulted in the greatest power output gains when compared to slow eccentrics and pauses in the bottom position (something Thibs has been saying for years, which has finally been validated). For maximum power production, we also recommend incorporating bench throws, which have an optimal power load of 55% of 1RM bench press (Baker et al. 2001) and display higher levels of peak force compared to the bench press (Clark et al. 2008).
Multiple sets have been shown to be superior to single sets for strength gains in the bench press (Rhea et al. 2002).
As far as exercise order is concerned, the bench press is most often performed before exercises such as flies and dumbbell presses due to the increased total body musculature used in the barbell bench press, though all three offer similar levels of pectoral activation (Welsh et al. 2005). Rocha et al. (2007) found similar levels of pec activation between the bench press and pec deck, which lends credence to the findings of Welsh et al.
(Simao et al. 2005; Spineti et al. 2010).
As long as volume is matched, it appears that (Candow & Burke 2007;Arazi & Asadi 2011).
Following a high-intensity workout, women recover their max bench press strength in only four hours whereas men take 48 hours to recover (Judge & Burke 2010).
Women seeking increased bench press strength train the lift more frequently as they don't fatigue to the same degree as men on this exercise.
It's common knowledge amongst lifters that for pec activation, the clavicular head (upper pecs) is recruited more during an incline press, whereas the sternocostal head is recruited better in a flat bench press. Trebs et al. (2010) .
Barnett et al. (1995) found that the horizontal bench press activated the most sternocostal pec muscle and triceps fibers, close grip incline press activated the most clavicular pec fibers, and military press activated the most anterior delt fibers.
Lehman (2005) showed that a supinated (reverse) grip led to higher activation in the clavicular (upper) fibers compared to a regular grip and that narrower (close) grips led to higher triceps but lower pec activation than regular grip.
Glass and Armstrong (1997) examined the level of pectoral muscle activation between the decline press and incline press. They found that the decline press activated more lower pec fibers compared to the incline press, while the level of upper pec activation was similar between both lifts.
Clemens and Aaron (1997) found the wide grip bench press worked more prime mover musculature than narrow grip in all the major muscles.
Upon analyzing injuries during flat bench press, Green and Comfort (2007) explained how shoulder abduction at 45 degrees with a medium grip offered the safest method of bench press performance for the shoulder joint.
The Best Damn Bench Press Article Period
Massey et al. (2004) examined partial range of motion (ROM) training, full ROM training, and a combination of both. They found that none of the three categories resulted in superior strength gains of full ROM bench pressing, .
Regarding machine versus free weight bench pressing, Schick et al. (2010) demonstrated that . Researchers have also identified that a max free-weight bench press is significantly higher than a max Smith-machine bench press (Cotterman et al. 2005).
Research by Ignjatovic (2009) indicates that measures of static strength in the bench press don't correlate well with measures of dynamic bench pressing strength, so isometric outputs shouldn't be used to predict a 1RM.
Duffey and Challis (2011) found that there are considerable lateral forces at play when bench pressing. They used a special bar that allowed for the measurement of vertical and lateral forces and found that the "pulling apart" force exerted on the bar equaled roughly 25% of the upward force. It appears that the muscles involved in pressing the bar upward produce considerable outward forces as well.
The fact that triceps EMG is lower during dumbbell pressing compared to barbell pressing lends support to this theory (Saeterbakken et al. 2011). Elitefts has been preaching about spreading the bar apart during the bench for years.
"Forced reps" are quite popular, especially in commercial gyms. Drinkwater et al. (2007) found no significant difference in both strength and power gains between lifters using forced repetitions and those not using forced repetitions.
As a set progresses from first to last rep, bar speed slows down and the bar path shifts more to lifting over the shoulders rather than over the lower/middle chest area (Duffey & Challis 2007).
The bench press has an ascending strength curve, meaning that it becomes easier as the concentric range of motion rises. Elliot et al. (1989) found that bench pressing with an 81% 1RM load resulted in 48% of the lift being performed in an acceleration phase and 52% being performed in a deceleration phase. These periods of deceleration are necessary to prevent the bar from jolting the lifter upward at the termination of the lift. For this reason, amongst others, the use of variable resistance such as bands and chains are commonly used.
Bellar et al. (2011) showed that distributing the load with 15% band tension and 85% free weight tension allows for superior strength gains compared to free weights only. Burnham et al. (2010) demonstrated equal 1RM increases between chains of 5% total load and free weights only, similar to the results of McCurdy et al. (2009), who used greater proportions of chain to bar loads.
Using 15% chain load and 60% free weights for a total of 75% of 1RM, Baker and Newton (2009) found the method to be superior in enhancing concentric lifting velocity compared to using a regular 75% 1RM of free weight only. Studies suggest using 40-50% of 1RM with either chains or bands has the greatest effect on power variables (Ghigiarelli 2009).
Ojasto & Hakinen (2009) found that accentuated eccentric loading as in weight-releasers was more productive for power production when using lighter loads. Specifically, they found that concentric force reduced when supramaximal eccentric loads were used before a maximal concentric rep, yet they also found that when heavier eccentric loads were used for submaximal loading, concentric power was maximized. Doan et al. (2002) showed that accentuated eccentric loads through weight-releasers with 105% loads led to subsequent increases in concentric loads of 5-15 lbs.
Concerning stable versus unstable surfaces, it's been shown that bench pressing on unstable surfaces allows for an increase in activation of total body stabilizer muscles during the movement, and the mode of instability has the greatest effect on which areas of the body recruit more stabilizers (Norwood et al. 2007; Saeterbakken 2011).
For example, the triceps are used less but the biceps are used more during dumbbell pressing compared to barbell pressing (Saeterbakken 2011). The pectoralis major (chest) and shoulders showed similar recruitment patterns in both dumbbell versus barbell pressing (Saeterbakken 2011).
Koshida et al. (2008) demonstrated decreased peak power (10%), velocity (10%), and peak force (6%) when benching on a Swiss ball. Conversely, Goodman et al. (2008) reported no differences in 1RM strength and muscle activation during the traditional flat bench barbell press compared to the barbell Swiss ball bench press. Obviously more research is needed in this area as we doubt that elite bench pressers would be able to bench the same amount on a Swiss ball compared to a flat bench.
Santana et al. (2007) looked at the differences between a standing one-arm cable press and a traditional supine bench press and found that the barbell bench press was better for the pecs, shoulders, and erectors, whereas one-arm cable pressing was better for the lats and internal oblique. They confirmed that whole body stability and coordination were greater and thus more of a limiting factor in the standing version compared to the supine.
All types of stretching protocols for the pecs, shoulders, and triceps have been shown to have no effect on maximum bench press strength (Molacek et al. 2010). As for stretching between sets of bench press, Garcia Lopez et al. (2010) found that .
Researchers compared heavy resistance training only and combined heavy resistance training with ballistic training. The results showed greater significant increases in 1RM strength with the combined protocol compared to just heavy resistance training (Mangine et al. 2008).

Methods for Improving Bench Press Strength

The Best Damn Bench Press Article Period

This section will discuss bench press technique and showcase methods used for strengthening various ranges of motion and variations.


Your technique will be determined by your anatomy and goals. In comparison to powerlifters, most bodybuilders don't arch their backs as much, they flare their elbows out more, and they lower the bar higher onto their chest.
This indicates that bodybuilders know what they're talking about when it comes to muscle activation, but it's also very important to consider joint health. While there's no doubt that the guillotine press is superior for pectoral activation, it's also more dangerous for the shoulder joint.
Physiological responses to different technique options can vary. For example, some lifters can guillotine press their entire careers and never suffer any consequences. However, other lifters impinge their shoulders by simply glancing at someone performing a guillotine press.
At any rate, .
Another strategy for increasing pectoral involvement and decreasing triceps' involvement is to not "pull the bar down to your chest" by "spreading the bar apart." Doing this will allow the pecs to contribute more to the bar deceleration than if you used your triceps on the way down.
If you simply want to decrease the force contribution from the lower body and force the upper body muscle to do the work, then eliminate the leg drive during the ascent by placing your feet flat on the ground under your knees. Be sure not to drive into the ground during the press and concentrate on using only upper body force.
Varying the grip will also shift muscular contributions during the bench press. A closer grip would use the arms and shoulders more while the wider variation receives a greater contribution of force from the pectorals. If you'd like a bit more contribution from the triceps, simply keep your elbows tucked in throughout the movement.
In the end, these strategies are not absolutes. Some lifters may not get as much of a pronounced change as others by altering their bench press technique. The reason being is that lifters present varying levels of mobility, stability, weak points, and anthropometries. Some might experience a much different pressing feeling by using a different technique while others only feeling a slight change.

If interested in maximum strength, we recommend the following:

  • Don't ignore leg drive, experiment to find the best foot position for you, create a stable base, get the quads tight, and force the knees out to activate the glutes.
  • Set up onto the upper back and get a big lower back arch while "screwing" your scapulae down into the bench. Don't lose this position during the lift off and settle the bar overhead before lowering to your chest.
  • Experiment to find the best grip width for you, grip the bar as hard as possible while wrapping the bar tight with your thumb, and maintaining a neutral wrist position, and spread the bar apart throughout the lift.
  • Hold a huge breath and pull the bar down with the lats, initiate the press with the lats and focus on pushing your body away from the bench. Experiment with different bar paths to find the best path for you, release your breath only after you're passed the sticky region.
  • Don't bounce the bar off your chest or raise your butt off the bench during the lift.

Unique Methods for Improving Strength

Raw powerlifters should spend a significantly larger proportion of time focusing on bottom range bench press strength and using full range repetitions, whereas equipped powerlifters should dedicate more time building top-end strength since their bench shirts will provide tremendous elastic assistance at the bottom of the lift.

Most Important – the Standard Bench Press

If all you ever did was a standard bench press, you'd be okay. But the variations below will get you from point A to point B quicker if you train correctly.

Bottom Range Strength

In this video we showcase three different methods to increase your bottom range bench press strength:
Included are:
  • Pin press from bottom range
  • Bottom range yielding iso-hold
  • Bottom range overcoming iso-hold

Mid Range Strength

In this video we showcase four different methods to increase your mid range bench press strength:
  • Mid range yielding iso-hold
  • Mid range overcoming iso-hold
  • Dead-stop floor press
  • Pin press from mid range

Top Range Strength

In this video we showcase eight different methods to increase your top range bench press strength:
  • Floor press
  • Board press (1-4)
  • Pin press from top range
  • Top range yielding isohold
  • Top range overcoming isohold
  • Reverse band
  • Bench plus chains (Overloaded at top)
  • Bench plus bands (Overloaded at top)

Eccentric Strength

In this video we show you two different ways to overload the eccentric/negative/lowering phase:
  • Negative accentuated
  • Weight releasers


In this video we provide five methods for improving stability in a bench press:
  • Chain stability press
  • Kettlebell stability press
  • Dumbbell press
  • Alternating dumbbell press
  • One-arm dumbbell press

Weak Links and Variety

This video details several different variations that can and should be employed during various phases throughout the year:
  • Speed bench
  • Speed bench with chains
  • Speed bench with bands
  • Close grip bench press
  • Wide grip bench press
  • High incline press
  • Mid incline press
  • Low incline press
  • Decline press
  • Narrow neutral grip bar
  • Wide neutral grip bar
  • Thick bar


The Best Damn Bench Press Article Period

Many bodybuilders train the bench press once per week during their chest day with large amounts of volume. Many powerlifters train the bench press movement twice per week -- once with maximal loads, and once with maximum power outputs.
This is a good place to start, but all bodybuilders and powerlifters should experiment with form, variations, frequency, volume, and intensity to figure out what works best for them.
Generally, most lifters can handle two bench sessions per week. For hypertrophy purposes, perhaps one session per week focusing on the bench press and another focusing on the close-grip incline press is ideal. For maximum strength, perhaps one session per week focusing on the bench press and another focusing on the board press is ideal.
For hypertrophy purposes, we recommend a variety of rep ranges ranging from 3 x 10 to 10 x 3, ascending pyramids to descending pyramids, cluster sets to drop sets.
For max strength, we recommend staying under 5 reps and getting comfortable performing maximum singles. It's critical that you use good form to stay healthy over the long run, rotate variations to prevent pattern-overload and habituation, and consistently add load to the bar every year.
As far as the myriad of methods and variations shown in this article, don't be a jackass and try to do everything at once. The guy who ignores all the crazy methods and variations and focuses on straight sets of the standard bench press is usually much stronger than the douchebag who tries to perform every variation and method in existence. Every few weeks pick a new focus, and then rotate to a different focus.
Attention should be dedicated toward strengthening the shoulder external rotators and scapula retractors for structural balance. Exercises such as L-flies, band no-moneys, cable external rotation, face pulls, rear delt raises with scapular retraction, one arm rows, seated rows, one arm cable rows, chest supported rows, and inverted rows are very important to prevent negative postural adaptations and prevent future shoulder injuries.
Furthermore, push ups and overhead pressing and pulling help keep the scapulae working properly, which is vital long-term benching prowess, so don't ignore them, either.
If you're trying to maximize the functional transfer of your bench press and improve your athleticism, we recommend supplementing your existing program with JC Band presses, which will strengthen the hips and core to allow for more carryover, along with explosive work such as med-ball chest passes and plyo pushups, which will increase explosive power and reactive strength.
Of course having strong legs and hips through squatting, deadlifting, hip thrusting, and sled work will also go a long way in increasing your horizontal pushing power and will ensure that your upper body pressing transfer isn't limited by weaknesses and energy leaks down the kinetic chain.
We hope you enjoyed the history lesson, the literature review, and the videos. Now get to it!