Monday, July 16, 2012

The Lifer Series - Part 3 - I will push heavy things

Generally speaking, it's not hard to talk the average gym goer into bench pressing.  I mean, walk into a commercial gym on Monday, and how many guys will be benching?

"It's chest day, brah."

That generally means something like so....

Bench Pressing....where everyone in the group works up to a max where the spotters hands never leave the bar.  They bounce their "max attempts" and then proceed to do glute bridges and fuck an imaginary fairy, shooting their hips straight up, shuffling their feet around like they are having a tap dancing contest with Gregory Hines (who is also dead), then of course are screamed and yelled at using the magic bro phrase...."all you man, all you".

After that they usually incline press.  Using something to the tune of about half of what they used on the bench press, or less.  Then they decline.  Only God knows why.  Then of course, they go to the pec-deck machine and lavish over it like it's the God of money, wisdom, and power.

They leave the gym chest puffed out, with of course imaginary lat syndrome.  Why, I don't know.  You didn't work lats or back.  I'm always amazed.

What I generally don't see guys doing is the following.

Close Grip Benching with a pause.  This is hard, and it's an ego destroyer.

I know this, because when I had to make the change to doing it, my pressing ability in that fashion was shit.  If your setup is not tight and sound, it will expose you for the weak bitch that you are.

I don't see guys doing a lot of heavy dips.

I know this can be hard on some guys shoulders, but if you can bench press with your elbows flared completely out to the side, I'm not sure how you can't do some weighted dips, in terms of shoulder issues.  Even I can do weighted dips if my pec minor isn't flared up, and I have a permanently dislocated shoulder.

I don't see a lot of standing overhead press.

Most guys prefer to do shoulder on machines.  It's easier.

Pressing is pressing, is pressing really.  However in most commercial gyms watching guys press is a sad state of affairs.  99% of guys know nothing about how to set up for a good bench press, and even fewer have a decent ratio in terms of their bench to incline to overhead press.

You should be strong at pressing from any angle.  If you aren't, then get better at it.  When you do, you will improve in the other presses as well.

You should also learn how to bench properly.  Driving your upperback hard into the bench, getting your legs tight into the floor to create a foundation to press from, and pausing your initial rep, to show that YOU control the weight and not the other way around.

I get asked, "should I do low reps or high reps for pressing, Paul?"

Why not both?  Training some cycled singles on bench, do medium reps on incline, high reps on dips, low reps on standing press, high reps on db pressing, etc.  This covers all the bases.  Just don't get caught doing the same shit over and over again, or in an unproductive cycle of repetitive training behavior.

If you find a way to press that's hard, or you suck at it, press that way a LOT.  The better you get at the things you are terrible at, the better you will be at the things you excel at.  This is a time proven theory.

Don't be a "chest day, brah" guy.  Be a guy that is in there to press heavy shit, and can do so from any angle or on any movement.  Pressing is a huge part of being strong, obviously, but you don't want to be that guy who was a one trick pony.  Get good at pressing, period.  Put your time in on the incline, various overhead work, dipping and such.

You don't have to goad most guys into pressing hard and heavy.  Just make sure you are doing so on more than the flat bench.


  1. Recall that zyzz's brother is named "chestbrah". You don't want to be him.

  2. I've been putting a lot of effort into my pressing recently. Got something heavy to pick up off the ground? I'm your man. But presses are not my strong point right now.

    Specifically I've been doing strict presses along with close-grips; slowly inching forward.

  3. Close grip is hard...I found that out. I'm not 'strong' compared to most, at probably a max bench of 230ish, but I've been doing close grip pause benching with a thumbless grip. For my 4th exercise I struggle to do 3 sets of 125 for 8-12 reps and I'm pushing it with all I got lol.

    But since I added this exercise, I think its one of the main reasons my bench is improving.

    In the power rack of course since I don't like or trust spotters and it is suicide grip. I've actually seen 1 person besides myself in almost 3 years bench in the power rack.....I was shocked.

  4. Paul,

    A few questions if you don't mind.

    1. How long of a pause on paused squat I was thinking 2sec but what do you think?

    2. (I have read SLL) With the back off set for staple lifts (70-77%) from what I have read you recommend barbell to barbell (same angle or different angle as staple lift). I was wondering if you can go from staple barbell lift to a back off set with DB (same angle or different angle as staple lift) for medium to high reps?

    Bench Press Barbell cycle
    Incline Press BB as back-off

    What I am suggesting if possible is
    Incline Press BB cycle
    DB Bench Press as back off for 8-20 reps (would the 70-77% matter here)


    1. Answered this on the facebook page but not everyone has FB.....

      1. So long as you can tell it's paused, it's a pause.

      2. Do the program AS WRITTEN. I believe in the post notes I said don't ask if you can change something if you haven't ran it 6+ weeks AS WRITTEN first.

  5. Thanks Paul and will do run it like it is as you said. Come to realize SLL is your bread and butter from years in the trenches and you have created something that will work for everybody so if it ain't broke don't fix it.

  6. Paul . . . the "chest brah" was me in college and I knew even then I was fooling myself. But then dinked and dunked around . . . now 36 yrs old and finally taking care of technique/programming. Thanks!

  7. Paul, a coaching question here..

    I've been working on training my girl in the gym and she's definitely still a complete noob to lifting. She doesn't have a very athletic background and lacks coordination that way, whereas I'm the opposite.

    Anyway, teaching her the squat has been a headache. No matter how many different mental cues I can give her for certain parts of the lift (such as hips back, opening the groin, keeping the torso bent forward slightly), she just can't get it. She tends to sit back very straight up and down and lose her balance forward or if she actually manages to get down far enough, she goes too far, loses her arch and comes up on her toes, which hurts her knee (obviously). It's a mess (this is all just with bodyweight only btw). Do you have any general advice for teaching someone the squat that is a noob and has a very limited athletic background/coordination? Any mental cues to have them 'get' the concepts? It's very tough to get her to understand and feel the movement.

    1. Put her on the box for box squats for a while. When she understands the basic mechanics of the squat just take the box away.

  8. Sorry if you've already addressed this, but why do you dislike decline bench, and why is your shoulder permanently dislocated?

  9. This might sound weird, but how low one should go on dips?

    I always see people going arm parallel to the floor, with the shoulder joint and elbow aligned.

    But when I do dips, my shoulder almost touches my hands. Is it an issue of shoulder mobility or am I doing something wrong?

    1. The back of the tricep hitting parallel is about right. Sounds like you are just ultra flexible in that movement. Nothing wrong with that.