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Bench Press: Anyone Train Negatives?

Hey everyone,

I’m trying to attain my bench press goal of 125 kg/275 lbs/1.5xBW this year, which is miniscule compared to many of you, but a big milestone for me. I’ve been stalled at 117.5-120 kg for a while now and am trying to remedy my weakness off the chest with paused bench and more volume.

One thing I notice, though, is that I’m good at performing highish reps but tend to lose composure under maximal weight. When I used to train during my sport’s offseason as a teenager (over ten years ago, but still…), our coach used to program in one or two weeks per year of working up to supramaximal weights for reps. I used to wonder about the benefits of that, but I’ve also seen a few programs advocate negatives.

Does anyone here train with negative reps for bench press? How do you program these? Would this be a sensible solution for increasing my confidence under the bar and training overall tightness towards the end of the eccentric?

Thanks in advance!

I personally don’t know the benefits of training negatives, but it sounds like your coach was doing something similar to band work. Just trying to get you comfortable with a heavier weight giving you confidence when you try to preform a set with that weight. Usally thouhg when you stall out you need to fix something in your overall program.

Just try something new I’d say. If this is something that you really want to hit hard and knock it out of the way I’d just hit up a peaking program to settle your mind. I can say this what really got my pinned down on getting above a 275 pound bench was not thinking about the goal and just training. Then one day i hit 275 for a triple which came out of no where.

I’ve never trained negatives, so I am not qualified to answer on using those particularly. However I can vouch for overload/supramaximal work being helpful for this. I just personally think theres way better options than negatives. Not saying negatives dont work, theres some strong people that use em.

What I like for this is doing full movement, full ROM variations that use more weight. Touch and go with heavy elbow sleeves is the one Im currently using, at a quick guess my T&G w/ sleeves max is about 30 pounds higher than my competition bench. You can get even more overload with slingshots, reverse bands, things like that.

Also one thing Ive found thats kinda relevant, when working up to near max weights, the more warm up sets I do, the lighter the top set feels. If I go 225, 275, 315, 365, 405, it will feel like Im trying to bench a truck. If I work up in more sets the acclimation to the weight seems to work out better.

[quote]kgildner wrote:
Does anyone here train with negative reps for bench press? [/quote]

If you count reverse band benching, then yes I’ve done it and quite often. Contrary to what the raw zealots say, rev banding my bench got me to a raw 395 bench at 220#. This was after years of the standard, “from the bottom up”, stuff and stuck at 315ish…

Just don’t go “full retard” on yourself with 300# of band help. Keep it reasonable with the lighter bands most of the time if you are going to do it and try to keep your reps at 3 or more. After I’d work up to a 3 rm, Id ditch the bands and do a single with the weight I was using or as close to that as possible.

Rick Weil was a huge believer in training heavy negatives on bench.

I usually freak out under heavy weight and just mess up the bar path. I think upping more work in the 85-90% range helped. Also hammering my back work helped a lot. Another thing i found myself doing was getting way to psyched up for the lift and just screwing it up. I switched to techno and dubstep for my heavier sets. It got me pumped up but not kill everything psyched up.

Umbrata has good points it could be a mental thing and you got to just take a program that will get you there for reps. If you do heavy negatives make sure you have an adequate spotter…duh lol. I like holding out heavy weights at the end of benching sometimes or ill try a weight that I know I won’t do. My spotter hates me for it. Bands are a great tool that would help as well.

[quote]StrengthDawg wrote:

[quote]kgildner wrote:
Does anyone here train with negative reps for bench press? [/quote]

If you count reverse band benching, then yes I’ve done it and quite often. Contrary to what the raw zealots say, rev banding my bench got me to a raw 395 bench at 220#. This was after years of the standard, “from the bottom up”, stuff and stuck at 315ish…

Just don’t go “full retard” on yourself with 300# of band help. Keep it reasonable with the lighter bands most of the time if you are going to do it and try to keep your reps at 3 or more. After I’d work up to a 3 rm, Id ditch the bands and do a single with the weight I was using or as close to that as possible. [/quote]

Yes, avoid at all costs from going “full retard.” [Great reference, BTW.] You could also try weight releasers, which I used successfully to get past a plateau. I found using them was hard on the joints, though.

Do you have good rowing strength in relation to your bench? If not make sure you do. DB rows and Pendlays are my go-tos but BB rows and T-Bar rows work also.

When I hit a stalling point like that, I’ll do a scheme with paused reps like so:
-Load up touch n go 5 rep max
-Try to get it for 3 paused reps
-Work at it for a few sessions until you can get 5 paused reps with your old touch n go 5RM

Then when you go back to touch n go reps you should be stronger

Just don’t forgot accessory work for your shoulders, back and tris, if they are lagging your bench will too.

Thanks everyone for your replies! Some great advice in here.

@Umbrata Fortis: good idea; in training I seem to get a lot of sets in the 5-7 rep range and then a lot of heavier singles, but not too much work for heavy doubles or triples. Improving this would certainly help out my max.

@mkral55: thanks for the tip! It’s sometimes hard for me to gauge how much energy I should devote to my non-maximal sets, though. I train using 5/3/1 for powerlifting (big surprise) and try to add in heavy singles as much as I can handle. Last week, for example, I went 82.5 kg x 5, 92.5 kg x 3 and 105 kg x 1, then went on to a single at my training max (110 kg), 115 x 1 and then a frustrating miss at 120 kg. Do you think hitting another single at 117.5 kg would’ve given me an edge on the 120 kg? Or should I have added a rep or two at 105 kg?

@budreiser & akmcsnarfy: I do need to work on my lat strength. Did my last six-week cycle with Pendlay rows as assistance and was humbled (I think I was only doing triples at 90 kg). Will need to continue to hammer these out.

I was asked to train with someone for a bench-only meet next spring and might take him up on the offer. If I can bust through this plateau and see the possibility to use a peaking program, it’d be a good experience. Ideally I’d like to lift 140 kg at that point, but we’ll see.

Triples at 90kg isn’t ideal for your bench strength but I wouldn’t consider it that bad. Before my friend and I started doing a PL style split at the beginning of this month, his 1RM on bench was 115kg and he could only pendlay row 85kg for a triple and he’s already up to 100kg for a triple now. If you make an effort to keep your bench press:row ratio around 1:1, your lat strength will increase very quickly, along with your bench strength of course

Another thing you can try is to do heavy singles or doubles very often. You totally won’t burn yourself out with this if you choose the right weight and do not psyche yourself up like it is a max. Just leave 10 pounds or so in the tank for those singles. Or doubles.

I have never powerlifted, just lifted in general. One thing I have always heard about negatives and later experienced, is that they take very long to recover from. The workout to workout gains are huge but the workouts also have to be spaced at least two weeks apart (I found). I suppose you could have lighter “pumping” style workouts in between to help speed recovery.

I trained negatives on the bench a few years ago and my training partner and I decided that it wasn’t worth it. We would rather have just gotten more workouts in during the same two week period. As effective as it was, it simply took too long to be able to train heavy again. Right before a vacation though would be ideal though.

Just my two cents.

I once read somewhere that you should take your goal weight and unrack it each workout and just hold it a few seconds at lockout. Not really a negative, but somewhat related I guess. I do this sometimes just to give myself the feel of unracking and holding something beyond what I can press. I don’t know if it helps my strength but it I know it helps my mind.

Now when I unrack and hold a big lift I don’t get intimidated in those first few seconds before I even attempt the lift. That feeling of dread when you unrack a heavy lift will kill your chances on bench or squat. You need to be steady and confident all the way to failure or success. I wonder if negatives work similarly by training your mind to get used to being crushed under heavy weight.

The biggest thing to help my bench, was rest pause, taking a 3 rep max, and getting 10 reps with it rest pause, 3x2, 4x1, never getting off the bench, just racking the weight, and counting to 30sec. then next set. I was stuck at 365 for over a year, and this technique got me past 400.

Two bench sessions a week. One like above, rest pause, then one for reps, wave training is good for this, take your 10rep max, and get 100 reps, doing waves 10 - 6 - 4 / 10 - 6 -4,/ 5 times through this cycle is 100 reps. Thats what got my bench moving,
Day 1, heavy rest pause,
Day 2, high rep wave training

This is what worked for me, Goodluck

Good topic. I’ve hit a stall period as well on bench - I like AnytimeJake’s suggestion. I am doing a version of CT’s layer currently, and think I will use Jake’s idea once I complete in few weeks. I like the 90% 1RM cluster, as it is improving my work capacity in the heavier weight range, but I can see where the 100 reps would be beneficial as well. Thanks Jake for sharing that.

[quote]thegymismyshrink wrote:
I wonder if negatives work similarly by training your mind to get used to being crushed under heavy weight.[/quote]

Reverse bands certainly do. Back when I could press 395 I could a triple with 405 with a rev mini band and with an average band press with 495. Taking 495 for a ride made anything in the 300’s feel light as shit. Jedi mind tricks man. I would set the bands up so that “it was all me” for the first / last 6" or so. It works.

[quote]kgildner wrote:
One thing I notice, though, is that I’m good at performing highish reps but tend to lose composure under maximal weight.

Would this be a sensible solution for increasing my confidence under the bar and training overall tightness towards the end of the eccentric?
[/quote]

1.) Imo, the best thing to do to get good at heavy singles is to just train that heavy more frequently. One of the great advantages of the “pseudo-Bulgarian” approach is just that. Going very heavy every day will significantly reduce your “fear” for the big weights. You don’t have to do the whole daily max thing 5-7 days a week to reap the benefit.

2.) Dr. Squat was also a proponent of heavy negatives. Look up one of his programs for some programming ideas - I think he just had you do a session incl. negatives every 5 or 7 days.

3.) Are you SURE that your setup is good? A great, tight setup will make even heavy weights “feel” light in your hands, which helps confidence a lot. In other works, nothing kills your confidence more than weights feeling heavy as shit after unracking.

Awesome, thanks again everyone for the input.

IS, as per your advice I’m going to try at least going to my training max at every workout and then doing some iso holds at the top of my PR weight in order to gain confidence under the bar.

Any tips, by the way, for peaking programs for the bench press? As I mentioned, there’s a comp in early March that an acquaintance is interested in training for and entering with me. I have read that the six-week Russian squat program can be used well for purposes of peaking… What about Smolov Jr.?

Somolv Jr, did only awesome things for my squat !