Crap Bencher, Average Puller

Hi CT,

I’ve always liked pulling exercises more than bench pressing, so much so that I have hardly trained bench press. I have a not-so-crap DL (390 lbs is my max), but can probably only bench around 135-150 lbs. One of my aims during this I3G phase is to increase my BP, while not neglecting my pulling. I’ve heard that the best bench pressers are body builders and this is one lift where strength increases can come with high volume. Do you subscribe to this view? If so, would you recommend me doing some pressing movement 4-5 days a week? (I plan to train 6 days a week).

I’d appreciate your time!

@darkmatter - until CT arrives to help you out I’ll take a stab at this:

First off, you can count yourself lucky that you prefer pulling and have not spent years doing far more pressing than pulling like most (myself included) have done in their younger years. Your shoulders will thank you for this and, theoretically anyway, all that pulling should have built a solid base of strength that you can now learn to press from. The lats and upper back are the foundation for a strong press and many guys lack this so you could be ahead of the game there.

Another advantage that you could have here is that you are in a position to actually learn how to press properly before pounding out thousands of reps with shitty technique which, once again, is how myself and countless other lifters started out. You will find tons of information and misinformation out there on how to press properly. Keep in mind that lots of benching tips that you will find refer to pressing technique for lifters using powerlifting gear (denim shirts etc) which presumably you won’t be using. This technique is very different from raw benching so make sure you are looking at the right information for you. You can’t go wrong with Wendler’s info on this and anything CT says on the subject will be gold as well.

As far as your having been told that ‘the best benchers are bodybuilders’…well, I’ll just leave that alone. That statement is ridiculous for a number of reasons. Having said that, an increase in frequency is beneficial when trying to master any new lift or skill so performing pressing work 2-3 days per week will serve you well here (provided overall volume, exercise selection, and synergy with the remainder of your training program are properly addressed). For a more detailed answer on how to program in the increased frequency you may want to provide CT with more info regarding your program and goals.

How’s that for a non-comittal answer? Hope it helped in some way.

(1) Bodybuilders are generally not the best bench pressers (technique or strength-wise).

In fact except for some exceptions (e.g. John Meadows who started out at Westside Barbell, Stan Efferding and Johnny Jackson who are also competitive powerlifters, Amit Sapir who was a competitive olympic lifter and powerlifter before doing bodybuilding, etc.) most bodybuilder use a bad bench pressing technique, at least versus powerlifters.

From my experience I’d say that raw powerlifters have the best bench press technique if you want to bench big weights.

(2) At your level of development not only is it okay to bench press frequentely but also a good idea. You aren’t strong enough on that lift to imposte too much loading on your structure and you need to master perfect liftign technique… learning and mastering technique is motor learning and motor learning is all abotu FREQUENCY of practice NOT volume.

That having been said, it can be a double-edged sword… if you practice the bench press frequentely but with bad technique you will automatize bad technique and it will be much harder to correct in the future.

My recommendation is to bench press as often as possible. A good approach would be 3 “real” workouts… something like 5 sets of 5 reps on non-consecutive days and 2-3 days of light practice work where you simply work on perfecting your movement pattern and groove with weights that do not exceed 60-70% of your max, not doing more than 5 reps per set. We do not want any faitgue on the practice days.

@dave-g: Thanks very much for your detailed answer. Yeah, the body-builders being good pressers is something I heard (from more than one source), which is why I put that in – maybe I shouldn’t have :slight_smile:

Also, I have been looking up your I3G log and your training is quite inspiring. Thanks again for taking the time to reply, and I’ll keep your advice in mind.

@CT: Thanks very much for your reply. I’ll put in the practice sessions after my squat and deadlift sessions, and space the 3 main BP workouts through the week. This, as you mentioned, should give me good frequency. Since I am starting from the beginning in this lift, my first (rather modest) goal is to bench 135 for 10 reps and progress from there.

Thanks again!