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Disproportionately Weak Bench

I have been lifting for almost two years and I’ve gotten serious about it over the past year. Since day one, I’ve struggled mightily with bench pressing. (I have rather long arms and a flat chest, so the range of motion is insane). I have never neglected bench press training, but it still lags way behind my other lifts.

At a bodyweight of about 185lbs, my max bench is estimated to be anywhere from 180-190lbs, depending on the day. Meanwhile, I can probably squat 315 to slightly below parallel now (since I recently did 250x6 and I squat lower than anyone else in my gym), and I have deadlifted 405 with relative ease. (I use chalk ad a mixed grip, but no belt or straps).

I started Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 a few months ago, and it has been going pretty well. I am only deadlifting once a month, however, since my lifts are already out of proportion. (I do 3 sets of 3-5 rep deadlifts after my final set of squats on the 5-3-1 week, and yes, this surprisingly maintains my deadlift strength. Actually, it’s still increasing by a little each month).

I would really like to compete in power lifting one day, but I am afraid that my bench press will never be good enough. What advice do you have for me? I’d like to stick with 5/3/1 for a while, and eventually, I plan on shifting over to the 3/5/1 for Power Lifting (with heavy singles on weeks 1 and 3). I am just wondering if you guys have any advice of encouraging words. I don’t need to be the best bencher in a contest, but I don’t want to get laughed at, either. (Also, I’m confident that I could have the biggest deadlift, if I ever focused on that).

Last note - I think that I may have weak triceps, because I can strict curl with 20lbs more than I can strict skull crush (for the same number of reps). However, I can CGBP nearly the same that I “wide bench.” My wide bench is actually more of a medium grip, because my arms are so long that my front delts get rocked if my pinky fingers are out on the rings. For me, the most challenging part of benching is getting it the bar off of the chest. If I clear the first few inches, it goes up, so does that mean that it’s more my pecs that are weak?

When was “day one”? In other words, how long have you’ve been training. Also, there is no correlation between a person’s squat and bench press. Or their deadlift. And your numbers aren’t " off". If that was the case, then in high school I’d be WAY OFF.

Most people struggle with their bench press. And because it takes a lot of time, most people quit or make an excuse.
My advice is this: get bigger. Now most mouth breathers cry foul because it is no longer cool to say " get bigger" and they use the exception to prove the rule. These are also known as thick tongues. Avoid them.

So you need to be patient, eat and build muscle. Keep the main part of the program. After that, do volume work. In general, I’d aim for 100-200 reps a week of upper back and lats. 100 reps of pressing AFTER the main work.

Keep eating big, stretch, jump and condition. Ignore any of these or find an excuse or a new study or whatever that “justiifies” leaving it out and you will be behind the 8-ball. It took me about 10 years of this to get to an acceptable level. And really that is no time - all it takes is discipline and effort.

And why don’t you deadlift? That makes NO SENSE. None.

Do the program. Strength training isn’t about “proportions”. It’s about taking your body and mind to a new level.

Not trying to put you down, but to paraphrase something Wendler said before, “your weak point is that you’re weak”. Moving less than 200 lbs you don’t need to be trying to pinpoint a particular muscle group, you just need to get stronger. Give it time, practice and focus on the main lift. And a lot of food.

Also, there’s no minimum “good enough” requirement to do a competition. No one’s going to laugh at you, anyone worth a damn is going to understand and respect what it takes to lift seriously and have the guts to do a meet.

Another note, if competitive PL is what you’re doing, I don’t think you should cut DL training down so much that it’s only a secondary movement once a month. The sport revolves entirely around just 3 movements, and one of them you’re barely doing. That’s not to say you can’t put a little more effort into your weaker exercises, but I would do a little bit more than that. Maybe just run the program like normal but stick to the minimum weekly reps on deads, only repping out when you feel good.

The man himself responded while I was typing, so my new answer is " ^^^ what he said"

Thanks, Jim.
I have a deep and profound respect for you and the principles that you adhere to when it comes to strength training and life in general.
You also just made me realize how ridiculous it would be to try and keep my deadlift numbers at bay, just for the sake of ‘proportions’…
I’ll stop doing that now.

I’ve been lifting for 18 months, but I’ve only truly understood the importance of focusing on the major lifts for a year now. Prior to that, I wasted a lot of time on silly, recreational gym goer stuff. 5/3/1 fixed all of that, though.

I am posting a link underneath to help you with your power lifting techniques hope this helps out.

To echo what Jim said, there is no correlation between lifts, so don’t try to make sense out of it. For instance, I am tall and have long arms, yet the press and the bench are my best lifts with the deadlift coming in third. I am a shitty, shitty, squatter and that’s just the way it is. Does this make sense? Don’t know, don’t care.

If I want to squat big in the future, I will have to work harder at it than any other lift because that’s what I have to do…me, not someone else.

Enjoy your “good” lifts, work the hell out of your “bad” lifts, and enjoy yourself along the way.

Awesome video. Thanks, guys.