Genetic Limits or Bad Technique ?

Guys - one of my long-time targets is the 300-400-500 bench/squat/deadlift. I started out about 25 years ago as a very weak 15-year old, and still remember my pathetic 88 pound personal-best bench. At 40 today, my recent bests (competition) are as follows:

Squat = 422
Deadlift = 468

So, I have surpassed the squat target, and am inching toward the deadlift. The problem is my embarassingly weak bench, which simply will not budge above a crap 265 pounds.

I have honestly tried everything - special Bulgarian / Russian programs, Westside protocols, isometrics, plyometrics, you name it I’ve done it, and while my training partners make progress, I just stay stuck.

Is it possible that my “genetic limit” is so low ? Can it be that my physique is just incapable of lifting more ?(187 pounds, 6’1’',8% BF, long legs, long arms, very short torso). Or is this a technique problem, WTF ?

Dr. D

My answer would be you maybe have met your limit at your current weight. I’m definitely impressed at your numbers considering your height/weight/BF. I would venture to guess that if you really worked at getting to 200-210 lbs you would probably see your numbers move. However, at 40 y/o and 8% BF you may not want to make that sacrifice since you obviously have your diet and composition locked in.

Sorry, I forgot to add: have you had anyone look at your bench technique? I know when I started lifting with powerlifters and really focusing on tricep strength my bench went up pretty dramatically.

I noticed from another post that you have done a few cycles of anavar, but only while cutting (ie hypocaloric). Try doing a cycle with above maintenance calories. My bet is your strength will go through the roof.

Thanks for your responses gents.

Three valid points:

  1. Tricep Strength. This is a problem, indeed. The way I bench is definitely pec-primary.

  2. Technique. Unfortunately, no one has ever corrected my form, and I therefore bench the way I read I should bench. It could well be that I am doing something wrong.

  3. It is true that I am more often than not in a (mild)hypocaloric state in order to stay lean, and all AAS cycles I have ever done were done in a diet context, to preserve LBM. I have never “bulked”, so I don’t know if this would improve my bench.

Here’s a strange thing: I can incline-bench almost the same weight, while my training partners can’t even come close to their flat PRs. Does this suggest some kind of imbalance ? Tricep versus Delt versu Pec ?

Thanks again, Dr. D

Since you said you might be lacking tricep strength try some ring dips. My bench has never really grown but over the summer I started doing ring dips & did hardly any benching (& never heavy) and then my bench improved by a good 20lbs. I could really notice a difference too, after building the strength required to stabilize from ring dips I felt so much stronger moving the weight in the bench.
Just a thought.
good luck

I deifnitely agree that if you will go hypercaloric for a time your strength will shoot up pretty quickly. Tricep strength can be taken care of with close grip press, floor press, board pressing, DB benching, and even overhead pressing.

You may even want to get away from regular benching for a time and do some overhead pressing and other exercises for a while. try it 4-6 weeks and come back to the bench and see what happens.

Had another think about this one. Given your current weight, height and build, you are probably not too far off the maximum possible. For your height you could afford to carry a little more mass, say 200 lbs at the same bf%. I think if you bulk up to this level, you may find you achieve your objective.

Sharetrader - you have a fair point: If I could build up to 200 pounds at 8% BF, then it stands to reason that my bench will increase, since I will, after all, be carrying more muscle.

Of course, I would then substitute one problem - getting stronger at the same weight - with a different problem, gaining muscle without getting fat :slight_smile:

Before I go this route, I think I’ll try some suggestions from other posters, such as working on tricep strength. Ring dips sound evil.

BTW - what is the idea behind floor presses ? Is this a good assistance exercise for bench ?

Thanks to all,

Dr. D

Where is your sticking point ? When you bench do you fail right off your chest,somewhere in the middle or the last couple of inches at lock out.If you always fail at your chest try working on your leg drive .Do you bench flat footed or on your toes?

Also make sure your concentrating on your lats on the way down.If your failing in the middle , try some board presses and floor presses.Work the hell out of your triceps and back.You should really think about adding some body weight that will definately move your bench up.

[quote]dr dimitri wrote:
BTW - what is the idea behind floor presses ? Is this a good assistance exercise for bench ?

Thanks to all,

Dr. D[/quote]

Board presses and floor presses are a technique to put emphasis on the mid to lock out portions of the bench press.

One of the first things to do is have your form checked and corrected by someone capable. As you have stated, you think your form is very much chest dependent. A few minor changes can make a huge difference in your performance.

Give yourself some time to adjust to the changes in form and technique, possibly up to a couple of months. Once you have made the necessary changes to your form, you should start troubleshooting for weakness.

Jumping to boards, bands, chains and floor press is about 3 steps ahead of where you need to be.

Thanks again for your thoughtful responses.

a. My sticking point is about 2 inches off my chest. At 300 pounds I can “explode” the bar off my chest to a height of about 2 inches, hold it there for about a full second, and then crash. At this sticking point, I feel that just a millimeter of upward movement, and I would have the weight.

b. My technique, judged by PL standards, is that of an “advanced beginner”. I use the pre-fix “advanced” because I am at least aware of how to hold, balance, & control the barbell. Since I have never met anyone who powerlifts here in Greece, I have to rely on what I read as far as technique is concerned, without being able to tell whether I am doing it right or not.

c. My triceps are relatively weak, case closed. This would seem to be a good starting point to focus on.

d. Leg drive during bench: I am embarassed to admit that I have no idea what I am doing with my legs, nor am I sure what I should be doing.

Thanks to all,

Dr. D.

Hmmmm…as far as I have read from Westside, try adding some band tension and a DE bench day.

Your triceps may be weak but Im not to sure thats your major issue.You should look for a video on how to set up on the bench.A good arch could take most of that two inches away.Then with a little leg drive and more back work you could get the bar past that point.

Also if your not sure about your legs you may be getting loose in the bottom.Huge breath ,stay tight ,lower with your lats ,touch,then drive your heals into the ground.I always think about the bar hitting a button that makes my heals go off.Practice your set up even with light weights.

Another: Convincing reasoning, thanks.

OK, after considering all responses (for which I am sincerely grateful), I will proceed as follows:

  1. Work on my set-up, and bench this way all the time, not just on max attempts. I need to focus on breath, arch, leg-drive, staying tight, and this “pulling” with the lats that seems so hard to master.

  2. Strengthen my triceps: Presses & dips.

Let’s see if I can get any closer to this 300 !

Dr. D.

How long have you been bench pressing for week in week out? If you have included this exercise constantly in your program, getting rid of it for a few weeks could do the trick. You could substitute it with decline presses, DB presses, close grip presses, board or floor presses etc. Laying off from the bench could be just what you need, both phycologically and physiologically.

Finally do not believe you have reached your genetic potential. Believe you will hit those 3 plates a side! Remember, what you focus on often becomes your idea of reality. Ditch the limiting beliefs…

elliotneman1 -

Yep, I think that sums it up well.

I do not believe that the 3-plate limit is a problem of genetic potential for me after all, and thanks to the responses on this thread, I have plenty of practical suggestions to work on.

I am coming back from a broken hand (last year) and a broken ankle (this year), so I have only been working close to max weights for the past 2 months.

You are perhaps right that it’s time for a lay-off: I think I’ll lay off direct bench work for a bit, emphasize triceps work, practice my form on my dynamic-effort day (@ 40% 1-rep max), see if I can’t beat my 265 max in 2 or 3 weeks.

Is it realistic to expect to improve my bench by 35 pounds in, say, a year ?

Dr. D.