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My Friend's Bench Press


Hey guys my best friend recently got interested in training and has been going to the gym with me 3x a week. I have him on Mark Rippetoe's starting strength which has been working wonders for the most part. He pulled 375 on deadlift after only 5 weeks of training and he's showing no visible signs of slowing down yet. He has never deadlifted before in his life. His squat has also exploded as I watched him do 215x6 below parallel yesterday like it was nothing, he probably had another 4 reps in him.

However, his bench press is not seeing the same remarkable progress. His bench press has been stuck at 145x5 for the last three weeks straight. I'm not sure what the problem is here.

A little background on my friend. He is 6 foot and a heavy guy, he probably weighs around 270. I'm assuming his lower body strength simply comes from carrying around his heavy body. He has legs like tree trunks. He works crazy hours as a chef at a local restaurant and is constantly hunched over a grill. My theory is that over time this has really weakened his upper back and shoulder muscles due to poor posture. He says he feels his shoulder blades "moving around" while he benches.

I started having him focus on military press and I think starting this week I'm going to throw in dumbbell rows to start strengthening his rhomboids. I know this is getting away from the starting strength program but something has to change because his bench press just isn't getting any stronger using 5x5.

Anyone have any ideas?


This stood out to me. Far as I know, a lot of plateaus are because form is off. Good benching form includes actively pinching your shoulder blades together.


How much can he row? Pull-up? If his entire upper body is shit, then his bench is going to be shit.


I know his upper body lifts are shit its just that he's not progressing using a program that is usually very effective for beginners.


He needs to work on the technical aspect of his lifting. It sounds he just doesn't have the hang of benching yet? That and his upper body as a whole needs strengthening.


EliteFTS did an instructional series called "So You Think You Can Bench?". Have him watch that.


What are he doing for lats and upperback at the moment?


Second that.


Thanks for your responses guys. Yeah his entire upper body is shit lol.

He can military press 95x8 and do one chin-up with 75 pounds assistance. I know that seems really, really shitty but keep in mind he is significantly overweight.

The only thing that concerned me is the starting strength program doesn't include any other upper body exercises then pull-ups, bench, and military press. This doesn't seem to be enough for my friend. I'll start including more upper body exercises.

Next time we bench I'm really gunna make sure he's keeping his upper back tight. It's probably a technical aspect because when he benches it just doesn't look quite right. I'll actually upload a video of him benching as soon as I can. That should help explain things better.

It's just strange because his lower body is developing at such an incredible rate. I want to see how fast I can get his deadlift to 500 pounds lol. I think I could do it within the next 6 months.


Push ups lots and lots of push ups, done properly it helps with scapular retraction. Keep tight all the way down and up and mix up the hand placement (i.e. wide, close, moderate). I don't do them on a day where I will be benching just on like back/bi day, what me and my training partner have done is make it a competition 10 standing curls, then 10 push ups we go until one of us taps out (about 7-10 sets). They helped me rehab a hurt shoulder, should help strengthen them.


To be honest, if he's that fat, then I wouldn't be too concerned about bench. Instead I would make sure he's getting enough complexes. Maybe some tabata squats. High volume legs days burns more fat. Not saying youre doing anything wrong, just offering another perspective.


Thanks. My current thinking is that it is a scapular retraction problem. I'm gunna have him so some pushups and see how that works out for him.