T Nation

Neuro failure on bench

Ok. I’m a really shitty bencher but once or twice a month I completely lose it on max attempts. Today I was working out with a partner (rare) and finished some doubles after pyramiding up about 6 sets. I did the last double fine but when we jumped up another 20# I unracked the bar and as soon as I unlocked my arms it came down almost uncontrolled. I had no lift at all in the bottom. My muscles totally failed. After that we dropped down to do reps of 10 for 2 more sets at a good working weight and I was fine. Any idea on how or why this happens? Its like my brain disconnects from the rest of my body.

Hey Lipo - I’ve had the same thing, and strangely enough, from memory it’s been only on dumbbell bench presses (I never do them with a barbell, screws with my elbows).

I know what you mean when you say it’s like your brain disconnects from the rest of your body. It’s way strange. You know it’s coming down quick and for the most part uncontrolled, but you can’t really do squat about it.

Bud, unfortunately I haven’t got the answer, except to say that all I can do for it is psyche myself up for the lift and stay VERY focused… it seems to help to concentrate on it as much as possible.

I think anyone who’s done max training has experienced this. Make sure you rest 3 mins between sets when you do max effort (not more to keep the stress on). If you get under a 10RM weight feeling like another day on a crappy job, you might get 8 reps instead of 10 having maybe 80% of your usual strength. Well, guess what? If you lift weight that requires 100% of your strength and you go in with anything less, get ready to be steam rolled. I used to psyche myself up BIG TIME before every heavy set but big Lou has an interesting outlook on that. He says that since max effort training mainly taxes your CNS, not your muscles to such an extent, psyching yourself up all the time will actually result in lowered performance since your system is already stressed and you’re trying to oog it on. Try to focus on form, that gets me good and ready. Get under, draw your blades together, check your footing, your back stability, take a few quick breaths, breathe in, hold it, unrack. By now you should be ready. Practice thinking about absolutely nothing (note telling yourself not to think doesn’t count, it’s just as distracting).

But of course, you will get to a point with so many sets with max effort that your CNS will shut down. I was doing rack lockouts yesterday and I got to 405 at the end and the pin about 3" off my chest felt good. I lowered it all the way. I couldn’t budge it on the next set. I had my spotter help me off and I thought I had it going but after I put it back, I saw that his face was almost as red as mine. :slight_smile: I thought I’d finish off light and had him take a plate off each side. Couldn’t even budge 315. My elbows and wrists were shaking and I called it quits for the day.

I’m no neurophysiologist, this is just from my personal experience but I hope one steps in and tells me if this stuff makes sense.

Definately sound mental, but also perhaps jumping up 20 lbs is a bit much. When you get close to your max every pound counts. Try going up only 5 lbs. and work your way up. Also, use your “chi” to control that weight. See Ian Kings advise in this weeks issue, his tidbits on the mental aspect of lifting will help you with your bench as well as your legs. If it comes crashing down your effort was totally useless. Lower the weight, and develope a program to fix your bench, or use one already in place. The “12 weeks to super strength” will help here. Also, see the article refering to “Working out with maximal weight” will be helpful.