Transitioning from Raw to Equipped Bench

Recently purchased a Titan Fury for dirt cheap that happens to be listed as Meet Fit for me (and I have disproportionately thick arms so it is tiiiiiiight) and been working in it a bit just kinda fooling around to see if I’m cut out for this. I’ve had shoulder issues for 10 weeks after my last raw max and in the shirt I have had absolutely zero pain even working at and slightly higher than my raw max so far which feels incredible so I would like to hopefully get better in this and make progress.

I managed to touch no problem my first time in it, it was hella uncomfortable and it felt like the material was gonna shear my nipples off or blow up my triceps but touched no problem. 2nd session I already knew how the pain was gonna feel so I was ready for it and just rowed the bar hard to the touch point (Figure it’s like a bandaid, hurts more to go slow) and again no touch issues. My current issue I have identified is timing the elbow flare with the ‘pop’ and I guess learning to press more toward the ceiling and not toward the rack because I have hit the rack a couple times now and had the bar half-racked and half on the safeties. No big issue, I set up with my head behind the upright and the safety arms are high enough so I’m fine but it’s annoying.

Anecdotes over, the real questions I’d like help on:

  1. Is it possible to press more or less straight up off the chest as opposed to a sort of arcing path toward the rack? I press straight up on raw, but the (very limited) tutorials on shirted benching always has guys doing an arc path and I seem to not be going vertical enough as I go back sometimes so that arc falls short of the proper height to re-rack it.

  2. Are boards necessary for training or can I attack this like normal raw work? Such as just doing 3x3, 5x5 etc full reps to the chest (Well, upper abdomen almost) and back up to lockout. I have boards in the gym but my brain is telling me that working the full range of motion seems to make more sense, though I admit ignorance on the topic of actually training in this thing.

  3. Should I treat this as if I am a 100% newb all over again and use light loads (50-60% max) to essentially do form work/learn the lift as if I had never benched in my life for a bit? Or is that something that wouldn’t seemingly help in any reasonable way?

Appreciate any advice. I have digested as much info as I can from videos, articles and forum posts but I am still left with these questions. Raw max is 375 and my best shirted rep so far is 370 which, although substantially easier in the shirt, is still sub-max which makes me wonder why people honestly think everyone just benches 1000 their first day in a shirt lol. “Just throw on a shirt” does not, in fact, raise your press lmao.

  1. that’s a lat weakness generally if it’s drifting that far back over your face. You can press straight up but you’ll never lock out as most shirts are designed to flare back. You can find some single ply that is made for straighter benching with little arch.

Not necessary, but helpful. Especially to get adjusted to heavier loads and build the CNS and motor control.

If you can touch with 60% your shirt is way too loose. So you need to practice 3-5 sets of 1-3 reps to build up tolerance.

I’m going to say your shirt is too loose in the chest, but we can work with what you got. You can play around with how you put your arms in the shirt to make it “tighter” on the chest.

Videos would help the most but basically start with every 3rd week in the shirt. I’d probably say go 2 board for 3x3 for the first few times. Then work down to a 1 board and touching. Just to get the body adjusted to the heavier loads.

I’m not a fan of anything past 3 reps in a shirt personally.

  1. Shortest path is a straight line. Basically I drop the weight and tuck the elbows as hard as possible. Touch low at bottom of sternum/top of belly area and throw it up. Some on here are far better with technique but it works well for me.

If you’re in the market for a new shirt and getting comfortable, I’d recommen Super Katana with a low cut collar.

  1. I like boards for training. Usually run 1 and 2 board for normal training. Breaking in a new shirt is different. You’ll want 3 and 4 boards. Personally I just let it sink as far as possible to get max stretch.

I would not touch regularly. Harder on the joints. If you wanna do reps, I’d suggest a radical slingshot like a super charged ram from Titan. Its the closest thing I’ve come across that would mirror the groove of a shirt. Get a tight one.

As far as frequency…if you’re not training for a meet you don’t really need the shirt but once every 4-6 weeks. Keep it fresh. Single ply wears out quick if you’re in it too much, particularly if you wanna touch often. Washing them with a detergent without softeners will tighten them back up. I make my own detergent.

Use boards and an aggressive sling most of the time unless you wanna spring for a new shirt every year or two.