Continuing the march of the brutal bench pressers, I've got a bunch more record holders and a couple of just bad motherfuckers at benching. Again, their workouts in no way resemble one another. In this edition, you'll see everything from a circus fat man who takes 4 hours to get through a bench workout to a chick who out-benches you because she worked the lift 6 to 7 days a week. The methods and mechanisms utilized by the best bench pressers vary as widely as you can possibly imagine, except for two key facets- they fucking love bench pressing, and it showed in their workouts, and they all hit bench twice a week.
Scot Mendelson, the guy pictured above not sporting a bleached-blond mullet and gigantic beer gut, is one of the few 308 lb lifters you'll see rocking abs while lifting. Additionally, Mendelson is the current world record holder in the raw bench press with 715, a decent fucking weight by any standards. You have to respect a double bodyweight bench press at a circus fat man bodyweight. Mendelson also holds the equipped bench record at 275 with a ridiculous 1030lbs. Mendelson clearly knows his shit when it comes to big benches, and given that he's an NYU grad, he's likely smarter than you. His recommendations for a big bench are as follows:
1) Put your back into it:
Big chests do not make big bench-presses. Proper technique makes the primary movers the back (latissimus dorsi), triceps, and rear deltoids. On a standard 15-17" bench, pull your shoulder blades together so the shoulders rest on, and not off, the bench's surface. This shortens the distance from the chest to full extension and eliminates your arms' weakest range of movement.
2) Lift with your legs:
Put your body into a near-full arch when performing a maximal-lift bench-press: support your body on the toes or balls of your feet by putting your feet underneath your body and arching your back. Squeeze the bench between your thighs to stabilize your body and use leg drive to initiate the lift from the bottom.
Try to slam your heels through the ground on the decent to help keep your arch. This works for people who lift flat footed and on the toes. Just ask the Metal Militia guys.
3) Train for triples:
Dedicate one work-out per week to the bench-press, performing 5-8 sets of 3 reps with 5-7 minutes between sets. Use 60% of your 1-repetition maximum (1RM), adding 5-10% per workout.
4) Emphasize tricep, rear deltoid, and brachialis development:
Following the above 5-8 sets of bench-press, perform one exercise for rear deltoids, one exercise for triceps, and one exercise for the brachialis. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions with 2-4 minutes between sets.
Using a seated pec deck machine (used for crossing the arms in front of the body), reverse the motion by facing the opposite direction and moving your arms backwards.
Choose either A) tricep extensions or B) board presses (place a 4x4 board on the chest and perform bench-presses within this partial range of movement).
The brachialis is a muscle on the outside of the bicep that supports arm movement at the elbow. Perform hammer curls (bicep curls where the thumb is kept pointing to the ceiling and the palm is not turned upward) to address this bodypart.
5) For safety, do not use a "false-grip", where the thumb is placed under, rather than around, the bar:
"Once I was bench-pressing with a false-grip and I got 584 lbs. to lock-out. The spotters thought I had it, so they took their hands away. The bar slipped, and 584 lbs. bounced off of my chest twice. I couldn't breathe properly for 2 months, but I had no broken bones-not even a bruise." Moral of the story: Hold the bar at shoulder-width with your thumb wrapped around the bar-safety is a precursor to efficacy… and results. (Forum)
Mendelson's program seems oddly light and low-volume at the outset to me, but he's a world record holder in the bench press and I'm not, so I'll just go ahead and reserve judgement.
WEEK EXERCISE SETS REPS WEIGHT
1 Bench Press 5-8 3 60% 1RM
1 Reverse Seated Peck Dec 3 10 --
1 Tricep Extensions 3 10 --
1 Hammer Curls 3 10 --
2 Bench Press 5-8 3 70% 1RM
2 Reverse Seated Peck Dec 3 10 --
2 Board Presses 3 6 60% 1RM
2 Hammer Curls 3 10 --
3 Bench Press 5-8 3 80% 1RM
3 Reverse Seated Peck Dec 3 10 --
3 Tricep Extensions 3 10 --
3 Hammer Curls 3 10 --
4 Bench Press 5-8 3 85% 1RM
4 Reverse Seated Peck Dec 3 10 --
4 Board Presses 3 6 60% 1RM
4 Hammer Curls 3 10 --
5 Bench Press 5-8 3 90% 1RM
5 Reverse Seated Peck Dec 3 10 --
5 Tricep Extensions 3 10 --
5 Hammer Curls 3 10 --
6 Bench Press 5-8 3 95% 1RM
6 Reverse Seated Peck Dec 3 10 --
6 Board Presses 3 6 70% 1RM
6 Hammer Curls 3 10 --
7 Max Out
Bizarrely, Mendelson believes that much of his pressing power comes from his diet. One would think that diet would play a tremendously reduced role in the training of a person who specializes in a lift done while laying down, but Mendelson disagrees.
"He consumes 12,000 calories a day, including 7,500 calories via weight-gainer shakes alone, 40 egg whites, 5 pounds of red meat, tons of pasta, and vegetables to provide fiber. He aims to ingest 2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day, and even more as a competition nears, which gives him in excess of 700 grams daily. He prefers to eat two hours before he works out, because any later than that and itll come right back up due to the pressures lifting such a heavy weight create in his body. After training, a shake is the easiest thing to get down; he usually has to wait a couple of hours before consuming a postworkout meal."(Wuebben)Given that Mendelson's a huge man, you might want to modify his diet accordingly, and scale it back proportionately if you plan to try it yourself. Regardless of whether or not you test his workout or his diet, there's something to be said for the methods of a guy who's benched the weight of a small car in more than one weight class.
Give me a break on the picture quality- there's not a single pic of Ken Fantano on the internet other than this, which I took with my phone.
Ken Fantano might be the greatest powerlifter of whom you've never heard. According to Marty Gallagher, Fantano was a fucking beast, squatting 935 for a double to his heels, and doubling 625, paused, on the bench in nothing but a t-shirt.(Gallagher 65) Sure, Fantano was a fat fuck at 365 lbs, but the dude could move some weight. Not only was he a beast, but Fantano analyzed the shit out of every lift to determine the best methods of performance for each, acting like a Six Sigma Black Belt of powerlifting in spite of the fact that he rarely competed. Here are a couple of the form tips the bench press Jedi Ken Fantano provided the assemblage at his gym:
- bring the bar as low on your chest as possible- "just above where the belly meets the sternum"(Gallagher 68)
- allow the bar sink into your chest slightly to get better drive, which loads the legs with more tension (Ibid)
- press the legs hard toward the torso. The leg jolt continues into the torso, ending in the chest. We purposefully create a jolt. The jolt, timed right and executed with power and push, creates momentum where there was none."(Ibid)
- use the incline bench to develop all of your strength for competitive benching, and do all reps paused.(Gallagher 69)
- Pausing reps on your chest in training is key- "If you don't pause your reps, you're wasting your time. If you don't have strength from a dead stop, muscle tissue won't get thicker."(70)
- Uses 5 second pauses between reps to develop lockout strength.(71)
Fantano split his training into two distinct phases, and trained in marathon sessions with a two day split.
Phase 1: 12 weeks of training consisting primarily of Incline Dumbbell Bench- 4x6 (you need to make three sets of 6 with a given weight before you can move up).
Wednesday (This workout took four hours to complete)
Bench Press- 3 top sets with 40 lb increase between each set
Incline Dumbbell Press- 3 top sets of 10 reps with the same weight
Narrow Grip Flat Bench- 3 top sets with 40 lb increase between each set
Tricep pushdowns- 3-4 x 15-25
Squat- 3 top sets with 40 lb increase between each set
Deadlift- Work up to top set of 2-3 reps
Light Bench Press- 3x10 with 77% of projected 3rd attempt
Bev Francis was something of a freak- she excelled in collegiate track and field, then dominated powerlifting, and finally ruled female bodybuilding for years. It's said that although she pulled a Seinfeld and made an early exit from powerlifting while still on the rise, had she continued in the sport Francis would have set records so ridiculous they'd have to ditch her weightclass to encourage competitors to enter meets. She's the Ed Coan of females, if Ed had switched to bodybuilding after dominating the 181s and never looked back. Her bench, 331 at 181, still stands as a record over 30 years after she set it, and only one chick has come within 20 lbs of it in the last 5. Save for her unfortunate appearance, Bev's a broad with whom a man should want to breed if he were inclined towards producing the ultimate human.
Befitting the overall impression she gives as a human being, Bev Francis's training was essentially superhuman. It consisted of 6 or 7 days a week of heavy benching and squatting, with the addition of deadlifts at the six week mark before a meet. Every now and again she's have what she referred to as a "play day" on which she'd do nothing but curls, some pulley work, and some situps, but as a general rule her policy was "squat and bench until you shit blood". Her rep range was all over the map, according to Francis:
"Some days I would do sets of tens, some days I would do eights, sixes, fives, fours and threes, but I would always do a lot of sets. No matter what the rep range was I would always do at least a total of ten sets for each lift. Sometimes I'd do twenty sets."(Penman)
Oh, but that wasn't all she did, lest you think her some sort of shiftless layabout fit for the Starting Strength messageboards. Nope- her ridiculously intense weight workouts were the tip of the iceberg. According to Francis:
"I used to get up in the morning at 5.30am, go for a four mile run. I'd come back, shower, breakfast, go to work (teaching physical education and mathematics) at high school. At 4 o clock I'd leave there, go immediately to the university where I trained. Usually my workout consisted of about a mile and a half jogging, shot putting for about an hour, then a sprinting workout - something like ten 200's, twenty 100's, five 300's. Then I would go to the weight room and spend an hour and a half in the weight room. Then I would go home, make dinner, shower and collapse into bed."(Penman)Rather than cycling her program in a periodized manner, she just let her body tell her when to back off. In the same interview, Francis stated that she would "would train until I broke down, either from injury or sickness", but that she trained that way because she fucking loved it. She also ate to facilitate that sort of training, stuffing her face with fat and protein calories to fuel those insane training days.
"In fact at that time I had a very high fat diet. My favorite snack was salami and cheese. I used to eat a lot of red meat. I used to cook things in butter and I used to enjoy my sweets. I was never grossly fat though. I still had abdominals when I was nearly 180lbs. So I never carried a huge amount of body fat but I was very big legged and I carried a fair amount on my hips. "(Penman)
After she dropped out of powerlifting, Francis went on to be the runner-up in the Ms. Olympia and then into gym ownership, but word is she continued to train like a fucking lunatic and remained retardedly strong throughout her career. If nothing else, her story's a feather in the gigantic pimp hat worn by the "train more, motherfucker" community, and is worth recounting for the simple fact that she outbenched most guys under 200 lbs.
Ken Lain is a bit of an underground character. I could only find one goofy-assed picture of the fucker (above), but he's mentioned among big benchers like he was some sort of god in the early 1990s. Thus, amongst motherfuckers wearing neon-colored string tank tops and Zubaz pants, Ken Lain is a god among men. According to one source, Lain benched 655 at 242 and 722 at 308, though I would assume that these numbers are single-ply as he doesn't hold records in either of those classes. In any event, Lain's program was far more palatable to more conventional lifters, as he had a heavy/light scheme along the lines of Westside. Somewhat surprisingly, he front-loaded his weeks more than Vivid chicks front-load their bodies after a trip to the plastic surgeon, and tapered hard toward week's end, mimicking the aforementioned porn stars' tiny asses.
Ridiculously front-loaded, like this workout.
Monday: Heavy Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps
Tuesday: Heavy Back and Biceps
Thursday: Light Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps
Friday: Light Back and Biceps
The routine is designed to add 10% to your 1 rep maximum in 10 weeks. Clearly, when he says heavy, he means fucking heavy. Ramping up from 98% of your 1rm's not normal.
Though he's best known for his deadlift, Coan was a hell of a bencher as well. He benched 545 at 220 and 573 at 242, both of which are completely respectable lifts for a guy basically known as a deadlifter. Coan's program was fairly simple, if intense. He dedicated two days a week to benching and a third to bench accessories, so his program looked like this:
Bench Press- 7-10 x2-8
Close Grip Bench- 2 x 2-8 (60 pounds less than bench and paused on the chest)
Incline Bench- 2 x 2-8 (30 pounds less)
Tricep Pushdowns- 2 x 2-8
Coan didn't warm up after his initial lift, incidentally- he just slammed into his work sets like Hatebreed into a breakdown, with no fucks given.
Behind The Neck Press- 5 x 2-8
Front Lateral Raise- 2-3 x 10-12
Side Lateral Raise - 2-3 x 10-12
Bent Over Lateral Raise- 2 x 10-12
Light Wide Grip Bench- 2 x 8-10 reps
Light Dumbbell Flyes- 2 x 8-10 or 10-15
Tricep Pushdowns- 3 x 8-10 reps or 2 x 2-8
Dips- 1 x 8-10
Preacher curls- 2 x 10-12
(This is a lightweight, muscle flushing, chest workout. Ed does a couple of quick sets with a weight about 60 percent of his max (340x10) with his feet on a bench. A few sets of light flyes and he is ready for triceps.)
Coan ended up benching over 500 lbs in competition 45 times, at a variety of weights. That, in and of itself, is fucking impressive. Coan's program wasn't just a successful program- it was a program that was successful over a long period of time, like a weightlifting version of Nintendo. That's impressive, especially considering the number of torn pecs and triceps of which we hear occurring as a regular part of elite lifting.
This concludes the parade of past and present greats in the bench press, but I'll conclude this series with one more post filling you guys in on what's brought up my seriously deficient bench into the realm of "at least passable." Until then, tits.
Katherine Suicide AKA Rebecca Rexx Crow, before you fuckers start asking.
Gallagher, Marty. The Purposeful Primitive.
Iron Dungeon. Ed Coan's Bench Press Routine. Critical Bench. http://www.criticalbench.com/ed-coan-bench-press.htm
Ken Lain. Texas Powerlifting Hall of Fame. http://www.texaspowerliftinghalloffame.com/Lain.html
Ken Lain's "Matrix" Bench Press Program Overview. The WeighTrainer. http://www.weightrainer.net/spreadsheets/matrixnotes.html
Lain, Ken as told to Dennis B. Weis. Secrets of Gaining Maximum Muscle Bulk & Power! Lee Hayward's Total Fitness and Bodybuilding. http://www.leehayward.com/bulk_secrets.htm
Mendelson, Scott. Forum Post. http://rawpowerlifting.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=training&action=display&thread=988
Penman, Leigh. Bev Francis. . . Pioneer of Power! 05 June 2009 Reprinted from Strength Athlete Magazine, 1987. RXMuscle. http://www.rxmuscle.com/articles/bios-a-interviews/378-bev-francis-pioneer-of-power.html
Scot Mendelson’s Bench Press Workout. Strongest Man. http://strongestman.org/?p=207
Wuebben, Joe. Boost your bench. Muscle and Fitness. http://staging.muscleandfitness.com/raw_traveling_supplements/training/60