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Old 08-31-2005, 02:15 AM
Darkhorse Darkhorse is offline
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Numerous training programs have been devised, and will not be discussed here in great detail. A modest discussion of the various methods of training will be mentioned.

Maximal effort method: The maximal effort method consists of lifting a maximal (1RM) load, with the goal being improvement of both intramuscular and intermuscular coordination. The CNS system is maximally stimulated, with CNS inhibition being reduced, and the greatest number of motor units are recruited using this method.(61) The primary disadvantages of this method are that it induces minimal hypertrophy, as only one or two reps are performed, as well as the fact that the CNS will attenuate rather quickly, and so exercises must be rotated regularly. If more than one set (repetition) is to be performed, then a lengthy rest period may be required. (3, 4, 21, 53)

Repeated effort method: This method utilizes submaximal effort with higher reps to stimulate maximal hypertrophy.(61) The basis for this method is that the larger the muscles peak cross sectional area (PCSA), the greater the strength of the individual muscle. The disadvantages to this method are that the CNS is not highly stimulated with this method, as well as the fact that as the muscles become fatigued, form begins to suffer, decreasing proper motor unit recruitment patterns. As multiple sets are normally performed using this method, rest periods should be long enough to allow the athlete sufficient recovery time, but, over time, the athlete should strive to reduce the rest time in-between sets (3, 4, 21, 46, 53)

Dynamic effort method: This method uses sub-maximal (light) weights to increase rate of force development.(61) This method will also potentate the myotactile response, as the weight is moved quickly. Repetitions are low, to ensure proper technique, and sets are high, to allow for greater motor unit recruitment. Rest periods should be kept low, as the various systems, such as the CNS, musculoskeletal, etc. are not heavily taxed during a single set. (4, 21, 41, 53)

A brief discussion of assistance work and its effects, as well as specific bench techniques, is quite appropriate. Assistance work is of critical importance, a point which has often been illustrated. When an athlete cannot progress in a certain lift, it is not the lift itself which is weak, but there is a weak link (muscle group) in the kinematic chain. The key to successful assistance work is determining which muscle group is the weakest and determining the appropriate technique to strengthen it.

General guidelines are hard to present, but, nevertheless, an attempt will be made.

Weak at the initiation of the concentric phase (out of the bottom): Strengthen lats, pecs, as well as learn how to recruit lats properly.

Weak at the midpoint: Strengthen the shoulders, and work on specific exercises to train the sticking point.

Weak at lockout: Triceps, triceps, and triceps. The triceps are active throughout the entire lift, but most active the closer the bar moves toward lockout. Specific exercises to strengthen the lockout can be used as well.

Bench assistance work will be divided into several basic categories, with a general discussion about the effects of each category of exercises, with extra discussion for specific functions of individual exercises if necessary. The categories include flat benching exercises, partial pressing exercises, bench-like exercises, assistance work for the triceps, assistance work for the deltoids, assistance work for the traps, assistance work for the lats, assistance work for the biceps and forearms. The use of chains and bands will not be discussed, but will be the focus of another discussion.

Flat bench: This lift needs to be examined in and of itself as it can be used with a variety of methods, techniques, and set and rep schemes, all of which can have an effect on bench performance. When trained dynamically, the athlete should use a weight that allows the production of maximal force, which will generally occur somewhere between 50 – 60% of the 1RM. This allows for greater force development, allows the lift to be trained again more frequently as it is performed in a very rapid manner, lessening the eccentric stress and resultant fatigue, as well as maximizing the utilization of the stretch reflex.

The paused version of the bench press can be used to develop starting strength. Many athletes will train with an extended pause (two or three seconds) to help them further develop the necessary explosion off the chest, as well as the ability to maintain tension in the paused position.

Heavy negatives: Not advised for the strength athlete. By the time an athlete is advanced enough to perform them, the amount of recovery time necessary will reduce practical training time. This exercise may be useful for novice athletes to become accustomed to the feel of heavier weights through synaptic facilitation.

Illegal wide grip bench. Very useful for strengthening the bottom portion of the bench which will occur secondary to hypertrophy, as these are generally performed in the six rep range. The only caution is that this exercise can severely open the acromial process, and should be used sparingly, and only by athletes with healthy shoulders.

Pressing from the pins at chest level can work the start of the bench as well, but it is difficult to recruitment maximal power from the torso, as there is no stretch reflex, and no resulting tension. This can place the athlete at greater risk for injury as well.

Benching with a cambered bar or a buffalo bar can also work the start of the bench, but once again care must be taken to avoid injury to the shoulders as the acromial process is quite open using these types of bars.

Close grip bench presses have been a not only a standard method for powerlifters to strengthen the triceps and thus the lockout of the bench, but have even been used by weightlifters as an assistance exercise to increase their ability to execute the press decades before powerlifting was a recognized sport, including the great Tommy Kono. (for the trivia-minded, Kono cleaned and pressed 350 pounds at a bodyweight of 182.5 pounds)

Reverse grip bench pressing can provide quite a bit of stimulation for the triceps. This method is little used, but could be far more prevalent if athletes did not overlook this very useful exercise. It is, in fact, even more surprising when one considers that the heaviest bench ever executed was performed with a reverse grip. This was a standard assistance exercise for legendary bencher Rick Weil, who eventually utilized it as his competition style, pushing 551 lbs. at a bodyweight of 181 lbs.

Partial bench exercises can take a wide variety of forms, and will be further subdivided into several categories: initial, or the start of the concentric, lockout, which will be used to refer to any portion of the bench higher than ½ of the distance to lockout, or specific. One difficulty arises in that exercises with specific variations with respect to the height at which they are performed, such as board presses, and presses from the rack, will fall into a different category based on the bench stroke of the individual. An athlete with a short bench stroke may find that the three board press strengthens the lockout, whereas an individual with a very long bench stroke will find that it strengthens the start or the mid-range of the bench. The same is true for partial presses from the rack. One of the keys to making partial exercises effective is that they must be performed in the correct range, with the joints at the proper angle.

Partial training is based on the attenuation principle, where the intent is to train in the range of motion where there is demand for maximal force production. This method is used to overload the musculoskeletal system as well as the CNS with supramaximal loads in the area of the ROM where maximal force is produced.(40) This also produces a decline in neural inhibition.(55) Numerous studies have shown that there is an area of the ROM where maximal force production occurs, and this area is often referred to as the ‘sticking point’.(13, 31, 57) Studies have shown that partial ROM training increases strength primarily at the trained ROM, although there is a certain amount of variance. (18, 27, 28, 48) It is worth noting that partial ROM exercise produces greater torque compared to full ROM exercise. (47, 58) One other benefit of performing partials is the lessened eccentric phase, which will result in less microtrauma, allowing quicker recovery.(29)

Board Press: Allows the lifter to maintain tension throughout the torso but still work a partial ROM. Much of the weight is transferred to the athlete at the bottom of the rep, when the bar is paused.

Rack Press: Similar to board press, but harder for the athlete to maintain tension in the torso. This exercise is easier to vary, as changing pin heights is relatively simple, but there is greater risk of injury if the athlete does not achieve the appropriate levels of muscular tension prior to the concentric phase. This exercise can also be used to push very heavy weights, allowing the CNS to be better conditioned for handling heavier weights.

Floor Press: Good for working the initial portion of the bench. For lifters with weak triceps, this may not be the best assistance exercise.

Isometric press: This exercise involves utilizing a power rack with the pins set just above and below the sticking point. The athlete will then press the weight off the pins, forcibly contacting the next set of pins. This will be repeated for a total of three times, and when the bar contacts the pins the third time, the athlete should push against the pins for at least six seconds, with the goal of exhausting every possible muscle fiber.

Work for the triceps is basically the same. Variations of extensions, as the function of the triceps is to extend the elbow joint. There are a great many types of extension, so many, in fact, that they would be the subject for an entire document of their own. The purpose of all of them is to increase the strength of the triceps through hypertrophy, and a wide number of set and rep schemes can be used. Only a couple exercises will be mentioned specifically.

Dips: Good for the novice, who is not used to pushing heavy weight. As the athlete becomes more advanced, there is the matter of diminishing returns. Perhaps it is because of the strain on the shoulder joint, the fact that so many muscles are involved that it is hard to target a specific weakness with this exercise, or for some unknown reason, but advanced athletes seem to benefit very little from this exercise.

French Press: Yet another overlooked exercise. Whether seated or standing, this exercise provides a benefit many other do not: it fully stretches the long head of the triceps, which crosses the shoulder joint. This can be quite beneficial for a lifter who has been doing short range isolation movements.

Pushdowns: These exercises do very little to truly develop functional strength, and should be used only for active recovery or as GPP.

Exercise for the shoulder girdle are of the utmost importance. Not only the anterior deltoid, which functions as an agonist in the bench press, but the medial and posterior deltoids, the trapezius, as well as the rotator cuff and rhomboids.

Pressing exercises, whether with barbells or dumbbells, are one of the best all around shoulder exercises. The anterior and medial deltoid will be directly stimulated, and the posterior will function as synergists. The traps will be used to support the musculature of the shoulders during overhead pressing as well. Pressing can also be performed from various pin heights within the rack, adding extra variations to the lifter’s arsenal.

Pressing behind the neck is often viewed as dangerous, and this is true: if the athlete does not maintain adequate flexibility in the shoulders, strength in the external rotators, and a certain amount of flexibility in the chest. As at least one of these factors is generally sadly lacking, this variation of pressing exercise can be quite hard on the athlete.

Snatch Grip Press Behind the Neck: This exercise is rarely performed in the United States, as Olympic weightlifting is not as popular as it once was. This exercise is one of the reasons when Overhead lifting was the rule, rather than the exception, that rotator cuff injuries were few and far between.

The strength and recruitment of the latissimus dorsai is essential to a big bench, and so correspondingly the lats should be trained in the manner which not only most closely simulates the motion of the bench, but allows the athlete to achieve greater recruitment of the lats. As the lats are basically worked in two directions (there are minute exceptions which are not very applicable) exercises will be grouped into two categories.

Chins/Pullups/Pulldowns: All excellent movements for strengthening the lats, and chins and pull ups are superior to pulldowns due to the greater number of motor units recruited. If an athlete is going to perform chins or pull ups, care must be taken not to bounce out of the bottom portion of the exercise, as this can cause bicep tendonitis or other elbow problems.

Rows: While certain types of rows have been shown to display a higher EMG activation rating, such a s dumbbell rows, the athlete working to improve the bench should make the row as specific as possible. Ideally, this will be with the chest supported, the bar held in the same grip, and it is rowed in the same plane as the bench is executed. Rotating different variations of this exercise can be useful.

The trapezius is a muscle that helps stabilize the entire shoulder girdle, as well as the neck and head, and is often neglected in many conventional programs.

The basic exercise for strengthening the trapezius is the shrug. This exercise can be performed with barbells or dumbbells, and can be performed in an explosive manner allowing more weight to be used as well as increasing the effective ROM.


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