Had a fantastic developmental day for Jan 1st. Today I decided to focus on my bench press, as I’d done some research online to improve my bench press form. I think this video does a good job explaining good bench form.
My only compaint about the video is the demonstrating guy has a very thick core so it’s hard to see some of the nuance of the position in the demonstration.
Anyways one key thing I overlook is putting the elbows inward, and bringing the bar lower to touch just beneath the pecs. Scott Herman (another fitness vlogger on Youtube I often link) himself recommends not worrying so much about touching per se as range of motion, the angle of the elbows, but sometimes I think I use that posture to justify not going quite as low as I should, so I’m going to try to do more physical touching of the bar to my body.
Anyways, I also did some research on the stronglift 5×5 program, a simple weight lifting program that while very regimented is very simple. It’s a three day a week program of only two days, only three exercises per day, intended purely to improve lifting strength and nothing more. No muscle hypertrophy (because people with strong bodies wind up looking good either way) and no extra endurance work. Just focus on the 5×5 sets (that is, 5 sets of 5 reps, with the weight focus being on as hard and high as you can do 5 reps of safely with good form).
A good explanation of this is in a “workout A” demonstration video for the Stronglift 5×5 series.
A succinct way to explain a nice routine with a different approach, illustrated in this is bench form as well with comments. Notice this workout is only 30 minutes.
So let me contexualize this a bit. Stronglift 5×5 is a simple program that works to make you stronger, but ignores a lot of things that the author of the workout – Mehdi – believes is time wasting. He’s very strict about the form required, and the technique and how to apply it. Now I’m not a big follower of workout plans, part of what I enjoy about workouts is making my own plans and applying facets of successful techniques to my plans to change things up.
What I got from 5×5 is that sometimes if you want to get strong, particularly with compound lifting, try to keep it basic. Good form, big weight, consistent growth. I do this already to an extent but watching this video gave me a fresh perspective. I have things I don’t like about the program so I’m not going to suddenly switch to it… exercise is intensely personal, and my plan is mine, Mehdi’s is his, but his plan has a lot of interesting points to take and apply because I feel like me and him are actually similar gainers (his body type is very average, he doesn’t have any natural genetic gifts or a body type conducive to building muscle any more than the average person, but he’s in pretty good shape with his program).
So… rambling aside, I went straight into the bench press, I decided to warm up like Mehdi recommended (2 sets bare bar 5 reps, 1 set 3 reps at a middling weight of 95lbs). Then I picked a working weight of 135lbs (a nice round figure for benching since it’s just two 45lb plates on the bar). I was going to go beyond a 5×5 set plan but I often keep compound lift sets to 5 reps, and I did this today too. So sets 1-5 were 5 reps @ 135lbs. My focus was improving the form of the press, going a little lower to the bar (bringing it to touch my body, keeping my elbows in) and this was admittedly harder than I otherwise thought it would be. After this I decided to keep going because I wanted to push myself a little harder, just felt like it was good.
Set 6) 3 reps @ 145lbs (failed once or twice). Set 7) 1 rep @ 155lbs (my current max, there were 3 failures attempting to do more). It was nice to repeat my 155lb lift and today makes me feel like I can go heavier later. I also learned something admist all the failure reps. When you use the “roll of shame” method of saving yourself, you sit up with the barbell in a deadlifted position, I always had an issue with reracking the weight. Well I realized if instead of going forward off the bench to rerack, I scooted (controlled) backwards with the weight that I could nestle myself up to the second peg and rerack there. Then I could either flip around and trap shrug it up to the top peg, or unrack the weight and adjust the bar as needed. This is extremely valuable for me to know, honestly. It makes failing a rep not so bad.
After that third failure I decided to do drop sets. Sets 8 & 9) 8 reps @ 105lbs. These last two I cinched the new bench pressing form, and really felt it in my pecs. And that was the cue I was truly done on the bench today. Feeling great!
Next I did dumbbell chest presses, to reinforce the chest action and make up for the poor chest day. Did 7 sets of 6 reps @ 55lbs. Just kept it solid and took the necessary rest.
Next, barbell rows. This was demonstrated in the workout A video above. I kept it that simple too, 5 sets at the same weight he used in the video, 135lbs. This type of barbell row is very great. I will keep it for chest day as a reverse action exercise. My other reverse press exercise, body rows, was also something I decided to do 6 sets of 6 reps off the smith machine (about all the smith machine is good for, really).
Finally did crossover cable flys, something I missed doing on my previous chest day. 3 sets of 10 reps each hand, doing one armed flys with the cable at chest level going straight from side to side. I use my opposing hand to put it on my actual pec to make sure I’m feeling the contraction, call this the “pledge of allegiance” style.
Alright wrapped up with 5 miles on a light run, not a good pace but good cardio. I increased speed a few miles into the run to add intensity, and it did a good job I think getting me back into the cardio groove. Took a few progress pics, which I feel like is a good thing to do given it’s the dawn of a new year. Looking forward to 2014!