George Halbert is a living iron game legend. He is a former world record bencher in multiple weight classes (from 198 to 242 lbs). He also was the greatest bencher ever by coefficient while in the 220 lbs class (this is particularly impressive due to the fact that the top coefficient lifters are usually in the lightest weight classes). George currently trains at the vaunted Westside Barbell.
Speed Work is a must for anyone looking to maximize their bench pressing potential. It stimulates the nervous system and helps to optimize motor unit recruitment for the bench press. Speed work for the bench press consists of 3 reps completed in a target time of 3 seconds or less. This timeframe mimics that of a 1 repetition maximum (1RM) attempt (as 1RM attempts are slower by definition) thus allowing the lifter to train their nervous system to fire explosively in less time than it takes to perform a 1RM. Resistance used for speed work should be no more than 60% of one’s tested raw (no special bench shirt) 1RM, or 55% of one’s tested equipped 1RM. The use of jump stretch bands and or chains is recommended (see www.westside-barbell.com ) to provide for accommodating resistance and thus to overcome the inherent limitations of the barbell.
Exercise Variety helps to prevent injury and promote progress. The principle of conjugate variation dictates that heavy training days (ME days in the Westside vernacular) consist of 3-4 exercises per major body part (chest, back, legs etc.) rotated weekly with one main exercise being practiced each ME day. This allows for the involved body parts to be trained with maximal loads week after week while simultaneously avoiding neural stagnation and thus overtraining. My top 4 all-time favorite ME chest exercises are
Consistency is the name of the game in powerlifting. The tale of the tortoise and the hare embodies the consistency of effort required to optimize your strength potential. Great strength simply takes time to develop properly. Patience and persistence will be rewarded with benching prowess!
Diet and Supplementation are keys to ultimate benching success. You cannot expect peak performance from an ineffectively fueled machine. Consume plenty of quality protein via foods (meats, fish, and dairy products), and with supplements. My personal favorite supplements are AtLarge Nutrition’s Nitrean and Fish Oil .
Training Partners can be of great benefit. They can motivate you when needed, check your form, and for anyone with a competitive nature, training with someone of comparable strength can really take their training to the next level. Bottom line, the camaraderie and psychological benefit of training with a good partner is invaluable. If a training partner is not possible, online camaraderie is the next best thing. You can join online forums and communicate regularly with those who share your passion for strength. You can learn new training techniques and even have access to some of the best powerlifters in the world. Below are some good sites to check out:
George’s Bonus Tip!
The H-Roll is a tremendous prehab/rehab technique for anyone seeking to maximize their benching potential. To perform this exercise you need an adjustable incline bench. Set the incline to roughly 10-15 degrees. Lie face-down on the bench with your upper chest hanging off the end (i.e. the top of the bench comes to roughly your lower pec line). Hold a dumbbell in each hand and begin by using a controlled “swing” to bring the dumbbells from your hip area to above your head. Your head should remain down during the movement and your arms should form the upper part of an “H” at the top of the range of motion (thus the name). There is rotation at both the shoulders and elbows during this movement.