You’ve been researching powerlifting comps. You thought, “Screw it,” got registered, and signed yourself up for a meet. Maybe you signed up for bench-only just to dip your toes in, or maybe you’re planning to attempt all three lifts.
Problem is, you are now six weeks out from the greatest moment of your life. But your bench sucks and you have no real idea what you’re doing. Don’t sweat it. We’ve got your back. Here are my seven top tips to make your bench tip-top come lifting day.
1. Drop the Ego at the Door
This is a big one when you’re training for your first comp, and many people learn it the hard way. And there is nowhere this applies more than in a bench-only comp, so pay close attention it that’s what you’re doing.
“Competitions are a great equalizer. So stop being a bitch and train properly.”
Many guys think their gym bench press and competition bench press are on the same level. Guess again, as this couldn’t be further from the truth. This misconception is usually down to guys having horrendous form for the sake of an “impressive lift.”
Listen bro, there’s nothing impressive about you struggling with two and half plates on the bar while your pelvis looks like it’s enjoying reverse cowgirl from the invisible man.
There are a few aspects of your gym lift that can red-light you in an instant at competition. So start deprogramming yourself now, and for the love of god don’t do these:
- Ass off the bench – You may fool amateur lifters, but you don’t fool us. Disqualified.
- Moving your head – Want to get a better look at the action? Too bad, that’s an illegal move.
- Not pausing your lift – You don’t want to be that Anxious Andy. It’s an instant fail.
- Moving your feet around – This isn’t Riverdance, Flatley. Shifting around will cost you a lift.
There are many more. However, these are the most common errors come competition time. Too many lifters have their “own style of lifting” so they can justify boasting about their numbers. Competitions are a great equalizer. So stop being a bitch and train properly.
2. Start Smolov Junior
If you haven’t heard of Smolov Junior, prepare to have your life changed. Smolov Junior is a three-week badass powerlifting program that, and I shit you not, puts around 30lbs on your bench within the month. How does it do this? By taking part of your soul – that’s how.
“It is best to start this program four weeks before your comp. That way come comp day, you’ve had a solid week off and are ready to tear the iron a new one.”
I’m not going to lie, it’s some hardcore stuff, and it involves you benching four times a week. You can find a more in-depth write up on this program over here. It is best to start this program four weeks before your comp. That way come comp day, you’ve had a solid week off and are ready to tear the iron a new one.
3. Get Working on That Arch
Seriously bro, if you’re not arching your back already, I have some bad news. Arching your back is the secret to an incredibly solid bench. It activates more of your chest muscles, gives your back a better grounding on the bench itself, and positions your shoulders in the best possible position to move some heavy ass weight.
4. Practice Those Pauses
If you can’t pause the weight on your chest before you press it, you’re screwed. That’s not even a joke. You need to be able to do this or you’ll be hearing “no lift” so much on the day that it’ll become your new ring tone.
“You think you’re doing yourself a favor, but it’ll take more time for you to get the bar balanced, and you’ll be down there far longer than you need to be.”
If you’re just getting started with pauses, begin on a low weight and work up to your paused rep max. That’s going to be your final lift – unless you start working on it now. And don’t do any of this letting-the-bar-sink-into-your-chest business, either. You think you’re doing yourself a favor, but it’ll take more time for you to get the bar balanced, and you’ll be down there far longer than you need to be.
5. Equip for the Unequipped
Screw it, if you’re unequipped, use anything that’s technically allowed in the rule book. If you’ve got weak wrists (calling all ectomorphs), use wrist wraps. You’ll thank me later. You can even get away with wearing a lifting belt. However, there’s a bit of a trade-off. If you’re belting up, you can kiss that sweet back arch you worked on goodbye. It’s not going to be as good by a mile. But if you thrive on tight pressure around your torso, a belt may be the way to go.
“If you’ve got weak wrists (calling all ectomorphs), use wrist wraps. You’ll thank me later.”
It depends what you’re most comfortable with. If you’ve got a ridiculously hot arch you’ll already know the answer. If you don’t know what that is, you’ve clearly never seen an arch done properly.
6. Train Your Rotator Cuff
This is super important. If you’re struggling when it comes to the pause halfway through your lift, I strongly suggest you blast the hell out of your rotator cuff muscles in training for a competition. They will help add more of a spring to your press when it’s time to lift it off your chest.
In my experience the best training for strengthening these up is via cable pull overs. Make sure you keep your arms straight and your shoulders back. Squeeze your shoulder blades together. This strength should transfer over to your bench quickly.
7. Make Sure You’re on Weight Class (But Don’t Starve Yourself)
If you think you can shred down to a ridiculous weight and still bench what you’re benching now – forget it. It can be done, but if you’re reading this I’m guessing you’ve already got a date planned for your comp.
“Unless you’re eight percent body fat and need every single calorie in your diet just to stay alive, chances are you can cut a few in the weeks before the big day.”
However, if you’re just edging into one weight class and losing a few pounds would put you in prime position in the one below – do it. Unless you’re eight percent body fat and need every single calorie in your diet just to stay alive, chances are you can cut a few in the weeks before the big day. Swapping out the sodas for green tea is probably the best move you can make.
And there you have it. Seven ways to get your bench booming for a meet. We’ve covered mindset, training, gear (the equipment kind), and weight management. Although it sounds cliché, the main thing you should remember is to have fun. It’s a tight-knit community, and everyone’s supportive of any competitor who has the stones to get on stage and attempt a lift.
Make some friends, don’t warm up to quickly, and show up to weigh-in on time. You’ll be fine, and if you mess up, there’s always next time. Good luck.
More Like This:
- 12 Simple Strategies to Boost Your Bench Press (And Save Your Shoulders)
- The Bench Press Is a Pull: 5 Cues You Might Be Missing
- 6 Steps to Becoming the Bro With the Biggest Bench
- New on Breaking Muscle Today
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