Big changes in my plans for next year's competitions! I had planned on training for the Canadian Powerlifting Union's Nationals next March in Vancouver but Vivian found us a great deal on a European cruise in May so, since I already fulfilled a life goal of lifting in a National Championship back in 2010, I get to cross a whole bunch of items off my bucket list with my first trip to Europe and first time on a cruise ship. I am super stoked (if 46 yr old guys are allowed to be stoked) and looking forward to seeing the cities on our stops, Venice (where the cruise starts and finishes), Dubrovnik, Croatia, Athens, Greece, Ephesus, Turkey, and Split, Croatia. I will still keep training, obviously, but competitions will have to wait until later in the summer after we get back from what should be an awesome trip of a lifetime.
As for today's bench press experiment, it went very well. Last week, I tested my training max and made a 325 while missing 330. For this week's session I decided to try out a training method described to me by the same guy that helped fix my squat form. He claimed to have successfully used it with some big names in Canadian powerlifting and based on all of the good advice he's given me so far, I decided today was a good time to try it out.
He described the "why" in a bunch of sciency language that I really didn't understand. What I did understand was that he, himself, is brutally strong and hasn't steered me wrong yet. He described a protocol he used to train lifters in the squat, deadlift and atlas stone lifting but I figured it ought to work for a bench press too. The crux of his protocol was he utilized heavy negatives to activate muscles. He described coaching a strongman competitor that could not lift a heavy stone from the ground. He had the lifter pick up the stone at waist height and then lower it to the ground under control. After doing that a few times, he then told the lifter to pick it up off the ground. The lifter easily picked up the stone. Again, the reason for why it happened was sciency, but I took it on faith that it worked.
He also said the same protocol could be used for the deadlift and squat. Simply load up a barbell to about 110% of the lifter's current 1 RM and have him/her lower the weight most of the way down. The trick was being able to set up for 2-3 negative reps in a set. With a deadlift or squat, one would need multiple racks set up with the prescribed lowering weight. This logistical challenge had prevented me from trying it out on the squat or deadlift. With the bench press, it would be alot easier to set up for multiple reps since I could just deadlift the bar off the safety pins and put it back on the rack for subsequent repetitions without having to spend extra time and energy unloading the bar and resetting it.
I went through my normal warm ups and weight progressions but instead of doing triples at 275 and 295, I just did singles to 315. I then loaded 365 (110% of a 1 RM of 330) and did two negative reps. The first rep I was able to control all the way to my chest and onto the pins, the second rep, came down a bit faster and I couldn't stop the weight during its last few inches of travel. I then reset the bar, rested for a couple of minutes and loaded 335. I figured that if this negative loading worked, I should be able to exceed last week's training max by a fair bit.
Lo and behold, I was able to pause and press the 335. When I took it out of the rack, it felt light in my hands, no doubt due to previously holding a very heavy 365. In fact it felt so light, I didn't take it as seriously as I should've when I lowered it to my chest and paused. I was that confident I could lift it. Luckily I was able to press it back up, although it went slower than I thought it would. I didn't have 340 in me today but the 335 didn't need to have been as much effort as it took. The 335 is my all-time gym PR for a paused bench that I lifted off myself. Using the negative reps increased my training max 3% in one week! While there is some chance that doing singles with 275 and 295 instead of triples allowed me to retain energy for the 335 attempt, the effort expended with the two negative reps and the apparent "lightness" of the 335 leads me to believe the negative reps worked the majority of the magic.
After the successful test of the negative method, I loaded 80% of my new training max and did 5 work sets. Everything felt fast. I finished up the session with three sets of dips.
When one has been training for many years, it's always amazing to discover something new. Tonight's workout was something new and very exciting. I don't know yet how to work in the negative training into a long term program but I think alternating it with Titan Ram work will provide some overload while not over-working my shoulders too much.
Bench Press: 135x10, 185x10, 225x3, 255x3, add wrist wraps, 275x1, 295x1, 315x1
Bench Press, negatives only: 365x1, 365x1
Bench Press: 335x1 (gym PR), 270x5, 270x5, 270x4, 270x4, 270x3