What do you bench?
How many times have you heard that question? I hate that question. I have a torn right rotator cuff and bench presses really aggravate that injury. So, on the rare occasion that I do a bench press, I never go over 225. The amazing thing is that people THINK I can bench press a lot, because they think I look like a guy that can bench a lot.
Here is my secret... and it is not bodybuilding, unless you are thinking of bodybuilding from 80 years ago. In fact, it wasn't until some time in the 1950s that lifters started doing flat “press-ups” on a bench. Yet, without bench presses, lifters had huge shoulders, triceps, brachialis, and pectoral muscles. The secret is that you have to look back to the time when John Grimek built up his physique.
I am going to give you three exercises, that need to be added into your barbell routine, as well as one really great “Chest” workout.
Straight Arm Barbell Pullovers
The photo at the top is a photo of John Grimek, from when he worked for Mark Berry, estimated to have been taken in 1934. John is doing my favorite upper body exercise, the straight arm pullover. I did hundreds of these as a teenager, on the swim team. In fact, I did them with a Milo Barbell that looked very similar to the one Grimek used in that shot, which I think is somewhat key to that exercise. Don't worry, you don't have to buy a whole new barbell, just use smaller plates, so that the bar starts closer to the ground. Use something like 25 pound, or even 10 pound plates. It will extend your range of motion. Yes, it is harder to perform and you won't be able to use as much weight, but the benefits will be worth it with this alternate variation.
Before Bench Presses Workout
Stretch & Warm-up with Indian Clubs and/or Speed Bag Work
Clean & Standing Barbell Push 5 x 5
Clean & Front Squat 5 x 5
Straight Arm Pullover 3 x 10
Dumbbell (or Kettlebell) Crucifix Hold 3 x 3
Dips 3 x 10
If it is nice outside add in half a dozen 100 yard sprints. You will be shocked at how well they work in with this routine. In high school, I would do this routine in the morning and then head off to the pool for morning swim, which was only 45 minutes, but felt great.
All the best,
"Today is a good day to lift."