20 Tips For Getting The Most Of Your Bench Press Shirt by Ben Tatar
1) Bench Press Shirts Are Not Magical
There is a lot of talk about bench shirts and very little understanding about them. The thing is, you can't just throw a bench shirt on, turn into superman and magically add 300lbs to your bench press. There is a whole system that you need to learn in order to get the most out of your shirt.
Once you learn how to use the shirt, you no longer will be against lifters who use gear. Instead you will have greater confidence and since your max will increase faster then so will your motivation. Your confidence will increase because you won't have to worry about injury and your motivation will increase because you will automatically lift heavier once you learn how to use the shirt.
If you are interested in using a shirt and if you want to enter the extreme bench planet of no limits, and train with 600, 700, 800 and a thousand pounds then this article is for you. In this article I will provide you with information so that you can have an understanding of how the bench shirts work and so that you can get onto the fast track to a powerful bench press and become super human every time you step under the bar and unleash the beast on the bench.
2) Bench Press Shirt Technique
When you use a bench shirt your technique should be different than when you bench Raw and once the technique is mastered then the shirt will start to work and you will see fast gains in a day. Some lifters even improve their bench up to 150lbs and more when they get the technique base first. Without technique the shirt will not work, but once you get technique then the shirt will. So here are the steps to remember to go through when you are benching with a shirt on: Remember:
1) lay back behind the bar, grab the bar like you are doing a reverse pull up and then bring your body forwards until your eyes are leveled with the weight. As you do this squeeze your shoulder blades together like you are pinching a pencil between them, and then dig them hard into the bench. Now, squeeze the bench with your thighs to stay tight. This reason for this is to add additional leg force into the lift and squeeze the bar as hard as you can to recruit a larger amount of fast twitch fibers into the movement.
2) Now Un-Rack the weight and start benching with your elbows out, bring the barbell down an inch and once you bring the barbell down an inch, tuck your elbows in. Every inch you move the barbell down, your elbows should be in tighter and tighter. Once again, remember elbows out at the top, and then tuck them in after you bring the bar down an inch.
As you pull the bar down to your shirt, keep tucking your elbows in tighter than you could ever imagine. What you will discover is that the weight will then touch the shirt smoother and explode up a lot faster. (a secret has been unlocked).
3) More advice during the negative with the shirt- Remember to pull the bar down HARD, as hard as you can so the weight can touch your shirt while you tuck your elbows in as tightly as possible. So let's say you have 500lbs on the bar, you should be doing a reverse bench press with 500 to get it down before the weight shoots up. So as you start tucking your elbows in, after bringing the bar down an inch, you are also pulling the bar down the whole time. In raw benching you have to control the weight and prevent it from crushing you, with the shirt you literally have to work at getting it down like you do getting it up. If not then 500lbs won't be enough weight to touch the shirt because the shirt will give off too much resistance.
4) Also when you bring the bar down, expand your stomach with air. This will give you more explosiveness and decrease the distance that you have to move the bar by a few inches! (big tip.) I remember arching my highest before, squeezing my shoulder blades together and my chest was still under the power rack, once I filled my belly with air, I fixed this problem.
5) Press the weight with your arms and triceps off of your upper abs. So practice lowering the bar very low. (Try to bring the bar to your upper abs, not above your nipple). If you are use to benching like a bodybuilder you will see that you are benching with your lats and shoulders. By bring the bar down low and tucking in your elbows, the arms and triceps are now taking over. This is how you should bench in an F6 or a Rage X shirt.
6) When you are benching with a shirt, the shirt is going to be trying to force you down, so Keep pushing your body up into the shirt to add force. Remember to arch higher and higher by sticking your crouch up. (Never stay content with an average arch. The more you arch the bigger the bench) when you think you are arched high enough, remember you can go higher. So you will also need to work on your arch all at the same time, never be satisfied with your arch, as the bigger your arch the more it's going to help you with your bench.
7) keep your heels pushed down to create leg drive. This means put pressure on the ball of your foot and your heels should be pushed down so you can add your legs into the lift.
8) Keep your butt on the bench, the whole time and squeeze it hard. If the butt comes off then it's actually harder to bench more because you aren't as tight.
9) Okay, so you have these steps mastered, at this point the weight should touch the shirt, now as you begin to press, the weight will start to explode up and drift back to your face with a more advanced shirt. You know, in raw benching the bar travel is in a straight line, with an advance shirt it doesn't travel in a straight line the bar instead will drift over your face. This means you kind of push up halfway in a straight line, then you let the bar drift over your face and you turn your elbows outward as you lockout the weight. It's almost a combination of a press and lateral raise motion with your arm.
10) As the weight comes up to the 75% mark, turn out your elbows and lock the weight out.
In raw benching you obviously don't want to turn your elbows out and you want to bench in a straight line as that is the shortest distance that the bar has to travel, however, in shirt benching this is not the case at all. You want to turn your elbows out because you can lockout more this way. Why is that? If you do a lockout inside a power rack you will discover that you can do more with your elbows out than in.
I know this probably sounds pretty complicated, but it's only complicated if you try to apply all of these steps together all at once. So focus on one step at a time.
Go in your basement and just grab the bar or something light like 95lbs. Start and try step 1 only. Then try step 2 only. Then practice 3,4,5,6,7,8,9 and step 10 only. Attempt one step at a time and remember all 10 factors that I just listed. As you get better at practicing these steps by themselves then try to combine them together into one fluent motion.
If you need additional help get a coach to help you. Finally, once you get these mechanics down then you can remember these steps and it will become a routine, like automatic, sort of like when you first learned how to drive a car for example. You learn one step at a time until you get the whole puzzle down.
Once you get this technique down, then you will step on the bench with new technique, confidence and benching ability. Technique is so important because when we bench with a shirt, it's not just about who has the most brute strength but who knows how to get the most out of their technique. Therefore, being a technician is far more important with a shirt then just solo brute strength alone is. When you master these techniques, only then a shirt will really work to its maximum potential.
3) Choosing Your Bench Press Shirt
Okay, well the most important step has been said but next we need to know what shirt to get. The shirt that you should get will really depend on your bench pressing style. If you aren't being trained by a professional, or if you don't have that technique that I just described mastered, then it's best to start out with an EHPHD or something with that same material just to get a feel of the shirt. Then as you get use to this shirt, you should advance to the more extreme shirts. The difference between an EHPHD and an advanced shirt is that with the advanced shirt you are going to be supporting extreme weights. If you aren't use to controlling the weight, or have the groove down correctly, then jumping to the extreme shirts can get you injured. So if you are a teenager that wants to get started in benching, then try using the EHPHD. (This normally takes lifters years to master).
4) Find A Shirt Based On Technique
Different shirts work for different benchers. So, let's say you are a little more advanced now and not a complete beginner. Well, one way to choose what shirt to get, ask yourself "Whether or not you have a good arch"? If you have a really good arch and if you bench with the same exact or close to the exact technique that I mentioned in step #2, then you should look into getting the Rage X from Inzer or the F6 from Titan. On the other hand if you don't have a huge arch then the Inzer Rage shirt and the Fury Titan shirt will give you better results, as it will be more designed for your particular bench pressing style. This is because when you use the Fury you are lowering the bar at nipple level or higher. On the other hand if you are using the F6, you are lowering the bar around your upper abs. So, the bottom line is choose a shirt based on how good your arch is and where you lower the bar. If your arch is not very good then the F6 and Rage X will mess you up and take you out of groove and if your arch is very good then the Inzer Rage shirt and Titan Fury will screw you up.
For the real beginner- The blast shirts can benefit the beginner. And by beginner I mean someone that doesn't bench more than 225. Keep in mind though that the Inzer Blast shirts (beginner shirts) will have very little effect on your benching and won't give you the extra poundage like the other shirts will. They also won't work like the other shirts do. Eventually you want to get into the Rage X, and F6. The bottom line is you need to test them out through your trial and error experiences and you will find the shirt that works for you.
5) Putting A Bench Press Shirt On
A bench shirt can be hard and frustrating to get on as it usually requires three people. The bench shirt is so hard to get on because the bench shirt will usually stick to the forearms and you want to get the shirt over the elbow. Some tugging, pulling, twisting the shirt inside out or in circular motions can help. Many benchers today use bags, plastic bags and that helps them get the shirt over their elbows so you should give that a try. Finally, there is a new device out called bench press slippers. These help the bencher put their shirts on and get the sleeve over the elbow without too much effort. These will probably be sold in the near future. Until then if you are getting a shirt on, watch this video:
I think bench press slippers and other devices that we will see in the future will end the struggles that you see going on in this bench shirt video. Once a shirt naturally goes on, I think we will see more people using them.
6) Shirt Benching Is More Than Just A Lockout
There is more to shirt benching then just lockout and technique. The shoulders, pecs, traps, mid-back and legs all play a role with shirt benching. However, the shoulder work will keep the shoulders contracted on the bench and the back/traps will provide stability, as the legs improve drive. So everything should still be strong for a bigger shirt bench. That is why the rookie should have a solid base of strength for shirt benching and that is why also most shirt benchers train everything just like raw benchers, the difference is in shirt benching the lockout and technique is 90% of it all, the supporting muscles play a 10% role. In Raw benching I think everything plays an equal amount of a role. The assistance muscles should be trained more hardcore and with more volume during the off season and during the pre season.
7) Bench Press Shirt Training For The Beginner
The big question that the beginner might ask is "How should I train in my shirt and how often do I train in my shirt"? Well, the beginner should wear a bench shirt once a month on heavy bench press days. Why should the beginner only use a shirt once a month? This is so they can build a solid foundation of strength first. Once the solid foundation of strength is built, then they can start training with more shirt days. Keep in mind though, that it's always good to train without a shirt at times to sustain a powerful base. So the bottom line is, beginners should work on technique, work on strength, and once the base and everything is built, the bench shirt and the insane weights will follow.
8) Bench Press Shirt Details
Since using a shirt has so much technique involved, every detail of the shirt will make or break the bencher. This means that the bencher needs to make sure that the shirt has a perfect fit and the bencher needs to keep tweaking it out accordingly. This means if the shirt isn't tight enough, they should keep sending it back, that they should give exact measurements when getting a shirt, that when something is wrong with their shirt that they should sew their shirt, repair their shirt and never settle for out of the box performance. This also means that at first the shirt is going to seem like an enemy to the bencher because it's very challenging to get on and work with, however, when the bencher breaks the earlier stages of using the shirt, they will find themselves near world record territory, pressing more weights than they could ever imagine and their mind/ motivation will turn infinite. All it takes is to keep making adjustments to their shirts and by mastering the details, will help them master their bench.
Getting the bench shirt is not the only details but the details expand into what you are doing when you have the bench shirts on. When you put a bench shirt on, focus on the collar of the shirt and think about what it is doing. When you have your wrist wraps on make sure that they are on right and that they are in the right place. Also, if you have trouble getting the weight to touch the shirt, spray the shirt with a little spray bottle, this will make it even easier for the weight to touch the shirt. Remember, by paying attention to the details of the shirt and your technique is 90% the battle. Remember, every time a lift is missed is not because the bencher wasn't strong enough, but because they forgot a "detail" that is needed when it comes to using a shirt. The bencher who can master the most details that the bench press shirt, consist of, will become a step closer to becoming the absolute best.
Most average shirt benchers should just go onto the critical bench program and follow the 11 week program. However, as we know critical bench isn't just an 11 week program but it's a program that we can be on for our whole lives. As the shirt bencher does a cycle with the low volume that critical bench offers then they will probably want to up their work load and train with higher volume. Remember, shirt benching is different than raw benching and more volume can be applied.
If the shirt bencher decides to do the critical bench program, and they have worked their way up to training with more volume and if at this point they have access to equipment then they should start throwing boards on their chest and train with bands, rack lockouts and continue to train and practice in the shirt. The volume will also be higher, so in order for the shirt user to prevent overtraining is to switch the exercises around. The reason to switch the exercises around is that we need more exercises because every lifters body is different and every lifter has their own weakness. Another reason to switch the exercises around is so the gear lifter can train with more volume and avoid overtraining. Also, overtraining with a shirt has much to do with recovery away from the gym. So the shirt lifter will need to buy an ice jacket, take ice baths, supplementation and take every 3rd week of training off for recovery. And always remember to take an off season, whether this means take a week off every 2 months or train regular for a few weeks after going intense. The more advanced the lifter is then the more off seasons they will need as a general guide, however, it really depends on the lifters own individual body and needs. Finally, remember high volume techniques should only be used for advanced and pro lifters and not intermediate drug free benchers.
11) Metal Militia While On The Critical Bench Program
O.K., Lets say that you get even more advanced with your training. The program that can take you into world record territory no matter who you are and where you are from is Critical Bench going Metal Militia style. So if you want to do Metal Militia training on Critical Bench you should do the "raw" bench press days that critical bench offers and then on critical benches triceps day that has exercises like "close grip bench presses" and triceps work, replace them with a Metal Militia Critical Bench "High Volume" lockout workout. Your training volume should be very very high and you should literally kill yourself in the gym. During these workouts use a shirt and boards, blast your triceps with two hours of lockout work and when you are dead tired, finish off with some rack lockouts. This will teach you how to finish moving big weights. Also on assistance days kill your shoulders, performing exercises like shrugs for 100 reps with 135 and just training like a wild animal every time you enter the gym.
Also on Monday's if you are doing incline dumbbell flies on critical bench, if you are using a shirt you can replace them with exercises like decline bench pressing. This is because the decline bench has a groove similar to those who bench with a big arch. This will help the bencher with their arch.
The next question you might be asking "Isn't this overtraining"? Well, in Metal Militia training or training this way when you are on Critical Bench, you will need to lift for three weeks straight and take every fourth week off. The fourth week will be the week that you allow your body to recover. This means that if you take this approach while you attempt the Critical Bench Program, the program might take 13-15 weeks to complete instead of 10-12 weeks but it could pay off for the shirt user who is experienced and knows how to recover fast. And if you didn't follow me, the critical bench program will then take 13-15 weeks because with shirt training, in metal militia after 3 weeks of training they rest a week so they don't overtrain and this is because the volume is so much higher than a raw routine is. Also be sure to supplement, eat every 2 hours and sleep at night to get the recovery that your body needs. Sacrifice and hard work becomes one of the most important factors.
Finally many members of the Metal Militia take the summer off to not train at all to prevent body and mind from burning out then they start over again. Other lifters choose to bodybuild, this is personal preference. At CB, the summer time or the two month off season of CB would be an excellent time to improve weaknesses and weak links so Critical Bench is a more productive training system for the next time that you get on it. As you learn more about your body, adjust the exercises and days of critical bench for your bodies and your goals. This gives room for even the sophisticated shirt benchers who use this system.
12) Switching Exercises
The Critical Bench Program is always changing every single bench day and this will prevent the body from getting bored, however, as the gear bencher uses Critical Bench the shirt bencher needs to be using different exercises every week.
This means that the Critical Bench lifters who use gear and who has access to bands, chains, and boards should rotate their exercises every 2-3 weeks. Also the shirt user should always be on the outlook for their individual weaknesses. The bottom line: In order to beat the rest of the benchers it takes motivation and desire yes, but it's also about who can beat their own inner bench game and your own inner bench game will be different than someone like tiny meeker. You just have to perform yours better than his and this goes for all the benchers out there.
13) Conjugate Periodization Over Linear Periodization For The Shirt Bencher
Conjugate periodization basically means that you are training for two specific goals at the same time. Which means you will be training for strength, hypertrophy and power all together. These principles have been adopted by Russian training principles. Most of us are familiar with linear periodization and linear periodization has three strength building block phases during a 12 weak cycle. Usually starting with greater endurance and then going down into peaking. The disadvantage of linear periodization is that you are weak during certain phases of training. Conjugate version of periodization allows you to train everything, to maximize speed strength, hyper trophy and strength to get the most out of every cycle that you attempt.
To put it in more simple terms: "linear periodization"....one thing at a time in a training cycle.
"Conjugate" periodization trains all of those qualities at once
In conjugate training there is no specific "strength phase", no "power phase", no "hypertrophy phase" ......all of those qualities are trained at the same time
You want to try and get everything in at once, and go into "conjugate periodization". That is another reason why chains, bands, boards, speed days and maximum effort days are applied when you are using a bench shirt especially.
14) Getting A Bigger Raw & Shirt Bench
Many benchers wonder if they can be the best raw bencher and shirt bencher both? The answer is a yes, Kennelly and Mendy are considered two of the best in a shirt in the world but they are also two of the best in raw benching in the world. The thing is If you don't want to lose raw strength but still constantly increase in a shirt, then wear your bench shirt every other workout. Or go in a two week cycle with the shirt then a two week cycle raw. This way you can develop both raw and shirt strength. When you're on critical bench then just alternate the two and critical bench will take you to being one of the best shirt and raw benchers with the proper adjustments.
15) Hanging Band Press
I'm assuming you know what the regular band press is, much like chains. It's bands hooked to the floor whether it's on a dumbbell or it's critical bench bungee bands hooked under the bench. The bands pull the weight down to the floor and you have to force the weight up as the tension increases every single path. Okay, we have that down now, so imagine the bands being hooked in reverse, from the top of the rack? Yes, this is very important when you are training for a shirt bench because it has a very similar groove.
So when bands are hooked to the top of the power rack this is usually called the "reverse band press" or the "hanging band press". The reverse band press works in an opposite motion from the regular band press. With the reverse band press you need to find a way to hook the bands to the top of your power rack. With the reverse band press instead of the bands pulling the weight down to the ground, it forces you to pull the weight down much like you would need to if you were using a bench press shirt. Since the bands are now hooked to the top of the rack they will give you extra explosion coming off of your chest, but the tension will decrease every inch that you travel the bar and eventually as you get to lockout you will need the tricep power to finish out the weight. When bands
are hooked to the top of the power rack, how much they help depends on how much band tension you apply much like when you are using bands hooked from the ground. Usually at average if you are using strong bands you should get about 100lbs assistance. The bands would aid off the chest and then they would aid less as you got to the lockout stage of the bench press and it would be all you at lockout.
Many benchers love the hanging band press. Some will put a shirt on and use the hanging band press at the same time. They do this so they get the feel of very heavy weights. When you are use to holding 990lbs in training then you will have all the confidence you need and no mental barriers when you are benching 900lbs in a bench meet.
Finally bands and chains can be hooked on all exercises. Let's say you are doing 100lbs dumbbell presses, put the bands around your back and at the top of the dumbbell. This will emphasize the lockout more which is the most important factor when it comes to benching with a shirt.
16) A Shirt Routine For A 500 Pound Bench Press
I believe one of the biggest factors to a bigger shirt bench is to find a routine that you enjoy doing the most. Some people just simply don't respond well to high volume workouts no matter how advanced they are or how much they are juiced because their elbows can't take it or whatever the reason is. Some people simply don't have the time and respond better to something shorter and sweeter. So a good routine for someone who has bands, and boards and wants to surpass a 500lbs bench, then a system like the one I am about to mention will be superior to the everyday lifter because the volume isn't too high and everything is intense. Plus since this routine isn't soo high in volume it will give the bencher an amazing amount of balance between having an amazing raw and shirt bench both. So here we go:
Week 1- 225lbs bar weight and 315lbs with bungees hooked to the top. 5 sets of 5. (Use a loose bench shirt or no shirt)
Week 2- Do the same but use a 2 board (wear a loose bench shirt or no shirt).
Week 3- Do 275lbs bar weight 350-375 including bands/chains and do 5 sets of 3. (use a loose bench shirt or no shirt)
Week 4-365 3 sets of 3 off 3 board (use your real bench shirt)
Week 5- 295 bar weight, bungee bands hooked to the top so 380 in total weight.. 2 board for 3 sets of 3. (with real shirt)
Week 6- 315 bar weight, with bungees hooked to lockout making it 405 in total weight. 2 board press, 3 sets of 3. (with real bench shirt)
Week 7- 275 for 3 sets of 3 board press. (with real bench shirt)
Week 8- 405 bar weight, with bungee bands.(455) in total.. off 2 board, 2 sets of 3. (with bench shirt)
Week 9- 475lbs reverse band press one set of 3. (with bench shirt)
Week 10- 500x1 (with bench shirt)
Week 11- easy (with shirt)
Week 12- Max attempt, 500+. (with shirt)
The interesting thing about shirts is that they are always evolving. What we read two years ago, is now out of the times. Therefore, everyone that uses a shirt will need to keep up with all of the new advancements and adapt to them. As whoever is the best dressed will have the edge, and it's up for the bencher to keep up with the times and evolve with the bench shirts.
18) The Mind Of No Limits Before Benching With A Shirt
So as you have been reading this article you will discover that it's part shirt and part man that takes us to greater and greater bench press levels. However, it's not just man, it's not just the shirt, but it's the mind of man. The shirt will allow the bencher to enter 500, 600, 700, 800, 900, 1000 and beyond which can't be done under raw conditions. The key here is that the bencher needs to KNOW that they can go from 500 to a 600lbs bench press fast. If they have a mind that never sets limitations that knows they can get the job done quicker, then the mind will be a greater weapon than the shirt and the training can ever be.
19) The Debate
Imagine the NFL having players with robotic arms that can throw farther, jets on their shoes so they can run faster, and special shoulder pads so they can hit harder. And imagine how much the game of football would change? Well, this has already happened in the sport of bench pressing more so than any other sport. Technology is taking lifters to greater places and the sport has really evolved from old school into the sport of extreme. Turn on WWF from the 80s, now watch ECW of the late 90s, there is nothing in common, but they both bring pleasure to the same and different fans. The thing is that bench shirts no different. Shirts are an option, an opinion and both raw+ shirt benching give the lifters a choice of which direction they want to go in. Raw benching never dies; the bencher can be good at both raw benching and with a shirt. If they choose one or the other then that is fine too. And opinions in the debate should not hurt a lifter if they are happy with themselves as then they don't need anyone's approval or disapproval, they can just gear up or go naturally and accomplish feats of strength that they couldn't even imagine conquering. At critical Bench we give the info, so embrace the disowned cloudy mirror called the shadow that you created when you built that ego to be a shirt or raw lifter, realize they are both part of benching and ride your goals to victory!
20) Putting It All Together
So combine these factors together and your bench shirt max will just keep going up. Who knows you will be one of Critical Bench Spot Light Lifters, and most of all one of the best lifters in the world. A lot of the info has been said, now you just have to be physically and mentally strong enough to do it. I gave you a lot of tips and they just gradually will need to apply into your life according towards your own needs. With time by following these tips and learning new things along the way will take you into being one of few men to press over 1000lbs.