By Chris Wilson, Head Strength Coach
Let’s get right to it!
There is a lift LOTS of guys struggle with improving at the gym that can be extremely frustrating and defeating…
The Bench Press
These guys work as hard as any of the other guys in the gym but feel so inferior, especially when one of them asks, “So how much can you bench?” They embarrassingly mumble “My max is 205 pounds.”
If they weigh 225 pounds but struggle to rep out their own body weight, it’s as if they can hear people chuckling throughout the gym at them.
This ‘strength technique’ I’m about to share with you is for the guys who are getting sick and tired of justifying their weakness in the bench press and being the laughing stock of the gym.
With this training technique, you will have a shot at increasing your bench in only 6 weeks!
So you SUCK BIG TIME when it comes to bench press…
Don’t feel like you are alone as I can relate to you (as well as many other guys) with regard to a having a weak bench press at some point in our training.
Back in the day, I could do full barbell back squats with 315 pounds for 15 reps without much of a warm-up easier than I could bench press 225 pounds for ten reps.
Basically I could easily rep out my body weight PLUS 100 lbs on squats but only hit my body weight for like 10 reps. Compared to other guys with big benches, I felt like a failure.
I just wanted to feel the same kind of confidence while lying under the bar that I felt while standing under it.
If there is a positive to my bench press weakness it is that I have researched nearly every bench press routine known to mankind over the years. I know what works and what is monkey crap when it comes to bench press routines.
Here is a 6-week bench press routine, which will give you the most amount of gain factor in the least amount of training time.
It is called ‘Flashpoint Bench Pressing’.
This training technique uses a fixed poundage percentage of a maximum un-fatigued single-effort. The percentages of maximum and corresponding poundage increases only once every seven days, over the next six weeks. Here is an outline of the six progression training levels that many bodybuilders in both the amateur and pro ranks will use in their quest for upping bench press power.
Do this workout on Monday and Friday or…Tuesday and Saturday
The point is to have 3 days off in the middle of your bench days.
Level One (Week #1)
After a couple of light specific warm-up sets perform 5 sets of ten reps with 65% of current un-fatigued maximum single effort (MSE).
Level Two (Week #2)
5 sets x 8 reps with 72% MSE
Level Three (Week #3)
5 sets x 6 power reps with 79% MSE
Level Four (Week #4)
5 sets x 4 power reps with 86% MSE
Level Five (Week #5)
4 sets x 3 power reps with 93% MSE
Level Six (Week #6)
1 set x 2 power reps with 100% MSE
NOTE: Always be sure to do a couple of light specific warm-up sets at each level of training.
By Dennis B. Weis
Smash through training barriers and make “phenomenal progress” with the amazing 30 Day 50 / 50 Counter-Split Specialization.
One of the most radical, but muscle producing methods of specialization we have come across is, the old-school 30-Day Fifty / Fifty Counter-Split Specialization.
This is a little known training secret that many top bodybuilders have used for years as a means of forcing rapid gains in size and strength and urging along improved muscle shape, naturally.
Basically it is a counter-split which consists of priority training a lagging muscle group SIX-DAYS-A-WEEK. Here’s how it works.
The muscle (segment) group needing specialization is trained for muscle size and strength on Monday-Wednesday and Friday. Countering (hence the term “counter-split) those training days the muscle (segment) group is shape trained on the intervening days (Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday).
Fifty percent of specialization training will be for the development of muscle size and strength and can be performed on three alternate days per week.
Muscle Bulk & Strength Mon-Wed-Fri
Using the biceps for an example choose one multiple joint or compound exercise which will work the belly of the muscle.
Do 4 to 9 sets each and low reps of (9-3) prevail; using maximal weight on each set of an exercise. Here’s how it works:
1st Week – Begin the program by doing the Standing Barbell Curl for 4 sets x 9 reps on each training day.
2nd Week – Do a total of 5 sets x 7 reps of the Seated and/or kneeling Barbell Curl on each training day.
3rd Week – Do 6 sets x 5 reps of the Standing Alternating Dumbbell Curls, on each training day
4th Week – Do 7 sets x 3 reps of the Standing Barbell Curl on each training day during this final week of training.
This 4 week progressive sets outline is generally adaptable for the intermediate bodybuilder. Super advanced bodybuilders can begin with 5 sets per a major or minor muscle group, needing specialization, each workout day during the first week of priority training. Do 7 sets the second week of training and 9 sets the third and fourth weeks. Very few super advanced bodybuilders will ever need more than nine sets of one exercise per muscle group each workout session.
Rest-pause between sets 2-5 minutes.
Shape Train Tue-Thur-Sat
The remaining fifty percent of specialization you will shape train (training is structured for the development of blade sharp separation and granite hardness in a muscle sector).
Choose one muscle specific or isolation exercise which will target the (major or minor) muscle group needing specialization. Do 4 to 9 sets each and high reps of (9-12) prevail; using light to moderate poundage on each set of an exercise.
1st Week – Begin the program by doing the Preacher Bench Barbell Curl for 4 sets x 9 reps, on each training day.
2nd Week – Do Dumbbell Hammer Curls for a total of 5 sets x 10 reps, on each training day.
3rd Week – Do One-Dumbbell Concentration Curls for 6 sets x 11 reps, on each training day
4th Week – Do the Gironda Body Drag Curl for 7 sets x 12 reps, on each training day during this final week of training.
Rest-pause between sets 45 – 90 seconds.
For the 30-Day Fifty/Fifty Counter-Split Specialization program, or any other training protocol’s to be successful Impeccable Exercise Form is a must for accelerating the muscle gain and strength factors and derailing the onset of training injuries.
Always be concerned with doing an exercise correctly for the prescribed number of reps rather than how much poundage you can use in an uncontrolled (i.e. “jerking” or “bouncing” movements) manner. Here’s a unique way you can accomplish impeccable exercise form and increase exercise poundage logically.
Impeccable Exercise Form:
Biomechanical changes with regard to the speed of the negative (eccentric) and positive (concentric) phase of consecutive reps in a set is important to your progress and success in specialization training procedures.
Perhaps every third workout it is a good idea to do the first half of your reps in a set super slow where it takes you ten seconds in the positive phase and five seconds per rep in the negative phase.
Or decrease to eight seconds during the concentric (peak contraction) phase and four seconds in the negative phase. This procedure should only be done for one set and two at the very most on a scheduled training day.
Poundage Increase Logic:
Use what is called The “Kaizen” Method (The Japanese word Kaizen means “constant and never-ending improvement.”) in the poundage’s used, for a particular rep scheme (9-3 or 9-12), at the beginning of each training week. Add 1 ¼ -2 ½ pounds to each side of a barbell and as little as ¼ -½ pounds per dumbbell used.
(Tip: Add 1 1/8th inside diameter cast iron flat washers and/or magnetic PlateMates on the barbell or dumbbells to accomplish the weight jump factors.)
While the above increases may seem unremarkable it makes the weight of the barbell and/or dumbbell(s) physiologically and psychologically easier to use, each and every week, as opposed to say adding 10 pounds to a bar and almost instantly hitting a plateau and not being able to add poundage for weeks at a time.
Note: Concluding this overview of the old-school 30-Day Fifty/Fifty Counter-Split Specialization suggests to us that training six days per week is a bit much for the full recovery of the muscles and nervous system.
I think a modified training approach where-in the MUSCLE BULK AND STRENGTH PROGRAM is performed on Monday and Friday and the MUSCLE SHAPE PROGRAM on Tuesday and Saturday, to be more muscle friendly. Another variation to this training option would be to train on Monday and Tuesday, rest & recovery on Wednesday, then train on Thursday and Friday and rest & recovery on Saturday and Sunday.
And if the above weekly 4 day modified training frequency still wasn’t accommodating rest & recovery then the MUSCLE BULK AND STRENGTH PROGRAM should be done on Monday, Wednesday and Friday that is if the priority training is geared slightly more towards the increase of muscle bulk & strength and the MUSCLE SHAPE PROGRAM on Saturday only.
Further modifications would suggest that if the priority training was accented toward muscle shape stimulation, then do the muscle bulk & strength training on Monday only and the muscle shape training on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
The 30-Day Fifty/Fifty Counter-Split Specialization technique is somewhat similar to ‘Zane’s and Schwarzenegger’s method of specialization (consecutive training days etc.) with the main difference being that it lasts twice as long for improving a lagging muscle (segment) group.
As with any regular and/or specialization training program you will experience low level time factored training results where it seemed like your body is on “strike” (over-trained) so after this intense 30-day specialization program is completed, stop, take a 7 day layoff from all training and then go back onto a regular training schedule of sets and reps for the previously lagging muscle (segment) group.
Interview with New England Patriots Cheerleader Brianna Munoz.
Interviewed by CB Reporter Ben Tatar.
Brianna Munoz has fulfilled her dream as a New England Patriots Cheerleader. She also got to go to the Super Bowl with the 2012 New England Patriot squad, something very few NFL cheerleaders ever get to do. Today Brianna is studying to be a dentist. In this exclusive interview we take an in depth look at the epic journey of being an NFL cheerleader and beyond, as Ben Tatar goes one on one with cheer leading superstar, Brianna Munoz!
CRITICAL BENCH: Brianna, welcome to Critical Bench. Tell us about yourself.
I am originally from Worcester, Massachusetts, but I currently reside in Farmington, CT where I am a student at the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine. I completed my undergraduate degree at Providence College with a double major in Chemistry and Biology and a minor in dance. Although I loved working as a Resident Assistant, my favorite job was working as an NFL cheerleader for the New England Patriots during the 2011-2012 season.
CRITICAL BENCH: All awesome stuff! Briana, how did you become a cheerleader for the New England Patriots? How did you feel when you became a New England Patriots Cheerleader?
Starting at the age of 2 years old, dance has always had a profound impact on my life. One of my fondest childhood memories was dancing the role of Clara in Boston Dance Company’s, The Nutcracker. I was accepted into Boston Ballet at a young age and have always been moved by using the body as instrument in depicting a story. Combining my passion for dance with my pride for New England and commitment to service, becoming a Patriots Cheerleader has always been a dream. All members of my family are devout Patriots fans, even the dogs. I found the audition dates on the internet, and I added this farfetched goal to my bucket list. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting anything and went to the audition for the experience itself. I knew that just being able to learn a few routines in the field house where the Patriots players practiced would be an incredible experience.
Once I saw a line of over 200 women that wrapped through the field house and into the parking lot, I was so intimidated that I didn’t want to get out of the car! I knew they were making 3 eliminations on the day of preliminary auditions, so I just took a deep breath and thought, “I’ll probably be cut by noon, but at least I’ll get to go to the Olive Garden in Patriots Place for lunch and I can order my favorite, the Tour of Italy (which is chicken parmesan, lasagna, and fettuccini alfredo.)” Before making the first cut, the cheering coach really inspired me when she applauded all of us for making the effort of getting out of bed early on a Saturday morning to come one step closer to accomplishing our goals. After seeing the building slowly but steadily empty throughout the day as more cuts were made, it started to hit me that this farfetched dream may actually become a reality. Contrary to my expectations, I didn’t leave the field house until 8 hours later. I was overjoyed to be having the Tour of Italy as a late dinner instead of an early lunch!
CRITICAL BENCH: Tell us about the tryouts. What do girls have to do skill wise?
For the 2011-2012 season, the audition process to become a New England Patriots Cheerleader was seven weeks long, culminating in the selection of a 31-member squad. Preliminary auditions consisted of 3 cuts and had 3 components performed in front of a panel of ten judges; an across the floor combination, free style, and a choreographed routine. Those who made it through prelims had a one-on-one interview with the cheerleader director and advanced onto finals two weeks later. Boot camp was the last element of auditions. After public speaking and media training, learning choreography, and partaking in fitness training which included Insanity, P90X, and running the ramps at Gillette Stadium, the 2011-2012 squad was announced. Boot camp was amidst RA duty and the tech week for the Providence College Dance Company Spring Show in which I choreographed a pointe piece. I actually found out that I made the team an hour before my show, and the first event for the new squad was traveling to Aruba to make the Patriots Cheerleader Swimsuit Calendar!
CRITICAL BENCH: What was the Patriots cheerleader Calendar shoot in Aruba like for you?
Traveling with the Patriots Cheerleaders to Aruba was such an amazing experience. The week was filled with partaking in photo shoots, working promotional events, meeting with Patriots fans, practicing for a show, and filming for a reality show, “From Sideline to Shoreline.” We were so thankful to all of our sponsors and were thrilled with the final product of the Patriots Cheerleader Swimsuit Calendar.
CRITICAL BENCH: What were your favorite and least favorite parts of Patriots Cheerleader practices?
My favorite part of practice was the time spent bonding with the other women on the team. Even after the seven week audition process, I already felt as though everyone was a family. We were all very different, but similar in having goals and ambitions. My least favorite part of practice was running the ramps at Gillette Stadium!
CRITICAL BENCH: What was your favorite part about being a cheerleader?
Along with the indescribable feeling of being on the field at Gillette Stadium, my favorite part of being a Patriots Cheerleader was the many opportunities to partake in promotional work, which oftentimes consisted of meeting with business owners who sponsor the team. From visiting children at hospitals to participating in cancer walks, volunteerism was a fundamental part of being on the cheering squad. In particular, working with the Make-A-Wish Foundation was one experience that I will never forget.
CRITICAL BENCH: What went through your mind when you stepped onto the field before a big game?
Before each game, I always felt very humbled to have the opportunity to pursue one of my dreams and to share the field at Gillette Stadium with one of the best teams in the NFL.
CRITICAL BENCH: You also got to go to the Super Bowl as a Patriots Cheerleader. Something few NFL cheerleaders ever get to experience. What was it like getting to go to the Super Bowl?
It was such an honor to be a part of the CNBC #1 ranked NFL squad and to cheer for the 2011-2012 AFC Champions, the New England Patriots! I will never forget the energy and excitement at Gillette Stadium as the Patriots beat the Ravens and took the AFC title. I saved confetti from the field so that I could always remember that indescribable moment. What a season!
CRITICAL BENCH: What do you enjoy doing away from Cheerleading?
I enjoy modeling, shopping, and most of all spending time with my baby cousins, Tristan and Sam. Even at two years old, they both wore their Brady jerseys to meet the whole squad at the Patriots Cheerleader Introduction Night. I love them both so much and could sit and play with their Thomas the Train set all day!
CRITICAL BENCH: What are your future goals?
I’m currently in dental school working towards my career goal of becoming a dentist.
CRITICAL BENCH: Have you always wanted to go into dentistry? If not, why did you choose that field?
Interning at the Summer Medical and Dental Education Program at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, working in a lab through the Aetna Health Professions Partnership Initiative Summer Research Fellowship Program at the University of Connecticut Health Center, and spending countless hours in the library have all been steps in the long journey towards pursuing a degree in dental medicine. Ever since high school, I have known that it was my vocation in life to pursue a career in the health care profession. Applying the knowledge which I have fostered throughout my academic career to help those in need feels like a moral responsibility.
Maintaining high-quality dental care is not only important to prevent oral cancer and periodontal disease, but I think preserving one’s smile can greatly affect one’s self-image and self-esteem. Upon introduction, the first thing I notice about a person is his/her smile. In reality, most of us refrain from showing our teeth out of insecurity. Even in photographs I have asked many people why they do not smile. The response to my inquiry is simply, “I don’t like my smile.” How unfortunate! In capturing happy memories these individuals look quite serious all for the sake of hiding that small gap, overbite, or mandibular crowding. As someone who has had braces for two and a half years, I know what it is like to have my bands changed once a month and to alter my eating habits in order to prevent a bracket from breaking. Even to this day, I wear my retainer every night. However, these are just small sacrifices for a copious reward, being able to smile without inhibition for the rest of my life.
CRITICAL BENCH: What was your reaction to the news of your acceptance into dental school?
During my senior year of college, I was accepted to dental school and was able to cheer the New England Patriots on to Super Bowl XLVI; needless to say, it was definitely a year that I will never forget. With a wide array of service and outreach programs, a small class size, and having the highest number of basic science hours of all dental schools, I am thrilled to now be a student in the renowned D.M.D. program at the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine.
CRITICAL BENCH: How do you want to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered as a science cheerleader. As a chemistry and biology double major at Providence College and now as a current student at the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine, I was always studying biochemistry in between cheering practices. Although I stay in to do homework and typically attend classes in my sweats and glasses without any makeup, I also loved putting on the Patriots Cheerleader uniform and representing the Kraft Organization in cheering on one of the best teams in the NFL. Breaking stereotypes was a daunting task, but all thirty-one women on the squad were committed to hard work and volunteerism, which we were reminded of each time we put on the Myra H. Kraft pin.
CRITICAL BENCH: What are your messages for young girls who would like to one day be an NFL cheerleader?
With hard work and dedication, you can accomplish any task. Don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams, and always remember to stay true to yourself.
CRITICAL BENCH: I have girls ask me questions like “What are the NFL cheerleaders like as human beings.” You have been around them in many environments. How would you describe them as people? List 5 things.
CRITICAL BENCH: Tell us what the typical game day is like from start to finish. Give us a timeline about what happens when you wake up, to being in front of the fans, to what you cheerleaders do after the game… Describe a cheerleading Sunday from start to finish!
Game days have been some of the best and longest days. I always packed my suitcase the night before because we would need to bring a variety of uniforms to accommodate rain or shine. It’s important to be prepared for any situation in order to be game day read. A few of the essential items are super glue, safety pins, multiple pairs of tights, hand warmers, feet warmers, hair supplies, and lots of healthy snacks to keep us energized throughout the day. The two items I couldn’t survive without would be my Myra Kraft pin and plenty of Sharpies. We would always have posters, swimsuit calendars, and program books to sign. The morning would start with a meeting followed by practice. Then we would get ourselves ready to meet with fans and to work pre-game promotional events. Before each game we would do a unity circle which would really motivate all of us before stepping out onto the field. The Patriots have the best fans, and they always create such a great energy on game day. After celebrating a win, we would pack our belongings and endure the post-game traffic. Having to wake up early the next morning for school or work, all of us would need a good night sleep after such a long day.
CRITICAL BENCH: How did you enjoy the autograph sessions? Do you have any stories about any interesting fans?
Working promotional events and meeting with Patriots fans was one of the most fulfilling aspects of being an NFL cheerleader. The Patriots have some of the best, most loyal fans and some of the “Super Fans” even traveled with us to Aruba to support the making of the Patriots Cheerleader Swimsuit Calendar.
CRITICAL BENCH: Tell us about your workout routine and diet. What are the keys to being in top NFL cheerleading condition? What separates the ones who make the Pats squad from those who get cut?
Since I have taken a break from cheerleading to pursue a career as a dentist, I became a certified Zumba instructor which has enabled me to continue dancing and choreographing while helping others to achieve their fitness goals.
The Patriots Cheerleaders support physical fitness and living a healthy lifestyle. Other than the athleticism that comes with dancing, we would participate in fitness training at cheering practices which included Insanity, P90X, and running the ramps at Gillette Stadium. Being a Patriots Cheerleader is a part time job but a full time commitment. The women who make the squad each year are driven, goal oriented, and determined to turn a dream into a reality.
CRITICAL BENCH: Briana, in closing is there anyone who you would like to thank?
I would like to thank my family for believing in me and for their incessant encouragement and support.
CRITICAL BENCH: Wow, Briana, what a journey you are having. We at Critical Bench are glad to see that you have had many of your dreams come true and that you’re on your way to making many more dreams become a reality. We wish you all the best.
Here is a Link to a Video from Brianna’s swimsuit calendar shoot in Aruba
Meghan Schwartz ABFF Women’s Bikini Pro Interviewed by Ben Tatar.
CRITICAL BENCH: Meghan, tell us about yourself.
I’m 24, live in Florida, have a dog, and a boyfriend who is unbelievably supportive of my bikini career. My background is in dance, mostly ballet, and I think that’s why I’m so comfortable on a stage “performing”. Both of my parents were competitive bodybuilders in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s, so that’s where my passion for fitness and competitive nature stem from. I’m a certified personal trainer through NCSF, certified group fitness instructor through AFAA, and a 200 Hour Registered Yoga Teacher through Yoga Alliance. I currently teach Hatha Yoga classes, fitnessyoga classes, and Hot Yoga (105 degrees!!). I feel so extremely blessed to earn a living by using my passion for fitness and helping others!!
CRITICAL BENCH: Meghan, you’re the new ABFF women’s Bikini Pro. Give us some detail about how you became the ABFF women’s bikini pro and what it is like?
I can’t believe I’m an ABFF Pro! It’s still overwhelming to me!! Its especially crazy because this was my first ever bikini contest! My coach, IFBB Figure Pro Belinda Hope, told me I was ready to do the Clearwater Super Natural, and even though I had my own personal doubts, I put my faith in my coach and showed up ready! I trained hard and followed my diet!!
CRITICAL BENCH: What are your top 10 tips to having that ultimate bikini body?
Top 10 Tips:
1. Don’t let ANYONE influence you into bad decisions (I’ve stayed home or just had water while my friends are out eating and drinking whatever they want)
2. Don’t bring bad food into the house! If its not there, you won’t eat it!
3. Brush your teeth after every meal, it helps to kill any craving for sweets or desserts
4. Don’t give into “fad” diets. Stick to lean proteins and lots of veggies
5. Food prep! Food prep! Food prep! Take a day to cook most or all of your food for the whole week; that way, you know exactly what’s in your food and its fast and ready for you to eat
6. Cut back on the sugar, sodium, and processed foods
7. Watch out for dairy!
8. Find exercises that you love! I love group fitness classes and find it much more motivating than working out alone
9. Squats and lunges!
10. Have a cheat meal every once in awhile. If you don’t give back to your body, you’ll plateau and find it harder to lose weight (90% of getting the bikini body is the diet, the exercise is the easy part!)
CRITICAL BENCH: What are your future goals?
My future goals are to earn my IFBB Pro card and try to turn this passion into a career as well. I’d love to keep competing for as long as I can and follow any opportunity that comes along with that. I want to keep teaching yoga and continue my education in the fitness industry.