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Powerlifting Bench Press Techniques
Powerlifting Tips & Tricks Exposed
by: Carl Smith
I began training quite late at the age of 26. This was mostly because of an accident in which I had major injuries. I knew a popular bodybuilder and decided to strengthen my body. I soon discovered I enjoyed strength training more than trying to make my body look good in a swimsuit. It also was more practical. After almost two years of this I entered my first powerlifting competition and was hooked. Some laugh at those results but after going through my injuries (and death/revival) the challenge was not against anyone else but for myself. I had a lot to learn about training and competition but unfortunately in this sport there are few that can offer genuine help. I also became aware of the federation politics involved. I decided to leave the one federation in Austria and began lifting in other organisations in USA and South Africa, where I had previously lived and competed. In 1995 I was proposed into the Executive Committee of the second European federation at the same time I received my international referee’s license. Two years earlier I began training according to Louie Simmons’s method. It is now 2001 and I have gathered a lot of experience: on the platform, in the referee’s chair, at the scoretable, on the Executive Committee, as a Promoter of international Championships and in the gym as trainee and trainer. I decided to put some of my views and experiences to paper. Some are humorous. Others may be helpful. Some expose the darker side of the sport, which, at first, may seem funny but are either dangerous or downright stupid.
Human nature wants to hear the scandalous side first. Here are some of my first hand observations:
Personal equipment: There is a video of a lifter attempting a squat in the 1995 World Championships of one organisation in USA. He attempted twice to lift the bar out of the Monolift racks. He failed to do so both times! On the third attempt he did actually move the bar. The weight, however, was so immense for him he crashed to the ground in an ugly manner. It was then discovered he had five pair of power briefs under his double canvas squat suit. Needless to say, they didn’t help. He was not reprimanded or disqualified from the competition for this deliberate infraction of even that lenient organisation.
Another trick used is to wear double ply power briefs. A polyester squat suit (usually double) is then put on with straps up. A T-shirt is then put on over the suit so it appears only power briefs are being worn. A canvas suit is then put on over all this. How do these people breathe, much less move?! Obviously, the squats usually end up 4 inches high only to receive white lights in that federation where this practice occurs.
Shirts can be even more outrageous. It never ceases to amaze me how benchers can’t get 300 kg (661 lbs) down to their chest. Two double shirts are sewn together to make one shirt. Many times an almost non-stretch material is sewn in between the layers of denim or canvas. Extra patches are sewn onto the chest. And a Velcro belt-snake is wrapped from the back around the chest to fasten at the back again. Duct tape is wrapped around the bencher’s chest before he puts the shirt on. Another unique trick is to fasten the bottom of the shirt below the waist using a normal trousers belt. This keeps the shirt stretched down giving more tension. This belt is hidden under the wrestling singlet.
Knee wraps are sewn together to make them even longer. The extension seam is hidden under the wrapping. By the way, most companies make a 2-1/2 metre wrap anyway.
Overuse of baby powder on the thighs for the deadlift has become common. The WPF is the first federation to ban loose baby powder. It is allowed in compressed block form, which does not fly all over getting into the computer and stereo. The WPF is also the only federation that bans blood or open wounds on platform. These are examples of the positive progression of the sport.
Drugs – a very sensitive and controversial, as well as legal, subject. It has gotten way out of hand and self-understood for participation in powerlifting. Even the so-called “drug free” movements are infested. I will not attempt to condemn their use here. Rather, the attitude surrounding their use. Face it; performance-enhancing agents have always been used since ancient Greece. There are a few very good natural products that have become a staple in strength sport. Always consider: where am I, where do I want to go and how do I want to get there? If ugly pus pimples and bloody competition T-shirts don’t bother you or your girl(boy)friend… If your head is as round as the moon but the colour of Mars… If your breasts are larger than your girlfriend’s or she has more in her underwear than you… if you think “´roid rage” is a misspelling of “road rage”… then reconsider where you’re going.
I wrote a previous article titled “Re-evaluating Your Equipment”. In it I went through each lift and the equipment best used for them. Over the years and lifting in various organisations I believe the sport has lost much of its integrity due to the antics used in the use of equipment. The nature of the sport uses equipment to support various muscle groups. This has been extremely exaggerated. I, however, am not convinced of the “Raw” movement using no equipment. Many of those competition lifts are not respected as those numbers are done in the gym by gym-goers on a regular basis. This should not be misunderstood meaning equipment is fully responsible for the weight numbers. But I believe once the muscles are supported the effort should come from the athlete rather than the equipment. Single ply suits and shirts are sufficient. They are also safer as they allow for a fuller range of movement as opposed to those described above. Once the lifter has accustomed to multiply ply he will rarely revert back to single ply. This is mostly a question of ego. But I will be so bold to say that many of the lifts made in multiple ply would not be white-lighted in official federation competition. Therefore, the numbers posted are exaggerated or simply false. On the other extreme you have Hendersons benching over 300 kg and Coans deadlifting 400 kg with a simple wrestling singlet. These are exceptions to the mass body of lifters but serve as examples of training endeavour and relying on your own strength.
I wrote another article titled “Louie Simmons Meets Mike Mentzer”. This describes a training method I developed combing the training principles of Simmons and Mentzer’s “Heavy Duty” method. I call this “Heavy Duty Power Training”. I have been using this program for several years and am more convinced of its absolute principles every year. Reps, peaks and cycles almost all lead to eventual burnout. To offset burnout drugs are used in mass doses. Due to bone spurs and the nature of my work I lost the rotator cuffs and tendons in both shoulders. This required major surgery, which cleaned up the mess but could not repair the loss. Following surgery I had to learn to use my muscles to hold my arms up. When I started training again I could hardly hold the empty bar. In my last competition I benched 150 kg (331 lb). Sounds ridiculous? Yes, for a healthy person. Although it was official competition I competed against myself. This method is always challenging and can be long-term fun.
Be integral to others and honest to yourself. In twenty years you won’t regret it.
I would like to again thank those that have inspired, taught, motivated and supported me over the years: my wife, Karin; my surgeon, Prof. Seggl; Louie Simmons; Mike Mentzer; Brian Smith; Tony Kamand; John LaComb; David Carter; Mike Wlosinski and my training partners.
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