Benchin’

I’m currently bench pressing three times a week, which seems like a lot. In many strength training circles, this would be frowned upon as a likely road to grievous injury. Rotator cuff strains, or pec tears and the like. However, I feel absolutely fine, with nothing bothering me in the least other than a bit of inner elbow tenderness, which is just as likely to be from squatting as it from benching.

I was scanning the YouTubes and watching some competitive powerlifters’ training videos, and someone discussed how their bench press was improving from training it four times a week. My ears perked up and what he said made a lot of sense to me. Being a lean man with long arms, his bench press was not a strength of his so the amount of weight actually being lifted was not particularly stressful to his body, and the increased frequency was providing a lot of practice.

To say that my bench press is not a strength of mine would be putting it mildly. The weight I’m lifting is quite light relative to the weight I move when squatting or pulling deadlifts, so perhaps it’s why bench pressing three times a week as I am now is not causing me any undue hardships. It likely is helping as I’m certainly practicing a lot (I set up competition style and pause every rep, including the warm-up sets) and don’t really do any other upper body work right now except some light rowing twice a week.

Powerlifting is a sport, and the lifts themselves are the sporting event. In terms of skills practice, it’s the equivalent of a baseball player taking batting practice, or taking ground balls and throwing to first over and over again. No one would suggest a baseball player only swing the bat once a week to avoid injury. I think practicing the lifts often is along the same lines of thought. Granted, the volume of work must be managed. A hitter isn’t getting in the batter’s box for BP and taking a maximum effort swing every time. Neither am I. Today, for example, I did 2-count paused bench presses, which by design limits the amount of weight that can be handled. It’s great technique practice and likely more of an active recovery activity than an actual stressor.

Having shifted my mindset to that of an athlete–although I would never call myself one–has made a significant difference in how I approach my training. Everything I’m doing is with purpose, with none of the machismo that often accompanies lifting weights. I’ll admit I have been caught up in that sort of thing many times, going into the gym to “SFW” or some other such nonsense. It’s pretty counterproductive in the process and while I romanticized the idea, methodically practicing my lifts and planning my training to hopefully culminate in an actual competition is much more suited to my personality.

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