This blog idea had initially started out with a review of the Slingshot that was developed by Powerlifter Mark Bell. Since then it has sort of morphed its way into this and a little more. I figured that whilst I am talking about training the chest with Slingshot, I might as put down some thoughts on how to build a bigger bench.
For those of you who are too impatient to wait and find out about the Slingshot please click on the link here to read more. I have also posted a YouTube video below that demonstrates it in action.
Before I started training at Elite Sports Performance I had never seen and heard of the slingshot before. Typically Saturdays at Elite Sports Performance is Max Upper Body Day and whilst I generally only join the lighter lifting brigade, I have seen it used in conjunction with a number of other training approaches that have helped those individuals increase their bench press max. As a result of this, I purchased the Slingshot and have recently started training with it.
Taking A Look At The Slingshot
The slingshot is one large elastic strap that allows the individual to place their arms through each hole and forces the individuals arms closer to one another. See the image below that I sourced from the internet.
How Does The Slingshot Work?
The slingshot requires the user to place their arms through the arm holes and due to the elastic nature of the strap, it naturally pulls your arms together. My take on the slingshot and how it works is that encourages the lifter to keep their elbows closer together through the lift. The other big factor that I felt it helped greatly on was the slight assistance it gave you as you moved the bar towards to bottom range of the lift (at chest level) and initiating the bar movement away from your chest. It gave me a sense of stability and control and also aided in the movement of the bar away from the chest. I have literally just finished a chest session now where I have previously required spotting for a 1 rep max of 115kg and I have just performed a 1 rep lift of 125kg without any spotting. Now some might say I am being stupid for not having a spotter whilst lifting at my work gym, but the slingshot gave me the confidence the ability to lift this. Now I suspect that I was going to try and up my weight limits towards 130kg plus or perform repeated efforts, I would definitely need a spotter. I am very much looking forward to adding this accessory into my training program to vary up my current training approach. I will post a further update on my development 6-8 weeks from now when I have given it a good go and see if it helps with my raw bench 1RM.
Getting Your Slingshot In Australia
For those wanting to find out where to purchase the Slingshot here in Australia. I bought mine from Underground Elite.
There are currently 2 options with regards to the slingshot. When purchasing the Slingshot, the guys at Underground Elite summed up the differences between the two as being that the traditional slingshot will allow you to bench 15-25kg more than what you normally can and the reactive slingshot will allow you to bench 10-15kg heavier.
Looking At Other Approaches To Increasing Your Bench
I thought I would put together a few paragraphs on my studies, observations and practices with regards to building a bigger bench. For many years I have trained chest with the aim of hypertrophy and it has only been recently that have focused on varying up my training routine by training Speed, Power and implementing other accessories. My traditional chest workouts prior to training at Elite Sports Performance was made up mostly of barbell and dumbbell bench work (flat, decline and incline) and db and cable fly work. Since starting out at ESP I have since trialled and added in the following exercises.
This involves using a board (width can vary) or foam to place on your chest to lower the bar to during the bench pressing. Depending on where your sticking point is in the bench press i.e. just say it is at the lowest point of the lift (bar on chest), then a board can be used so that you can work a weight in those ranges away from the sticking point. This can also be applied to workouts where you are working towards fatigue or failure on the last set, whereby you can start with a board that is perhaps one board thick, moving to 2 boards and then 3 boards (as demonstrated in this image below) to work to failure.
This image was sourced from fitness.stackexchange.com
Rack pressing allows the individual to set the rack bars at a point somewhere between lockout and chest position to allow working out within a set range. This type of training can be useful for getting used to handling heavier loads with the security of knowing the rack is there.
This image was soured from www.muscleandfitness.com
Floor pressing with a barbell or dumbbell involves the individual lifting the weight from lockout to the point at which their elbows hit the floor.
Training With Chains Or Bands
Chains and bands can be used for barbell pressing in a number of ways. As demonstrated in this image below. The individual will be required to push a heavier weight as the bar moves away from them (less chain on the ground). Compared to the position where the bar is on the chest and more chain is on the ground. The same principle can be applied by placing the bands around the bar and attaching them to a point below the bench. The opposite strategy can be applied by attaching bands above the lifter and then attaching them to the bar. This means that the lifter will gain more assistance from the bands as they lower the bar. This is another way to train the individual to get used to heavier loads towards the lockout phase of the lift.
This image was sourced from www.crossfitbreakthrough.com
Incline Or Decline Pressing
The incline and decline pressing movements allow the individual to work different aspects of their chest and can also create variety within a workout.
Varying The Grip Position, Bar Thickness & Bars
Hand position on the bar will vary the amount of work performed by the chest and triceps. A closer grip bar hold will result in greater training of the triceps. Wider grips will result in more chest work. By changing up bars that have different hand holds (neutral grip) or bar thickness (accessories like the Fat Gripz can be used if you don’t have different size bars) to allow the individual to vary their chest training.
Don’t Forget To Work Your…
Building bigger triceps will help with your bench press as it is not possible to bench press without the triceps. If you hit a plateau in your chest training and have tried varying up the routine in many ways, then look at building those other muscles around the chest that are involved. Close grip bench press, dips, skull crushers, tricep push downs are just a few different exercises that can be incorporated into the program.
Most people I see in the gym often work their chest, biceps and abdominals more than any other muscle in the body. Its funny how all of these muscles are the first ones you see when you look in the mirror and the ones that everyone wishes they had when strolling along the beach with their top off. A big strong back is imperative if you want to build your chest strength. When we take a look at the powerlifting style of chest pressing (shoulders squeezed down and back to create a big strong stable base), without a strong stable base, we are performing an inferior chest press. Building a bigger back means working on the lats, rhomboids, traps and rotator cuff muscles. I personally like to work at a 2:1 ratio of back to chest exercises and sets. Back exercises can include: Chins, Lat Pull Down (check out the Maximum Advantage Grip bars if you want to try something different), Seated Rows, Pullovers and Cable Row to chest or head. Be sure to change up your grips (pronated, neutral and supinated) so that you work the back in all possible ways. Bar sizes can also be varied to strengthen ones grip. If you don’t have a range of different sized bars, be sure to check out the Fat Gripz atwww.ironedge.com.au
Some interesting articles to read from Westside Barbell and Strength & Conditioning Coach Charles Poliquin
Osteopath Heath Williams is owner and director of Principle Four Osteopathy. He has undertaken further education in Strength & Conditioning and has a special interest in exercise prescription & rehabilitation. Principle Four Osteopathy is located in the heart of the Melbourne City CBD 3000 at 29 Somerset Place, Melbourne City CBD 3000 (near the corner of Little Bourke & Elizabeth St). We offer the following services at the clinic: Osteopathy consultations, Functional Movement Screening, Exercise Prescription & Rehabilitation Consultations & Workplace Occupational Risk Assessments & Training.
Book online @ www.principlefourosteopathy.com or call 03 9670 9290.