Explode (Off) The Chest

Let’s set the tone for today’s post with this video from Pat Stansik:

There are three major take away points that I’d like to point out:

  1. Protein, Bro.

  2. It’s alright to listen to Call Me Maybe.

  3. Explode off the chest when benching.

Which one do you think we’ll be discussing today?  The bench press.  I’m not a die-hard fan of the bench press like some of my constituents are, but if you’re going to use it, you should do it the right way.  If you’re completely unfamiliar with benching, I’d suggest checking out the 7-part So You Think You Can Bench series that Dave Tate of ElitsFTS filmed with Josh Hachat.

Now that you’ve refreshed your pressing technique, I want to discuss what Pat mentions in the video above:  Exploding (off) the chest. Exploding off the chest isn’t only about moving the weight quickly; it’s actually about the intent to move the weight quickly.  If we appreciate Henneman’s Size Principle, we know that motor units (nerves and the muscles they innervate) are recruited in an economical fashion.  Slower, smaller motor units are recruited first, and when they reach threshold, faster and larger motor units are recruited.  If you’re looking for maximal recruitment of muscle fibers, you have to either lift heavy, or lift fast.

Lifting heavy is easy to gauge; you either press the weight or you don’t.  Lifting fast however, is a different story.  It’s highly unlikely that you have access to an accelerometer to clip to your barbells, but bar speed is an important factor when it comes to training your bench press.  Dynamic Effort training involves using submaximal weights, which range anywhere between 40% to 60% of your max, to practice moving the bar as quickly as possible.  I’ll let Jim “Smitty” Smith from the Diesel Crew explain it from here:

In Jimmy’s first tip he explains that without sacrificing form, you’re trying to move the bar as quickly as possible.  Too often, the bench press is used as an exercise instead of a lift.  Like all skills, it takes practice to improve, and it’s necessary to develop sound technique before whipping a bar up and down over your chest.  Once you’re comfortable with the idea and practice of pressing fast, you’ll notice improvements in your heavy benching.  Training the intent to move fast is about a neurological improvements, not metabolic improvements.  It’s not about bigger muscles, but faster muscles.  Speed is strength.

This speed is present regardless of the weight you’re moving; either at 50% or 95%, you’re trying to move the bar as quickly as possible.  Take a look at this recent single I took.  Even if it was a slow lift, I was trying to press the bar as quickly as I could:

I still have technique issues to address, such as that bar path, but as I work more benching into my program, I’m happy to see the bar moving off of my chest more quickly; some of my speed work is paying off.

If you have any questions, comments, or complaints about “Call Me Maybe”, leave them below!

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