Ted Arcidi's Bench Training
How He Developed a Record Bench Press
The 10 Day Countdown
Ten days prior to the Hawaiian International, Ted's last heavy workout in the bench press was on Thursday. He benched 636 lbs. for 3 reps, and followed that set with 650 for 2 solid reps. On Saturday he did some light intensity squats and deadlifts. The press behind neck was also done on this day. On this movement he did 370 for 3 reps. This was a new PR and unofficial world record, but what made this lift so unique was the fact that Ted didn't want to push the behind the necks too close to the contest because he feels that he must let up a little in assistance work except for the triceps. Suffice it to say he didn't hold back on this lift when he returned home from Hawaii. He did a monstrous 400 lbs. for 2 solid reps.
He rested on Sunday and then on Monday it was light intensity benches and assistance work with the exception of the lying triceps extensions to the nosed, where Ted did 375 for 6. Lat machine pulldowns were not done on this day but were, in fact, done on Tuesday.
Now on Wednesday, which is normally a scheduled rest day, he did some bench press work utilizing stops or pauses on the chest with 455 lbs. From this day on it was a time of ABSOLUTE REST and RELAXATION until that following Sunday afternoon in Hawaii, where Ted made powerlifting history by benching an incredible 705 lb. world record.
Ted's powerlifting training cycle may appear simple on paper but he assured me that his program is explicitly calculated toward the acquisition of great strength.
Dennis: Ted, I have a number of questions about your one year training cycle that I would like to ask. To begin, I notice that you work your bench press light on Monday and very heavy on Thursday. It would seem to me that a lifter would be at his strongest on Monday after having the weekend off. Why is your workout schedule different in that respect?
Ted: Yes, my light day is on Monday and the heavy day is Thursday on the bench. I feel that if I come back from a weekend even though I don't party all that much, I am still going to come in on Monday a little groggy. I am more into the heavy lifting on Thursday than earlier in the week.
Dennis: I notice that your training is very minimal on Tuesday and Friday and absolutely no workouts are scheduled on Wednesday and Sunday. This would suggest to me that you feel recuperation is an important consideration. Would you comment on this?
Ted: Recuperative abilities for individuals are different. As far as working to the maximum in training during the week, I bench heavy ONCE a week. I also bench 'extremely light' once a week. On the light day I might do 420 for 5 reps. I could probably do it for 30 reps but I only do it for slight muscle stimulation so I don't atrophy. So, if I keep it light I am still recuperating from the heavy session on the previous Thursday workout but not detraining.
In a sense I do have seven long days of recuperation and that is good for the bench. Also for the heavy behind the neck press, if I can keep Monday a medium day and Thursday extremely light then I go extremely heavy on them Saturday. I do find that if I adhere to my schedule and keep it that way I won't have any bad workouts. I always plan my recuperation around my heavy days.
Dennis: Now here is something slightly out of the norm. I notice that you combine squats and deadlifts on the same workout day. What is the logic behind this rather intense exercise layout?
Ted: I don't know why some lifters get this look of threat and dread on their face when you tell them to squat and deadlift on the same day. It's back and legs for both lifts. You're killing two birds with one stone. You're getting both lifts taken care of in one day and then you have six days of rest for the legs and back. That's my theory, and I know most people might not agree.
Dennis: Lat pulldowns and the press behind neck seem to be important parts of your program. Is there some particular reason for this?
Ted: As I've mentioned, the behind the neck press is a great basic exercise as well as the pulldown. They're very good for EXPLOSION . . . that initial explosion of the bar needed for heavy benching. Those two exercises definitely work what's needed to initiate the explosion.
As far as the end of the lockout in the bench, it's a known fact that the triceps do the basic locking out. I'd say they do 90% of the lockout.
Dennis: I notice that you do lying triceps extensions to the nose in a slightly unique way. I will include a photo of that, but could you please explain your method of performance on this exercise?
Ted: Triceps extensions to the nose are the best thing. They're the greatest triceps strengthener I've ever used. You must bring the bar to your nose and then you must bring it straight up from your nose. You don't bring the bar down to your chest and bench it. It's not a benching exercise. You triceps it up, you use your triceps. I feel that the bar-to-the-nose position taxes the triceps to the greatest level.
Dennis: I notice that you do not include any singly reps in your training and in particular the competition phase of your training. Why is that?
Ted: I just don't believe in singles, although singles are very good for explosion.
Dennis: You seem to favor sets of six reps frequently in your workouts. Are 6's really that important?
Ted: 6's are great, you get good endurance and strength. I feel that 6's are the greatest thing that men ever came across for reps in the bench. With 6's you're away from the heavy, heavy weight, but yet you still have to throw some weight around because it's not exactly light weight. Imagine going for your best six reps. For me that means I've got to get 560-570 pounds. This gives me a lot of tendon and ligament strength. This is a very important factor when getting into the heavy triples and doubles later. Because of the endurance and increased lung capacity from the 6's, you'll be able to blow up those 3's and 2's.
Dennis: Do you have any certain speed that you strive for when performing a repetition?
Ted: As far as a controlled speed of movement in the bench, I don't recommend a very slow, or a very rapid descent of the bar to the chest. I know in the last competition I let the bar come down very fast, but that was because I was doing 3 attempts with 666 pounds and I had to conserve as much energy or ATP as was possible.
As far as this last contest, I thought it was executed well. I'm descending the bar at a moderate rate, but not at a slow rate. You bring the bar down too slow and you're going to burn out. It's like doing negatives. I don't feel it helps. A moderate rate, a moderate speed is the answer.
Dennis: I've noticed that you take some rather lengthy rests between your sets. Would you please comment on this?
Ted: I do take a lot of time resting between heavy benches. I take up to 5 or 6 minutes between sets. I don't care, I want to get the weight, so that is why I take a lot of time in between my sets on heavy days. I need to feel completely ready for the next set. Now, on my light days on the bench and even with assistance work I go very fast because I'm not going for any real heavy weights.
Dennis: I notice that you don't constantly change your training around. I have observed some powerlifts who simply refuse to follow directions and are constantly changing or adding to a workout. Do you feel that it is important to stick with a good routine, providing it is producing results?
Ted: I definitely stick with a definite program throughout my training cycle. If i do make a change it's probably due to a small bout with a cold or a cough or an illness of some kind. I might go back 5 or 10 pounds at the most but this last cycle I kept everything up to training. As a matter of fact, it even makes your head feel better if you're about 5 pounds ahead of schedule, so you know if you do have to cut back you're all set. You're still going to break even. You have to DISCIPLINE yourself!!! That's the only way you're going to make BIG GAINS, because when devise that schedule you are devising a gain theory throughout the whole of the workout schedule. If you don't stick with that definite program, if you have to make a lot of changes, that probably means you're not sticking to it and you're not going to make the gains. To compromise, to cushion that pitfall, you want to be at least 5 pounds ahead of schedule.
Dennis: I notice that you sometimes do some forced reps on your heavy bench day. This is really incredible, considering that you are using 560-570 for sets of 6. What are your thoughts on using these?
Ted: I usually do a couple of forced reps on my last set of every heavy workout. I didn't do any forced reps on my last workout before the Hawaii contest because I felt if I did I would burn out.
Dennis: When you are into the competition phase of your training and it is nearing contest time, what do you use as a measuring stick for gauging each workout?
Ted: As far as gauging myself before a contest, I figure this - I go for my best triple and my best double in my last workout. If I get them, I'm in fat city, I'm skating, I'm all set. You don't know how much that helps my head. When I went to the gym all week it was bothering me. I HAD to get my 635 for 3 and I HAD to get my 650 for 2. If I didn't get that, you know what that would have done to my head, if I didn't get these lifts before the meet?
I would've had to gauge myself lower than my expectations and I don't like to do that! I figured I was good for a 678 bench at the Hawaii meet after a good double with 650 in my last heavy bench workout. I can probably guarantee 30 pounds over my best double. I know it might sound strange but if I'd got 678 pounds and missed 705 I'd still be a happy man because I did exceed my previous record. The 705 just happened to come at a good time. I must have peaked myself out just the right way, so that 705 was in the cards.
It was no longer a figment of my imagination.
Dennis: A key that you mentioned in your last comment was that you peaked just the right way. I notice that you only peak for one or two contests a year, while many other nationally ranked powerlifters compete regularly throughout the whole year. What is your theory behind only entering one or two meets a year?
Ted: Before, I used to peak for five or six contests a year. THAT WAS CRAZY! I found I just wasn't winning. Your body needs rest. It can't go hard all year round. This machine, our body, is imperfect, so we have to compromise.
Six contests a year took a lot out of me. You know, if I'd only competed in one contest a year I would have made double the gains. But that was when I was young and I finally straightened up my act two-and-a-half years ago when I started entering only two contests a year. Just think, your body in the preparation phase of training will be rested and the stress will be taken off because you won't have thrown around those heavy, heavy triples and doubles. Then when I do finally get into those 3's and 2's in the final weeks of the competition phase of my training, I look forward to it. It won't be a grind because it will be the first time in a year since I've done them (2's and 3's). I might be peaking for the Hawaiian Internationals only because first, it is a very good meet and second, because I want to give myself rest. After that 705 pounds I felt like I was playing in the NFL both ways during the Superbowl, offense and defense. My shoulders were killing me. I'm just glad it worked out.
Dennis: Ted, I know that you live in Boston and obviously to get to the Hawaii meet you had to travel by jet halfway across the continent. How many days prior to this contest did you leave for Hawaii?
Ted: I had to travel through two time zones to go from Boston to Honolulu for the contest. Last year I went a week earlier before the contest just to get acclimated. I thought that was the smartest way. I know a lot of people don't think that jet lag has that big a negative effect, especially if you sleep on the plane, but it does. Your body's like a clock. It's in synch with a specific day length and sleep time and you have to get adjusted to that particular time scale in that particular area where you're going to be lifting.
I feel at least six days ahead of schedule is plenty of time to get there, eat and sleep and get into the daily regime in that part of the world. I've seen people come in a day or two before the contest and they look horrible at the meet. They're sweating, out of breath, plus they're not used to the weather. For instance, they're coming from a cold area and going into warm area, and the hemoglobin reacts differently. Your blood is a lot thicker.
Your body has a hard time just burning energy, trying to get used to the weather and time schedule. If I'd got there two days before the contest I wouldn't have done 705. I don't think I would've even done 650. I would've flopped.
Dennis: Do you do anything special the evening prior to the day you are scheduled to lift?
Ted: I like to go to a movie and get things off my mind. The heavy weights have been lifted. I just like to live a carefree life that night. I don't go carousing, and I'm conservative as far as I don't drink or eat in excess.
Dennis: Getting into the contest itself . . . what type of a plan do you implement to assure making all of your attempts?
Ted: I open up with something I could probably do about four times, which at Hawaii was 617 pounds. I could have probably done that about seven times it went up so easy. The second attempt is a poundage I could probably do two or three times, and I did the 650. I could have sworn right then and there, with that crowd, I could have done that weight for 8 or 9 reps! I know I could have. The third attempt got the crowd very hot, I jumped 30 pounds and did a world record 678, and believe me that did help me out. That type of progression definitely helped me out.
Dennis: Ted, didn't you experience some problems with your attempts at last year's '84 Hawaiian Internationals?
Ted: Yes, I made a mistake that year. I jumped from 606 to 666 pounds. 60 pounds is a big weight jump. That feels very heavy. I can't do that much of a jump. That's why I had trouble last year, even though I got my fourth attempt at 666. I probably could've gone up to 670 or 680 that meet, but that's water under the bridge. Talking about this meet, I thought I progressed myself at a good pace. The 617, the 650, then the 678 and boy when I got that 678 it went up so nice too, because I had a very nice easy progression. I wasn't taxed, and when the 2,000 fans went nuts I just went with them.
I cracked that last ammonia cap and I went for 705. I began lowering the weight down, I was shaking a little. My arms were shaking, but the weight was still going down level, that's what the judges were concerned about. On the way up I swear I could hear the whole world ending. I could only see a focal point of light. It was like it was getting darker on the sides of me, it was like everything was getting dark around me. I couldn't see the spotters anymore, like from the sides of my eyes. The crowd was still really yelling, but their voices were getting distant. I couldn't hear them too well. I barely heard the guy say, "PRESS". It really felt like would've woke up out of a dream. I've heard of mental telepathy, but let me tell ya something truthfully. The crowd must have levitated that bar with their minds because I know that while I was in condition to do 705 pounds anywhere in the world at that given moment, I would not have been able to do it quite as vigorously as I did in Hawaii. People commented later to me that the 705 went up easier than the 678.
Dennis: Tell me a little about your mental attitude, Ted.
Ted: I hear a lot of lifters talking about what they're going to do and stuff. That's all well and good for them. I just tell people I'm going to do my best.
You don't owe anybody anything. You're your own man. When the party's over and you've screwed up, you're the guy you have to answer to. If you do well, you still have to answer to yourself.
When people came up to me in Hawaii and asked if I was going to go for 700, I said I'll do my best. I'm not cocky. Every attempt, every lift means a lot.
Dennis: Do you have any tips for a powerlifter entering his first contest?
Ted: Yes, I have some tips. GET THE CROWD GOING! Slam that first attempt up. You go out there and that first attempt looks shaky, well that is definitely not helpful to your second and third attempts. You want to establish yourself, get used to the surroundings, the lights, the bench itself, the footing. Blow up something you can do at least three times and then take a good, relative jump, I'd say about 20 or 30 pounds and go for that second one. It should be a lot easier for you, because you're warmed up and you have established yourself. The first attempt is the hardest to do because it is the first heavy weight you've done in 10 days if you rest yourself the right way.
Best of luck in reaching your goals!
[Quote] "On the light day I might do 420 for 5 reps. I could probably do it 30 time...."
The strength of some of the guys is incomprehensible...and humbling, that is, if I thought I was strong, for a female.
It'd be a top selling book in our sport if these guys were to map out their entire journey of programs. Granted, at Ted's level I do believe genetics have something to do with it. Juice or not.
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