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J_Byrd 09-18-2012 11:36 AM

Getting the most out of a bench shirt
Nice article. Good information.

Ironland - Powerlifting, Strongman and Strength training equipment

BendtheBar 09-18-2012 11:39 AM

Posting the article. because it is a store I', hoping they won't mind the exposure:

Ironland - Powerlifting, Strongman and Strength training equipment

Ironland - Powerlifting, Strongman and Strength training equipment

Ironland - Powerlifting, Strongman and Strength training equipment

Ironland - Powerlifting, Strongman and Strength training equipment


How to get the most out of your bench shirt

By John Land

Training or competing in a bench shirt is extremely demanding and taxing on the body. It takes some lifters years to master and to get the most out of their gear. For example, take two lifters of the same size, build and type of shirt who have been training in a shirt for the same amount o f time. Lifter – 1 benches 400lb raw and 550lb in a shirt yet Lifter – 2 benches 400lb raw and 650lb the same type of shirt. What is the main difference in their training that would cause that such a large gap in their numbers?

From my point of view let’s key in on what Lifter 2 is doing right.


Before you start putting up the big numbers you have to feel comfortable in your shirt. I don’t mean it should fit like a night gown and makes you feel relaxed wanting to take a nap. Or even better get some coffee with the girls then get your hair done on a Sunday afternoon. No, what I mean is that once you put the shirt on it should feel like an extension of you. Once the bar is un-racked the only thought that crosses your mind is that you will nail the lift and nothing else. As the bar gets closer to touching, you should not feel like the angle of death is upon you waiting for you to get crushed or as you’re pressing the bar back up being afraid it will smash you in the face if it is miss-grooved. “Life is too short to be a chicken shit”, so if you’re scared you will never succeed.


Good form starts with a good base. Depending on what federation you lift in it will determine how you can set up on the bench. Other than some small differences here are the main key factors:
1) Think about making your shoulder blades touch together squeezing every muscle in your upper back. Think about this, when the bar is un-racked and your upper back is loose there is not much control over the bar causing you to lose control in turn dumping the bar.
2) Arch your lower back as much as possible. This will require a lot of stretching and practice. The idea is that the height the bar must travel will be reduced (it is easier moving something 6”-8” than 12”-15”). A lot of foam rolling or using a PVC pipe will help loosen the muscles in your lower back, in turn making it easier to get into position.
3) Set your feet. Whether you bench on your toes or flat footed it is important to tuck your feet as far back as you can. Why? Leg drive plays a big part when lifting max effort. If your legs are too far out in front of you they are completely taken out of the lift and in turn not assisting at all.
4) Have a wide grip. Along with making the distance shorter in your bench stroke it will also give you more control over the bar. Having your hands too close will cause the bar to be in control of you.


This is all about trial and error. There is nothing wrong with “hand me downs”, so before you spend a couple hundred dollars on something that may not work barrow your buddies. Over time you will learn where your groove is and what is too “tight” or what doesn’t work for you. A good fitting shirt should not be too small where it is impossible to touch or get your hands out to proper width, but it should not be too loose that touching 135 is like a walk in the park. This will take some time, but hang in there Cinderella you will find your glass slipper.
If you want to bench more, you have to “bench more”. When doing board presses take advantage of the fact that it is not a full range rep, and just lift more. There is no magic percentage to follow because it varies from lifter to lifter. However, the trick is to push yourself and project what you want to accomplish. If you are a 500lb bencher and when using a 3 board the heaviest set is 450lbs, I would consider that a waste of time. Change it up. Chains and bands are not just for squatting and deadlifting anymore. If implemented correctly they will add a whole new level to your strength.


Time in touching. Every time you put on your shirt to train you should practice touching at least one or two sets. Too many times I’ve seen lifters bench 700-800lbs onto boards then bomb at a meet with 600lbs. The main reason is because they have no idea where the bar is supposed to travel. They get lost half way down and just hope for the best. Would you attempt to jump the Grand Canyon on a motorcycle if you had only been practicing jumping over ant hills on your little sister’s pink tricycle? No because that would be stupid, and so would not practicing full range reps.
This is just the top layer of what it takes to bench big in a shirt, but with time and commitment the sky’s the limit on how much you can get out of your shirt.

About the author:

John Land has been a strength athlete for 13 years with the last 8 dedicated to powerlifting. Over that time he set several AAPF/AWPC state, national and world junior records in the bench press. More recently he has founded Ironland, Inc ( a company that provides powerlifting, strongman and general strength equipment. To date his best competitive bench press is 628 lbs @ a body weight of 177 placing him 14th on the all-time list.

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