Incline Power Rack Presses
Incline Power Rack Presses
by Armand Tanny
For sheer power, for undiluted form, for an immensity of poundage hardly conceivable, 300-pound power lifter Pat Casey’s high incline press of 380 stands alone as the greatest overhead Press performance of all time. What makes it unique is the fact that he pressed it out of a power rack from a dead start, with the bar at chin level, seated on an incline bench angled to a steep 85 degrees. Unlike the questionable Military Press there was no body english, no shoulder heave, no back bend, only the movement of the arms, explosions in the deltoids and triceps with all the contained power of an underground H-bomb test. That’s the kind of dead-stop power the power lifting requires.
Power lifters themselves speak apologetically of the lack of technique in the Bench Press, Squat and Deadlift. They will say that the Olympic lifts take more coordination, more practice, more speed. Some of them say they went into power lifting because they didn’t have the time that the highly technical Olympic lifting takes. Power lifters needn’t be so meek. Every movement on this earth abides by an eternal math. The fact that the bar travels further vertically on the Olympic lifts than it does on the power lifts does not mean that it takes more strength. Would you say it took greater strength to Snatch 350 pounds a vertical distance of six feet than to Squat with 700 pounds, a vertical rise of three feet? Not really. In fact, an error of the mind, the group firing of nerve impulses to the muscles, can be absorbed and dissolved in in the liquid of technique of Olympic lifting. But not so with power lifting. If the mind sends out insufficient impulses, the weight comes down, and the effort is a total loss. The power lifter must pay for that short vertical distance, he must lift that weight. He must pay with his mind; he must focus his efforts like a burning glass. A subtle mentality controls power lifting. If there is anything meek about this mentality, and if there is anything to the rapid proliferation of power lifting, then rejoice, because soon power lifters will inherit the world of strength.
The rules governing power lifting virtually eliminate cheating: the dead stop at the chest before pressing and the 32-inch maximum grip; the bar resting on the shoulder, not part way down the back when squatting; and the non-stop pull on the deadlift. There are physical aids like knee wraps and the lifting belt. But largely technique lies with the ultimate of all devices – the human brain. In that sense, technique is the major part of power lifting.
Incline Power Rack Pressing, then, is another way of intensifying effort. On the weekly basis of training where the Bench Press flat is done on Tuesday and Saturday a reserve power can be tapped in a different, and secondary, area by using the incline. Since heavy flat Bench Pressing two days in a row would only lead to exhaustion, the idea of attacking the muscles on another quarter proved to be correct. Intermediate areas in the pressing range of motion are weak. The power rack acts as a sort of a booster station. The initial impulse to boost the bar off the chest was suspected of weakening as the barbell went up. Why should the bar rise, say five inches from the chest, from an initial maximum explosion to come toppling back. If it went up five inches, why couldn’t it have gone up all the way? Over at the West Side Barbell Club in Culver City, California, not too long ago they began to suspect this common condition. They were losing too many presses after getting the bar halfway up. Down it come, a total loss. A flaw existed in the machine. To repeat the process meant only to be practicing their mistakes. There was no margin for error. They could raise their butt off the bench and complete the lift, but that meant practicing another mistake. What then? How unlike Olympic lifting this was, where technique could overcome weakness. Olympic lifters depend on momentum, the big second pull, then the technique of keeping the bar in the slot. A power lifter’s brain must fire impulses to the muscle in a steady barrage through the entire range of motion with little if no benefit from momentum. You could hardly say that a power lifter slowing inching up a heavy Deadlift was depending at all on momentum.
Therefore, on the odd, light workout days, Wednesday and Sunday, immediately following the heavy Tuesday and Saturday, the booster stations may be given some attention. Working from three different positions the procedure is this:
1) Incline bench at 50 degrees. Bar at chin level in the power rack (about 5 inches off the chest). Regular grip (about 22 inches).
135 x 10
185 x 5
225 x 3
270 x 4
295 x 1
315 x 5 singles
2) Incline bench still at 50 degrees. Bar at EYE level (about 7½ inches off the chest). Regular grip (22”).
Without further warmup proceed:
300 x 1
310 x 1
320 x 1
330 x 1
350 x 1
3) Incline bench at 80 degrees. Bar at chin level. Regular grip (22”).
Without further warmup proceed:
220 x 1
235 x 1
245 x 1
255 x 1
270 x 1
270 x 1
Occasionally the procedure can be reversed, starting with the steep incline position. Then it would be necessary to take about four warmup sets. After that, no warmup sets are necessary for the positions following.
The number of heavy singles never exceed 18. This rule is fairly general for all the power lifts. In other words, on no particular day will the number of heavy single attempts on either the Bench Press, Squat, or Deadlift be in excess of 18. This applies not only to the three regular power lifts but also to their variations such as Incline Presses, Bench or Box Squats, and High Deadlifts from the blocks. All the necessary effort can be packed into a capsuled 18 single, heavy attempts.
The procedure on these exercises is not necessarily rigid. Remember, these are supplemental exercises to be varied to suit your private stamina. If you happened to work extremely hard on positions 1 and 2, nothing says you can’t ease up on the third position by simply doing a light 4 sets of 10 reps. Also, you may prefer to limit this routine to once a week. A lot depends on your time and energy.
The arms will assume a natural position that rides in the same vertical plane as the bar. That means the elbows are wide, and it may be necessary to turn the head to keep from hitting the chin.
Incline power rack presses are done in the strictest style. Keeping the butt glued to the seat of the bench eliminates the possibility of cheating. A sponge pad may be used to prevent sliding off the seat. The emphasis on strictness makes the conventional standing Press a vulgarity of a sort. In the first place it forces the lower spine into a position not required for power lifting. The support from the incline bench eliminates this possible aggravation. With the back braced against the inclined bench, and with the bar free of the body, elevated on the pins of the power rack, the power lifter is virtually straight-jacketed, locked in by his own design, and forced to depend on the pure power of the nerve impulses to charge the waiting deltoids and triceps. The movement is locked on course in the same way the inertial guidance system steer an atomic submarine.
The whole idea of assist movements is to search out weaknesses and destroy them. The power lifters of the West Side Barbell Club conduct a constant search to learn more about building power. They are ready to try any innovation, and always seem to find time and energy for a new experiment. They are dedicated to making ever greater lifts. Power rack training is a cultural necessity. You will be left behind without it. The greats all employ it at one time or another. It has helped make champs like Bill West. Leonard Ingro and George Frenn. The power rack is what helped give Pat Casey the ability to take 590 pounds from the flat bench rack, unassisted, and make a perfect Bench Press with it.
Power rack training for power lifters is the low-reps version of the bodybuilder’s high-reps priority system – low reps for size and strength, high reps for contour and definition.
So get with it. Your muscles may be dozing. Alarm them, drill them with a high intensity program of Incline Power Rack Presses, and watch your strength take off.
This is a great post. I am a big fan on incline presses.
this is a pretty interesting concept and very good article, I believe that i will implement these into my routine now. Well the extra degree angles, as I haven't done that before.
Nice work Tug
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