Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Bench Tips For Football Players
Recently a lot of internet trolls have emerged from their lairs of misery and claimed that the tried and true bar bench press isn’t football specific. The claims often state it’s over rated, impractical and the ever popular “sure it’s a good exercise if you’re on your back, but if you’re on your back chances are you’ll soon be on the bench.” Would the creator of the gym friendly swim move machine please stand up? How about the weighted pin and rip Nautilus? Oh yes, how could I forget EliteFTS’ newest football specific exercise… the banded QB friendly three step drop. Here’s the deal- if you are looking to develop upper body power and engage the most muscle in a bang for your buck scenario, then the bench still reigns king.
Position specific upper body strength is a different matter however. When looking at the archaic NFL 225 pound bench reps test (it’s an endurance test, a 1-3 rep max would illustrate true max effort pressing strength) there are different standards based on what position you play and the requirements associated. Last years average numbers were around the high 20s for most DL and hovering in the mid teens for WR’s. Clearly if you are a NFL GM you are paying more attention to the pressing numbers of a DL than that of a WR. Sure it would be nice to have a slot wideout bench 225 40 plus times but wouldn’t you be more concerned with his vert, broad jump and three cone times?
Lets look at two otherworldly athletes. Now they are about as different as Paula Abdul & MC Skat Kat
but both dominate their respective positions: DeSean Jackson and Haloti Ngata. As a game changing speed based WR, I don’t care if DeSean Jackson can bench a stick of bamboo (truth told he never participated in the test at the combine, so he very well might not be able to). His innate ability to consistently dodge, dip, duck, dive and dodge around hapless defensive backs is a sheer joy to watch (even if he sometimes forgets to hold on to the football: first offense
) However, throw DeSean’s waifish frame into the interior defensive line and you would have better luck with Raggedy Ann. Conversely, when looking at the nose and defensive tackle position most coaches are looking for a fast twitch human bench press machine. The ability to separate and disengage from potential blockers relies a lot on ones pressing power. This little gem illustrates Mr. Ngata doing his thing
. He’s been rumored to throw up over 500 pounds on the bench and finished with a whopping 44 on his combine reps test.
Would you want this on your D-Line?
Unfortunately not all of us are blessed with the genetics and football skills of our two models. And believe me, this isn’t a promotion for all you high school WR’s to say well DeSean can’t bench a lot, why should I have to get under the bar? Until you can beat a NFL corners press technique with your feet alone like Mr. Jackson it’s time to shut up and start benching.
Everyone who has ever squeezed a bar and attempted to plow it off their chest knows one thing: We all have sticking points. It’s the moment where you are driving, pushing and (sometimes) screaming with every fiber of your being and that cursed bar just won’t move. Depending on your frame that spot can be mid point or near the top. All are equally annoying and stand in the way of everyone’s goal-to lift more weight. Here’s a list of some tools/tips that I have witnessed in the gym that can help smash past sticking points, lift more weight and hopefully lead to a more explosive upper body on the field.
1) Chain Benching
I’m of the taller and longer armed persuasion, so I’m not ideally biomechanical adapted to the bench (6’9” wingspan). I’ve often found that many of my fellow stork armed brethren get caught at the top of their bench. The bar may fly right off of their chest but gets stuck right near the lockout, an inch or two from the J hooks. One way to attempt to smash through the stick is by incorporating chains into your bench routine. This method made famous by the folks out at Westside Barbell, uses a technique called accommodating resistance. The chains become de-loaded at the bottom part of your bench; as you press the bar up the links in the chain rise with the bars progression making the total weight pressed heavier as the bar goes up. The bar should initially jump off your chest and as the weight increases you to really strain through the upper portion of your lockout, hopefully strengthening that weakness.
2) Board Presses
For people who stall in the middle of their press a pin or board variation (usually a one or two board) can be the remedy to their struggle. The two board works the range of motion 4 inches off of your chest and differs from a pin press because it really allows the lifter to get the eccentric (negative) and concentric (positive) benefits of the lift often lacking in a pin press. Another advantage of board pressing is that it allows the lifter to handle a heavier load than they would normally be able to handle in their full ROM. It enables you to feel and press a heavy weight that would normally trap you in a full conventional press.
3) Thrash your Triceps
This doesn’t mean 300 kickbacks with your mothers pink rubber dumb bells. Being that the bench press success is predominately predicated on tricep power you need to train them heavy with a variety of pressing movements. JM presses, close grip variations, skull crushers I could go on, point is do them heavy with intensity and watch your numbers jump.
4) Stay Tight/Incorporate as Much Muscle as possible
I’m always flabbergasted when someone steps (or lays down) to a max effort bench attempt and limply grips the bar with a relaxed core, legs splayed haphazardly to the sides. Would you take the same gumby spined posture to a goal line situation with the game on the line? Of course not, you’d be tighter than Ebenezer Scrooges wallet. White knuckle the bar, firm up your core and drive your heels through the rubber (and I don’t mean hip thrust). The bar is heavy; use what you have to move it!
Don't grip the bar like this guy!
Being able to lock a defender out as a blind side tackle or shoot your hands through a full back as a pass rushing linebacker has a lot to do with ones ability to press their arms out in a violent, sudden manner. Yesterday, today and in the future, the one exercise we can count on to help develop that ability is the bench press. Smash through your sticking points, handle more weight and watch your performance on the field improve.
Be the hammer not the nail!
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