At the weekend I competed at the Irish Pro Invitational in the Bench Bash. I was originally down to compete full power in what was a superb line up of women. Unfortunately, due to ‘hipgate’ I had to pull out of that. After speaking to the promoter he agreed that I could jump in the with boy’s raw bench bash. This gave me the opportunity to play a much higher risk strategy than I usually would when I lift.
My usual game plan is to gain every 2.5kg that I can as this is the difference between first and second or as was the case at GPC Worlds in Vegas 2015, between Silver & Bronze when I pipped it by that precise amount. I plan carefully what jumps I am going to take from first to second attempt and then from second to third. I also know what increments I am able to take on each lift. This varies with each lift. I can confidently take bigger jumps on deadlift than I can on squats and the smallest increments are on bench. I practice these jumps in training so that my body knows what to expect.
My usual increase on bench press has been 5kg. I will also have an idea of what I optimally would like on the bar for my third attempt. So if I want 115kg on the bar for an ideal third attempt then I will open at 105kg with the plan of 110kg and then depending on how that moves I have two options of 112.5kg if the 110kg was a struggle or 115kg if the bar moved well. My third attempt will be a weight that I have never lifted in training. To note I have never hit the numbers I hit on platform in training, the most I have ever benched in training is 112.5kg.
I am of the opinion that increments must be practiced, that your second attempt is just the stepping stone between first and third to get you where you need to be for your final total. This means I usually take a bigger jump from first to second attempt and then a smaller one from second to third. This has worked very well for me and everyone I train to get on platform. I always have in mind where I want to finish and work out the steps in between.
As powerlifters we are restricted to the 2.5kg minimal increase on the bar and often for women bench is more restrictive because it is commonly the ‘weaker’ lift. This means that for many the only options available will be 5kg and 2.5kg increments because this is what their current strength capabilities dictate. So for example if you are a novice and you want to finish on 40kg then your lifts would look like this 32.5/37.5/40kg. If this was the plan for one of my novice lifters then they would have hit the 40kg in training and their goal would be to get these lifts passed on platform. First you must achieve before you can over achieve (Thanks Swede Burns for that gem.)
As I have progressed as a lifter I have been able to change my strategies and this year one of the strategic changes I wanted to make was 7.5kg jumps on my bench as this is the only way I would now be able to push the numbers without having to risk a stupidly high opener. At Tattooed & Strong 2016 at the beginning of March I entered bench only last minute as training had been going well as basically due to injury bench was all I could do. As the event organiser I was pretty rushed off my feet for the days prior to the comp so I expected it to be pretty hit and miss depending on how tired I was.
As we were able to set international records I checked what they were and in the 90kg Open class the record was 118kg and in 82.5kg it was 120kg (in M2 I would break it on openers in both cases very easily). I knew 120kg wasn’t happening just yet but thought I could have a bash at 118.5kg on a 4th attempt and weighed in at 82.9kg. My then standing PB was 115.5kg. I thought the 118.5kg was going to be a long shot but what the hell I had nothing to lose and I could use this opportunity to practice the bigger jumps on platform. So, plan was 105/112.5/115 or 117.5 (BIG jump, SMALL jump) and then look at fourth 118.5kg. The third attempt would be dictated by the tempo of the bar on the second attempt. I even had a back up ‘shit day at the office plan’ of 105/110/112.5.(BIG Jump SMALL jump) I believe one of my strengths is adaptation and knowing there is a plan B and even a plan C gives me confidence, I function well on a good back up plan.
Yet as life has it non of the above is what actually happened. On the day opener of 105kg was as an opener should be, confident and to the letter. Bar tempo was excellent and we chose 112.5kg for the second. As mentioned I have done this in the gym but it has never been an ‘easy’ lift however on this attempt it literally flew up. By the time my handler had passed out, removed himself to the back of the platform, turned around I was literally locking out with it. With that I thought fuck taking the 118.5kg on 4th, why waste a lift? 118.5kg went on the bar for third attempt and I got it. NOW it was not ‘easy’ but it was a strong lift, my left shoulder lagged slightly but at no point did I think it wasn’t going. This was a 3kg PB and that little step closer to cracking 120kg AND I had successfully taken bigger jumps on both attempts.
This is actually 112.5kg NOT 118.5kg as stated on the video by your truly!
THIS is 118.5kg for the 90kg Open GPC Women’s Bench Only WR/ER/BR
Fast forward to last Sunday. As the only woman in the bench bash I literally had nothing to lose. It was actually really nice to go into a competition with no self induced or externally perceived pressures. So the game plan was simple. Get 120kg on the bar for third attempt, start higher and take 7.5kg jumps to get there. So we opened at 107.5kg which is the highest I have opened at, 115kg was on the bar on the second attempt, it was again a good solid lift, at this point I was pretty confident I could nail a 117.5kg but I had nothing to gain and so stuck to the plan and put 120kg on (see Big jump to SMALL…you get the idea). Unfortunately that was just a gnat’s fart too much on the bar that day, the bar came down solid and controlled and I fired it off the chest after the press command but it stalled around a third of the way up. It just wasn’t there, but I had it on the bar and it didn’t bury me, nor did I technically unravel at any point, it was simply too heavy that day.
115kg solid second attempt.
120kg so close and yet soooooo far!
The month of March has been super for me for making progress in terms of implementing different strategies that I can now use. For most people competitions are just about hitting PBs and I get that but I like to pick my battles. By setting different measures for judging my performance and how to improve it I feel I can constantly fine tune myself as a lifter. This is something that I drum into all my clients time and time again. Look at different way of measuring your progress, look at what strategies work for you, have a game plan with all options covered, know what increments on the bar you can do and practice them.
For more information on my coaching services and approach to training please email me email@example.com