Benching using Pullup Strategy
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Author:  KenDowns [ Sun Feb 28, 2016 3:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Benching using Pullup Strategy

I've been lifting 5 years, and I pretty much maxed my bench and press in the first year and have had no sustained progress since. A few good days, maybe a few good weeks, then back to baseline. 215-220 1RM with a wind blowing up from the floor.

Some of my legit excuses are very long arms and thin chest, and pain in my left shoulder.

The pain thing I figured out by shortening my range of motion on pulling moves, which has also resulted in my needing to buy all new shirts one size larger. :headbang:

The long arms thing I figured out by using maximum legal grip and going lower on my torso, to the 2nd to bottom rib. This finally gave me a groove that felt natural. But still no big sustained gains, nothing like I'm seeing on lower body just by trying harder.

So, no pain, and a natural feeling groove. Time for progress, right? Right?

So I decided to try that strategy we do with pullups, doing many even sets, like 3-3-4-3-4-3. It occurs to me to ask if anybody else has done this or tried it. Today using 195, a couple pounds over body weight I got 5, 5, 5, 4, 3 (fail on 4), 3, 3, 2. With no more pain in the left shoulder, and unable to increase the weight for X reps, or increase the reps for X weight, it struck me as tenable to lengthen the workout and keep doing reps out at the limit of my strength.

Any comments, rebuttals, general discussion?

Author:  Jungledoc [ Mon Feb 29, 2016 4:39 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Benching using Pullup Strategy

Ken, I think that is as legit a way to progress the lift as any other. Try it and see how it goes. I think I've tried most of the well-known progressions--5/3/1, Undulating Periodization, linear, etc., etc., and have thought of some that I haven't tried. I'd be curious to hear how you do with this. I assume that you'll keep the weight fixed until you can do a certain number of sets straight across, then increase the reps by 1, etc?

Author:  KenDowns [ Mon Feb 29, 2016 10:59 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Benching using Pullup Strategy

Doc, my instinct is to vary the weight to put some variety to the stimulus.

The two best things I did for my numbers were quit smoking and quit programming. The next workout will be whatever seems right that day. My instinct right now is to add five pounds and try for triples across by not getting greedy on the early sets. Unless i completely change my mind. :)

I'll restart my log and put it there.

Author:  Proper Knob [ Wed Mar 02, 2016 5:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Benching using Pullup Strategy

I had a similar problem to you, pressing movements were hard to get any sustained progress on. I'm tall, 6'2" with long arms. Built for deadlifting. In September when my wrist was better I was honest with myself and admitted that any progress I had, particularly from pressing exercises, was when I followed a program/blueprint, namely 5/3/1. I'd followed it in the past with good success, then tweaked what I was doing and added to it thinking I knew better then switched to something else. The upshot was that like you I struggled when it came to benching anything over 2 plates for 4-5 years.

So last September I made a commitment to myself that I was going to execute the program as written, namely follow a particular variation up until Easter when my girlfriend is expecting our child and the lifting will be out the window for a while. So I read as much as I could about 5/3/1 and its evolution over the last few years and went for it. I chose to use the FSL (First Set Last) template originally with a few Joker Sets on all lifts then mixed it up on my pressing using what I call the 'pyramid', you rep out on the way back down the percentages. The results after 6 cycles for upper body and 5 for lower body.

Bench 1RM 231 to 247.5lbs
Squat 1RM 363 to 385lbs
Deadlift 1RM 500 to 517lbs

I also used the Incline Press, but I don't really test my 1RM for that lift, I just view it as an accessory for my bench. Needless to say progress is off the chart there also, my old 3RM I recently hit for 8 reps.

I say this as someone who has been lifting for 8 years now, I'm no newbie. I've not had progress like that across the board on all lifts for a very, very long time. Digest at your leisure.

Author:  KenDowns [ Wed Mar 02, 2016 9:27 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Benching using Pullup Strategy


Thanks for the reply. I gave 5/3/1 my all and it did not work for me in terms of 1RM and corresponding competition totals, though I learned a lot about what you can really do by trying for those all out sets. But this is one of those things where your mileage my vary. If somebody is reading this and says, "well now what, do I try 5/3/1 or what? Worked for Knob but not Ken?" I'd say try it and do what Phil did and what I did, give it your all and stick with it at least 6 months. Then you'll know one way or another if it works FOR YOU.

I think in my case one all out set does not provide the stimulus, even with accessories. What I'm trying now is a return to roots of sorts and just pounding out a lot of sets where the last rep or two is a grinder.

Author:  Proper Knob [ Thu Mar 03, 2016 12:12 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Benching using Pullup Strategy

I remember you relaying your 5/3/1 story before on this board Ken, I also remember KPj pointing out that although your 1RM maxes may have not gone up, the rep work on 5/3/1 'primed' your body for when you did some peaking work. I have no doubt that if you added some 'joker set' singles into your training you would have increased your 1RM's. Ultimately 5/3/1 is a periodisation program which uses progressive overload, which in a nutshell is what every strength athlete uses to get stronger.

Author:  Jungledoc [ Thu Mar 03, 2016 10:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Benching using Pullup Strategy

Phil--"joker sets"? I 'spose I should just google it for myself, but you would give a more concise answer.

Author:  Proper Knob [ Fri Mar 04, 2016 5:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Benching using Pullup Strategy

Joker sets Doc are basically a way of getting in some heavier work above the percentage you should be working at that day. I know Wendler doesn't recommend them anymore except for certain occasions, and wishes he never mentioned them in the first place, because people just got carried away with them. For me I used them as singles when my training max was quite low and I was getting lots of reps. For example -

5 X 65%
5 X 75%
5+ X 85%

1 X 95%
1 X 100%
1 X 105%

The important part is that they should be 'fast singles' and not grinding 1RM's. That's where people made the mistake and thought they could max out on every lift every week. The other way to use them as I was suggesting to Ken, after 5 or so cycles if you want to actually test your 1RM start adding a few singles in after your 'work set' for the day and then on your 5/3/1 day slightly change it to 2/1/1 for example -

2 X 75%
1 X 85%
1 X 95%

1 X 100%
1 X 105%
1 X 107.5%

Or wherever you end up.

Author:  KenDowns [ Fri Mar 04, 2016 9:26 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Benching using Pullup Strategy

Sounds like it comes down to heavy singles versus sets across. They do not exclude each other.

The question would be, if sets across as described above creates a stimulus in 4-6 rep range (as I'm hoping it does but time will tell), heavy doubles and single will still have to be worked in.

My instinct at the moment, as said above, is to try sets across of doubles or singles. I'll let you know how that works out.

Author:  Jungledoc [ Sun Mar 06, 2016 7:11 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Benching using Pullup Strategy

Proper Knob wrote:
Joker sets ....For example -

5 X 65%
5 X 75%
5+ X 85%

1 X 95%
1 X 100%
1 X 105%

So, I assume that on the plus set you wouldn't actually go AMAP, or even much over 5?

Author:  Proper Knob [ Sun Mar 06, 2016 1:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Benching using Pullup Strategy

Not necessarily, you can do an AMRAP and then hit a few singles. I have numerous times.

Author:  KenDowns [ Wed Mar 09, 2016 8:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Benching using Pullup Strategy

So this is nuts. I do NOT think the strategy takes credit for this: My progress on this set/rep scheme over 3 workouts:

2/25/16  190: 6-5-5-5 5-5-5-5
2/28/16 195: 5-5-5-4 3-3-3-2
3/06/16 205: 4-5-5-4 4-4-3-3 wtf???

Then today I beat my 4 year plateau 1RM by 10# or almost 5% to hit 230 then 235 5 minutes later. Completely nuts.

Possible explanations
* I quit smoking 6 months ago
* I finally learned how to engage my lats (seriously, I think this is it, starting on 3/6)
* The 8 sets of rep after rep after rep gave me enough practice to look for the technique improvement (lats)

I don't claim to understand it but I'm happy.

Author:  Jungledoc [ Thu Mar 10, 2016 10:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Benching using Pullup Strategy

Well, congrats on the PR, regardless of the explanation. Sometimes things just come together.

Maybe more sleep than usual? Better food? Try to remember what you ate and try to reproduce it. You may have found the magic dietary formula at last!

Author:  KenDowns [ Sun Mar 20, 2016 7:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Benching using Pullup Strategy

Hi Doc I really don't think this one was sleep or diet, those have been fairly constant.

It is humbling to get such a gain from a simple technique improvement, but also hopeful - perhaps there are more waiting?

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