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Lockout Partial Bench Press For Strengthening Connective Tissue

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There aren't too many trainers I know who don't want a bigger bench press. Let's be honest...it's an ego lift but it's nice to see people's eyes bug out when you tell them how much you can bench press (because you know they always ask!).

But what do you do if you get stuck at a certain weight with the bench press and you can't seem to budge it upwards a single pound?

The key here is not to work harder but instead work smarter.

In my experience with bench press (and my biomechanics STINK for bench press - I've never had a strong bench and have always had to work hard at it to get anywhere. And even then, it fades fast when I don't keep at it constantly!), it's often not the strength of the muscles holding a person back but the strength of the connective tissue in the shoulders and arms.

When you strengthen the connective tissue, your numbers start going up almost on their own!

Strengthening connective tissues requires two things...HEAVY weight and HIGH REPS (to get circulation into the connective tissue for recovery). You need to do something to pile th weight on much more so than you can do with full range presses.

So we first go to partial range presses where you can use the MOST weight possible. In the case of the bench, that's the lockout (only the top 2 inches).

We'll target the HEAVY weight aspect first by loading as much weight on the bar as we can get for 3 to 5 reps (no more).

So get yourself set up in the power rack. DO NOT DO THIS EXERCISE WITHOUT A RACK. I'm telling you this for your health and safety. Don't even think about doing heavy partials without a rack. Spotters just won't cut it. Personally, I do all my regular bench pressing in a rack, too.

You'll be setting the bar on the safety rails of the rack NOT unracking like you would a normal bench press. Put a flat bench in the rack and lay back on it. Look to see where the rails would be set if you just want to hit the top 2 inches of the bench press.

Move the rails then set a bar on them. Lie on the bench and test it out. With just the empty bar, you should have about 3 inches or so of clearance (when you load the bar with weight, not only will the bar bend but you will sink into the bench AND your bodyparts are going to get compacted a bit (in a good way!). This means it's important that you have a little room to play in terms of safety rail height.

Now start loading some weight onto the bar. Put as much on as you would normally do for sets of 6 reps and do a few warm-up reps just to see what it feels like. Then load on what would normally be your 1 rep max and do a few more warm-up reps. Even though it's your full-range max, it'll still be easy in the top lockout range.

Here's what the movement looks like... (if you're curious, that's 6 plates on either side, which is 585 lb - this is a bit less than double what my full range 1 RM was at the time. This is to give you an idea of how much weight you can potentially work up to with this exercise. I've gone as high as 7 plates on either side in the past when I was focusing more specifically on bench). It's a great way to scare the crap out of people at the gym, too, when you start throwing that much weight on the bar! :) Not that I would ever want to do that, of course...

When you're doing maximal heavy reps like this, set the weight back down on the safety rails in between each rep to regroup and reset yourself. Basically, you're just locking out the bench press on each rep!

With this exercise, breathing and locking your body in tight is very important. Before you lift the bar off the rails, take a deep breath, inflating your lungs as much as possible. Squeeze your shoulder blades behind your back and tighten EVERYTHING. Now you can push. As you push, you can either hold your breath briefly or exhale sharply through pursed lips - do what feels best to you.

Lockout Partial Bench Press For Strengthening Connective Tissue

Lockout Partial Bench Press For Strengthening Connective Tissue

Move your mouse on and off the picture below to see the movement. The video shows the true mechanics of it better but this gives you an idea of how short the range of motion is.

Lockout Partial Bench Press For Strengthening Connective Tissue

So this how the exercise is done.

One of the tricks I like to use to get maximum push is to envision NOT that I'm pushing the bar up but that I'm actually pushing myself DOWN through the bench! Sounds crazy but I've found it really works to give you some extra mental push.

Next comes the fun part...seeing how much YOU can do! Add some more weight (I usually recommend adding a 45 lb plate to either side at this point) and go again. If you find you can get more than 5 reps with it, increase the weight on the next set (rest 1 1/2 to 2 minutes in between sets for recovery - you won't be breathing hard but your energy stores get depleted fast with the heavy of a weight).

If you don't get much more than 5 reps, increase the weight by 25's on either side, not 45's.

When you hit a weight you can only get for 3 to 5 reps, stay there. That's your first work set. We'll do 3 work sets at that weight (so you'll do 2 more sets), again resting 2 minutes or so between reps. When you do partials next time, you'll have a better idea of what you can do and get to your work weights sooner so you can feasibly bump those up.


When you've done your 3 total sets, peel off HALF the weight (or you can basically set it to your current 1 rep max weight that you would do for full range reps).

We're going to address the HIGH REP aspect of connective tissue training. To do this, we're going to do high-rep partials. These still use a relatively heavy weight but allow you to get a LOT of reps with that heavy weight to force blood into the connective tissue.

We'll only be doing 2 sets at this weight so make each one count.

This version is pretty much the same as the heavy lockouts only you won't be setting the bar down on the rails in between reps. You're going to do very short, continuous reps at the lockout point, never touching the bar down. You're going to do as many reps as you possibly can (probably between 30 to 60 or so) and you're going to do them fairly quickly, keeping tension in the chest and arms.

Wiht this exercise, you can do very short breaths on each rep or (since the weight is lighter), you can take slower breaths but do so regularly.

Lockout Partial Bench Press For Strengthening Connective Tissue

Lockout Partial Bench Press For Strengthening Connective Tissue

Take 2 minute rest in between these 2 sets. Then you're done! That's your chest workout for this session. DO NOT DO ANYTHING ELSE FOR CHEST TODAY. You may be tempted to because it may not feel like you've done that much work, but trust me, your body needs the recovery now so move to the next bodypart.

Do this type of training once a week (you can do full range movements for chest in a different workout during the week) for 3 to 4 weeks and you should see big improvements in your bench press numbers.

It's also VERY important to note that you should take joint protective nutrients like glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM and Vitamin C (4 to 5 GRAMS) while you're doing this type of connective tissue training. You need to give your body the raw materials to rebuild with.

If you don't, you'll probably get joint pain and impair your recovery so don't argue. If you're not going to take at least glucosamine and extra Vit C, don't even use this type of training because it does break down connective tissue more than regular training and you need to help it rebuild.


HIGH REP Partial Lockout Bench Press

Windows Movie File (WMV format)

QuickTime File (Mac format)


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