Deadlift and bench press
What is your why
Before we go deeper on the ins and outs of the deadlift and bench press let me ask you a couple of questions:
- Why do you want to deadlift?
- Why do you want to bench press?
- Why do you want to get stronger?
- Why do you want to pack on muscle?
- What happens when you do?
- What happens when you don’t?
These questions can seem trivial and beside the point. You just want the information you looked for. The thing is that answering these question makes all the difference. The strongest and biggest men in the world did not get there because they did the bench press or deadlift in some secret way. They did these exercises for a long time committed to self-improvement. You will only accomplish this with the right mindset.
Most people think about their goals in this way:
- What do I want
- How do I get it
- Why do I want it
Almost everyone does know what they want. Fewer make a detailed plan on how to get it. You will find almost no one who did a detailed analysis of why they want something. This is why so many New Years resolutions fail. The goal is set and not immediately achieved. Especially in the age of instant gratification through social media people give up. The magic starts to happen when you change your thought pattern to:
- Why do you want something
- How do you get it
- What do you need to do
Changing your thought process to focus on the why will be more fulfilling. Your actions will become more meaningful and the people around you will pick up on it too. If you are not convinced yet check out Simon Sinek's TED talk on the golden circle. He makes a very compelling case telling the story of the Wright brothers.
The deadlift is one of the most iconic displays of raw strength in the gym. Together with the barbell back squat and bench press, it forms the big three. Powerlifters follow the goal to increase their total weight lifted out of these three lifts. While most people think of the conventional deadlift when they read about deadlifts there are many other variations:
- Sumo deadlift
- Paused deadlift
- Deadlift with bands
- Deadlift with chains
- Rack pulls
- Deficit Deadlifts
- Snatch grip deadlifts
- Romanian deadlifts
- Kettlebell deadlifts
- Dumbbell deadlifts
The list goes on. The deadlift Mia my trains the quads, traps, hamstrings and lower back. The focus is more on your back than in the front. If you want to learn from the best in deadlifting look up these athletes and their instructions:
- Ed Coan
- Dan Green
- Andy Bolton
- Eddie Hall
- Calgary Barbell
- Layne Norton
- Brian Shaw
- Ben Pollack
- Juggernaut Training Systems
Learn from them in terms of attitude, technique, and diet. Try to learn from as many and styles as possible. This will make you a better person and lifter.
To perform a good deadlift follow these steps:
- Place you midfeet under the bar
- Grip the bar bends n a mixed or hook grip
- Lower yourself to the bar
- Tune your elbows in as if you squeezed lemons in your armpits
- Be patient off the floor and make the bar bend
- Initiate the pull by pushing the floor away from you
- Pull the bar up and towards you
- Pop the hips forward for lockout
- Finish and set the bar down
The deadlift has two sticking points. The first is from the ground and the second at lockout. If you can’t get the weight off the ground you are most likely not strong enough to lift the weight. It could also be a lack of tension in your setup. The lockout becomes a sticking point if you take too long to pull the weight up. This is usually down to a lack of technique and tension. If you can pull the weight off the ground you usually can pull it to the lockout. If you fail on the way up you are not aggressive enough or your bar path is suboptimal.
The conventional deadlift is usually the better choice for lifters with long limbs compared to their body. The sumo deadlift is usually better suited for people with shorter limbs compared to their bodies. The conventional deadlift gives you better leverages off the floor with the sacrifice of a longer bar path to finish the lift. The sumo deadlift gives you worse leverages off the ground is n exchange for a shorter bar path. The biggest all-time deadlifts were mostly done conventionally. The best pound for pound deadlifts is often sumo pulls.
The biggest advantages of the deadlift are its capability to build raw strength and training you to overcome big resistance. There is no other lift which is as easy to learn and yet so raw.
The biggest disadvantage of the deadlift is that it puts your lower back at risk. If you want to limit the strain pull sumo instead of conventional.
The bench press is probably the most popular lift in the gym. Whenever you see a movie montage of someone training up there will be a bench press in it. If you also look at how much floor space across the country is dedicated to benches compared to deadlift stations and squat racks you get a sense of its popularity.
The bench press seems to be the lift that teenagers find the easiest to perform out of the deadlift, squat and bench press. Maybe this is why it caught on more than the squat and deadlift even though it trains fewer muscles. The main muscles involved in a bench press are the biceps, triceps, pecs and shoulder muscles. There are many variations of the bench press:
- Incline bench press
- Decline bench press
- Dumbbell flies
- Dumbbell bench presses
- Close grip bench press
- Spoto press
- Paused bench press
- Bench press with bands
- Bench press with chains
- Bench press with feet up
The list goes on. There are many ways to bench press and the hottest debate is usually whether you should arch or not.
Arching means that you bend your lower back so that only your glutes and shoulder touch the bench. Most powerlifters will bench press this way. Positioning yourself in this way makes the bench press more triceps heavy and helps you to use more leg drive. The danger is the hyperextended lower back which puts your vertebrae under more pressure. You will also get less benefit for your chest muscles as they have to work less hard.
My take on this is that it depends on your goals. If you bench press to build massive pecs avoid the arch, use a slow movement and work to a pump. If you want to maximize the weight on the bar move as quick as you can, arch and only pause as long as you must.
The next debate is around hand placement on the bar. Some prefer a wide grip to get more stretch into the muscle and shorten the range of motion. Others prefer to go closer to get more leverage out of their arms and triceps. The wider you grip the more pecs heavy is the bench press. The closer you grip the more triceps heavy the bench press becomes. I personally like to take one thumb length outwards from the inner knurling. To learn from great bench pressers look up:
- Eric Spoto
- Mikael Kirillin
To perform a good bench press follow these steps:
- Adjust the j cups to a good height. You should be able to pop out the weight by straightening the arms and let the weight fall back to security
- Get a spotter or set up safety pins
- Place the bench under the bar
- Get yourself under the bar
- Place the hands on the bar
- Wrap your thumbs around the bar
- Squeeze the bar until your knuckles turn white
- While squeezing turn in your elbows
- Walk your feet back to form the arch
- Get a proper footing
- Breathe and brace
- Unrack the bar by straightening the arms
- Lower the bar to your chest
- Press up to complete
As with the other two big lifts a good setup is already half the battle. Stay focused and execute.
While the bench press is probably the easiest lift to master for laymen it is the most technical lift in powerlifting. The bench press is the only one of the three performed lift where you are at the mercy of the commands given by the judges during the lift. This makes the bench press more complex than the deadlift or squat on high levels because you have to wait for external commands while being under maximum load.
The biggest advantages of the bench press are its focus on the upper body and that it is easy to do. You will be flying in no time.
The biggest disadvantages of the bench press are that it can be taxing on the wrists and does not train your entire body. There are other movements with the barbell which are addressing more muscles at the same time as the barbell squat, deadlift and Olympic lifts.
Should you combine the deadlift and bench press?
It is a good combo for a one-hour workout as you will train the entire body. More often than not I will pair the bench press with the squat but it would also work fine with the deadlift. What you would rather avoid is squatting and deadlifting on the same day.
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