Power Mad

Lee Haney discusses how to break the 300 lb bench press barrier.
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QUESTION

I’ve been bodybuilding for a year and I’m trying to break the 300-pound barrier for my bench press. Any tips for getting there?

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ANSWER

I’m flattered that you’re consulting me, but I’m not sure I’m the right person to ask. My specialty is bodybuilding, not powerlifting, and while lifting heavy weights is part of the muscle-building process, it’s not the ultimate goal.

You’ve been bodybuilding for a year, but your goal is to bench press 300 pounds. This seems like a conflict of interest.

I have seen many young people get caught up in the quest to increase the weights they’re using, only to fall prey to disillusionment or injury, or both. If you want to be a powerlifter, then there are specific training regimens you can follow to increase your poundage for your bench, squat and deadlift. There is plenty of good information available online and at bookstores for anyone who wishes to get involved in powerlifting.

Even though bodybuilders lift weights as part of their training their end goal is not to lift the heaviest weight they can. Instead, they use the weights as tools to build muscle mass.

I know what you’re saying to yourself: “But, Lee, isn’t it true that the heavier I lift, the bigger my muscles will get?” The answer is yes and no. Of course, one of the first things we learn when we become bodybuilders is that lifting a weight puts stress on a muscle, which in turn forces the muscle to adapt to the stress by growing stronger and larger. The more weight we use, the greater the stress and the bigger and more powerful the muscle. Makes sense.

As we gain experience, we also learn that forcing a muscle to lift a weight several times in succession uses more muscle fibers than just lifting it once. That’s because after each lift (or rep), a greater number of fibers within a muscle become fatigued, causing the remaining fibers to be recruited to help out. Your body will not use all of the fibers within a muscle to lift something once, but it will eventually recruit most of them to continue lifting something over time. This is why we havedeveloped a system of training in bodybuilding that involves the use of sets and reps. This puts stress on as many muscle fibers as possible, which causes all of them to grow and results in bigger muscles.

For the most part, on a pound-for- pound basis, bodybuilders have larger muscles than powerlifters. However, powerlifters are usually able to lift heavier weights. Each type of athlete uses a different system of training and, not surprisingly, they get different results.

There’s nothing wrong with testing your strength with a maximum lift attempt (with the safety of a spotter) every once in a while. But if you make lifting a specific weight your main goal, as opposed to achieving a certain look, then you might be missing the forest for the trees. Remember, the goal of the bodybuilder can be found within its very name. It is to build the body, regardless of the kind of weight used.

Since we’re on the subject of benching, why not try my backto- basics chest routine? In it, I incorporate a mix of low and high reps to stimulate both slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers and to build strength. It may meet all of your needs. Good luck. - FLEX

LEE HANEY'S BACK-TO-BASICS CHEST ROUTINE

BARBELL BECH PRESSES: 4-5 sets; 6-8 reps

INCLINE BARBELL PRESSES: 4-5 sets; 6-8 reps

DUMBBELL FLYES: 3-4 sets; 12-15 reps

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