Prepping for an Open World Record

Prepping for an Open World Record

Apr 7, 2013

Several months before the Arnold Sports Festival, it was looking more likely that I would not be competing. Shortly after the Junior World Championships at the beginning of September, I strained both pectoral minors, and battled with them until the new year. Things were looking grim for putting up a big bench, because my bench training was nearly non existent for those 4 months. With only 2 months of training and no idea of how much my questionably frail pecs could handle, I was able to bounce back quickly and not only hit a huge PR, but set a new IPF Open World Record as well. I will tell you the rehabilitating efforts and training measures I implemented in the 2 months leading up to the Arnold Sports Festival.

Traditionally I have always been very secretive about my training measures and never shared what I do, but I figured that sharing what I did for this meet needed to be done. I understand that tweaks and injuries are part of the game, and that other athletes who come across a similar situation can implement what I did to get back to lifting big. Honestly I was very surprised at what I was able to do. Never in a million years would I have guessed that I could go from doing rehabilitating reps with 135lbs to getting back in the game, hitting a big PR.

Flexibility, Stretching, and Deep Tissue

Obviously the root of the problem lie with flexibility of my entire upper-body. Flexibility is defined as the ability of a joint or group of joints to move freely and efficiently within a given range of motion. After years of benching and high intensity training the muscle mass is obviously greater now than it was in years prior. Usually muscle tightness and stiffness is associated with hypertrophy, and if you are not continually stretching and trying to counter balance the tightening of your chest and shoulders, it is no secret that your flexibility decrease. This results in a decrease in the ability to move freely and efficiently within a given range of motion, in this case the bench press motion. Obviously something has to give, and in my instance it was both pectoral minors.

So now comes what I did to correct this area of neglect, and how I rehabilitated quickly.

Doorway Stretches: Stand in a door way and place your arms at a 45 degree angle with your torso gripping the door frame with your hands. Step forward to mild discomfort and hold stretch between 30 and 60 seconds. Follow with repeating the stretch with your hands directly straight out so that your arms are at a 90 degree angle with your torso (Make a “T”), as well as a 135 degree angle with your torso. Go through each variation of the stretch, and repeat going for a deeper stretch for a total of 3 sets.

Static stretching is a great way to increase flexibility. This routine will not be as good as a warm up routine. I recommend an active or dynamic stretching routine pre-training to increase blood flow to the working muscle groups, and implementing static stretching post workout to increase flexibility and promote recovery.


Deep Tissue Lacrosse Ball: Lacrosse balls can be purchased at your local sports store for just a little over a dollar. These things are magical for getting deep into scar tissue build up, and loosening up those tight areas. I focused on rolling out pec minors and majors, front deltoids, and upper back muscle groups such as the mid traps and rhomboids. Great for off days and will really help with upper body tightness associated with benching often.


The Training


Starting with slow rehabilitating reps with 135 to 225 pounds, I focused on getting blood into the injured muscles to help promote recovery. I spent 2 weeks prior to my real training doing these very light movements, in tandem with my stretching and deep tissue routines. With the commencement of my training, I started doing training sessions with very low rep sets with sub max loads. High repetition sets just cause more damage to the muscles, so I kept the reps low and worked up to 70-75% for singles in order to begin feeling heavier weights without causing too much damage to the healing muscle groups. After things started feeling back to normal, I began more meet prep work 6 weeks out of competition.

Mondays: Less intense days focused on form and repetition of the bench press motion. Mondays are always raw bench work, working up to no more than 80% of a raw max. Once again, the object of Mondays are focused on form and repetition, and help get enough volume for the week. I moved my grip in 2 finger lengths for these days to relieve some of the stress associated with a wider grip. You want to keep the intensity low during this session to ensure full recovery for Wednesday’s training session, which is the main bench training day in my program.

Wednesdays: These are your heavy days where you are training at your highest intensities. Looking at the training cycle as a whole, I followed a high volume linear progression cycle. Unlike a lot of “bench specialists” training to boards is not central to the training. 4 boards and 5 boards are redundant and are further removed from the actual bench press motion than benching to 2 and 1 boards. Like the thoughts of Iron Authority founder Brady Stewart, anyone can board press, but not everyone can bench press. Although benching to boards can be a helpful tool to a big bench, it should be seen as supplemental, and the main focus should be benching from the chest. I spent 3 weeks using a bench shirt, then spent 1 week working with a bench aid like a Slingshot,  Titan Ram, or Bench Daddy, then finished off training with 2 more weeks in the shirt. At least 85% of the sets were done to a 1 board or the chest. After finishing my work in a bench shirt, I took advantage of the overload on the central nervous system and proceeded to do 3-4 heavy close grip drop sets. Much like a base ball player using a weight on the end of his bat prepping to step up to the plate, after overloading the CNS, seemingly heavy weights feel much lighter. This makes training at higher close grip intensities much better so you can have a strong lockout on meet day. I trained at 80-85% of my raw bench max for sets of 4-5. My close grip consists of placing the start of the bar knurling at the interphalangeal crease proximal to the tip of the thumb, then proceeding to grip the bar as normal.

Fridays: I feel like fridays were really important for establishing a strong lockout. What I implemented on these days, was like nothing I had ever done before, and will most likely be used from here on out. These days were emphasized on a strict pause at the bottom with an emphasis again on the lockout. Fridays were always done close grip with the red/pink resistance bands (up to 4olbs tension). After coming across some research in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research with my friend Cardyl Trionfante, I felt that utilizing bands for this day would be integral in maximal force output. Basically the research results stated that force output is greater utilizing the exponential tension increase of the bands compared to not using them. Although power output decreases, there is an exponential increase in resistance as the band stretches more, or as you get closer to lockout, and force output is much greater. I felt this concept was very sport specific. 1st off training to increase force output is more specific for a competition lift. On the platform the object is to lift the maximal amount of weight possible, or create maximal force output. 2nd, where do you see the overwhelming amount of benches missed? THE LOCKOUT. For both shirted and raw bench pressers an overwhelming majority of lifts are missed at the top. The bands simulate the increase in force demanded once the support of the shirt decreases as you get closer to lockout. I trained like this in the 60-70% range for 3-5 reps. I emphasized keeping my elbows in and isolating the triceps as well as exploding off of the chest. I honestly felt that this was huge in helping me hit a big bench. I felt my lockout was stronger than ever, and it showed up to help when it came to grinding out the last few inches of my 729.5 world record bench.



Check out my previous post on my 5 tips to a bigger bench. Everything in there is a cornerstone to my training and are utilized daily.

Here is the link:

Preston Turner’s 5 Tips for a Bigger Bench






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