Q&A – Keith W.

Q&A – Keith W.

Mar 10, 2012

“Good job and congrats at the Arnold!!! I am a raw powerlifter and I have a competition coming up soon. I have been having trouble on the speed of my descent. At my last competition, the judge told me they were too fast. I’ve been slowing them way down, but some tell me I’m going too slow like I’m doing a negative. I know when I go to slow weight that is very manageable becomes very difficult. Can you help me please?”

Keith W.


First off THANKS Keith!  

The popularization of dynamic/speed work for bench pressing has created some confusion with its application in training and competing.  When I go to a lot of competitions, I hear people yelling “SPEED SPEED”.  And in my head I am thinking “NO NO”.  Speed does have an application to training, but not as often as one would think.  Speed with light weights is easy, but speed with heavy weights can be disastrous.  

Slowing your reps down can create an issue as well.  Time under tension under the weight increases, fatiguing the lifter before the press command.  When this fatigue sets in over a couple of heavy above 90% lifts, your last heavy competition single may fail.  This is purely dependent on how conditioned your body is to pressing this way.

I’ve come up with a technical method called Controlled Focus Reps.  Most, if not all of my bench press training uses this philosophy.  It trains you mentally for the heavy weights.  In your mind think…I will have total and complete control of this weight.    Think aggressively, but with COMPLETE control of the bar.  You must dominate the bar.  YOU put that bar where in needs to go and DEMAND that it will go there.  Lift with complete focus on what you are doing with the bar AT ALL TIMES.  Treat that bar like a rag doll, but do so with finesse and perfection.  Sloppy reps will create sloppy results.

Execution tips: The weight is picked from the rack.  I squeeze the bar, tighten my traps, flare my lats hard, and hold at lockout for a second.  Then I begin the descent, squeezing the bar, keeping the traps tight, and continuing the hard flare in my lats.  EVERY muscle is tight and contracted.  With that said, it may be difficult at first to bring the bar down with a little velocity, in fact it may look more like negatives, but the more you practice on EVERY SET, the better you’ll get.  Once you approach the chest, really focus on your lats and traps staying tight…this creates the platform with which you will start the push from.  On the push, think about your lats and triceps popping or driving the weight off of your chest.  Again, keeping everything tight drive through the end of the lift and lock every rep out (don’t exaggerate), hold for a second and do your next reps the same way.  It is also important to note that the lifter should try to focus on driving in the floor with their heels.  This helps tighten up all of the muscles in the back/posterior chain.  Making it a lot easier to build a platform from which to push from.  There is a lot more to pressing technique than what I just outlined, but I don’t want to throw too much at you at once.  Let me know if you have any other questions and just post them in the comments on this page.

Even with a 683 lbs IPF bench press, I never do speed work.  I feel that it is a waste for my training.  I also don’t do any negatives.  Am I saying that you need to train like me to be a better bench presser?  No…there is more than one way to skin that cat.

At our club of 20+ powerlifters, speed work has done nothing but destroy our elbows and shoulders.  We have multiple IPF Open and Masters champions with multiple national, american, and international bench press records.




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