Overload Techniques - Big Bench Routine Wednesday

Over the course of time in everyone's effort to bench as much weight as humanly possible, people have developed simple devices that allow us to overload. By overloading I mean handling more weight than we could otherwise without the use of the device. I'm not talking single ply or multiply equipment but rather things less extreme that allow us to overload slightly over our raw bench max. Overloading weight is a great way to prime the nervous system and train the body to handle heavier weight. It is especially useful in key times during a training cycle including peaking for a powerlifting meet. For this post I want to cover some of my favorite ways to overload for the bench press

Slingshots - $50-$65 - http://www.howmuchyabench.net

Slingshots are the perfect overload tool. Made of stretchy material that you slip over your arms very easily. When you reach the bottom of the bench press the material stretches over your chest allowing you to spring up and handle more weight than normal. The great thing about slingshots are they allow you to still work through a full range of motion, unlike tools such as the board press

There are 3 degrees of stiffness to the slingshot. A blue reactive slingshot is your light overload, the red original slingshot is an average overload, and maddog black slingshot is your stiffest material for the greatest overload. Having different levels of overload is a great option to have. Most raw benchers will find that a blue slingshot will do the trick for a slight overload, stronger raw benchers should upgrade to red slingshots, and equipped lifters can benefit from the stiffer material of a black slingshot. 

It is important to keep in mind that just because stiffer material allows you to handle more weight, more is not always optimal. A 200 lb bencher could throw on a black slingshot and hit something over 250 but it won't have the greatest transfer to building bench strength. You are relying on the material rather than your strength. On the other hand if that same lifter uses a blue slingshot and hits a 220 bench, that provides just the right amount of overload relative to their strength and gives a better estimate of a new raw 1 rep max

Titan Rams - $55-$85 - https://www.titansupport.com

Rams are the exact same concept of a slingshot except the material is much more stiff. You have two levels of stiffness with the ram. You have the original ram which is just a little more stiff than a black slingshot and a super ram which is almost like 2 black slingshots put together. These devices allow for a more extreme overload. I would not recommend these products for a raw bencher unless they are benching 450+. The overload is just too great to have a good transfer. These devices are best suited for equipped lifters and groove more similar to a bench shirt

Reverse Bands - $5-$15 - http://www.elitefts.com

Bands can be used to overload the bench press through a full range of motion as well. By attaching bands to the bar from the top of a power rack, you are able to lighten the load as the bar reaches your chest. This is the same concept as the slingshot except depending where you attach the bands from above, it could pull you out of your bench groove a little, which is why I prefer the slingshot

Just as with the slingshot a lighter band is recommended for 200-300 lb benchers. The lighter the overload the better. Just enough to feel weight over your max but not so much that you aren't benefiting with strength gains. A micro mini or mini band is enough tension for most, especially in regards to the bench. This technique also works well for squatting in which case you might use a band with greater tension

Boards - $19-$27 - http://www.elitefts.com

Boards are cheap and effective. Great for overloading the raw bench and essential for equipped benchers. The only problem regarding raw benching is boards do not allow you a full range of motion, but you can still get the benefits of priming the nervous system to control heavier weight. Boards are stacked anywhere from 1/2-5, each representing about an inch. Many raw lifters will work their way down in boards such as a geared lifter will do

I do not like boards for raw benching but I do like boards for tricep work. One of my favorite bench accessory movements for the triceps is the close grip 2 board press. Obviously my 2 board my not be the same range of motion for you, but close grip benching to boards is an awesome way to build serious tricep strength! Boards are cost efficient, and can even be made easily. They are something that should be included in every gym and especially if you're an equipped lifter

Bench Blokz - $60-$85 - http://shop.benchblokz.com

Bench Blokz are the exact same concept of boards except they are hard foam blocks with cut outs to fit onto the bar. With the bench blokz you no longer need an extra training partner to hold a board on your chest. They are essential if you plan on doing board work and train by yourself or just one other person. Bench Blokz come in all varieties from 1/2 to 4 board lengths, just as their wooden counterparts

Sponge Press - $60 - http://www.elitefts.com

The sponge press is essentially a board press with give to it. As you lower the bar to the sponge board you are able to sink the bar into the spongy material a bit. If you ever have a chance to compare pressing to a board to pressing onto foam you will notice the difference. There is a distinct feel to each. Sponge presses are not regularly available at most gyms since their wooden counterparts are just as effective and cost 1/4th the price. However I do think there is a benefit to having the extra give the foam provides

I personally like the feel of sinking the bar into the foam rather than touching a board. Obviously for equipped benching the sponge press is not ideal and boards should be used but for raw work such as close grip bench, the extra give of the foam saves your joints from extra pounding. That as well as a certain feel of more deload on the chest and a nice transition into a strong tricep contraction

These are some of my favorite overloading techniques for the bench. If used right these tools can be used to build up a big raw and equipped bench. During meet prep they are extremely valuable to feel out heavier weight and gain some confidence in your ability to hit your numbers on the platform. Most of lifting is just mental, these tools let you break down those mental barriers and find the ability to smash plateaus