Barbell Shrugged

The Bench Press – You've been lied to!

Doug Larson


  • Awesome episode (as always).
    I’m one of those guys who has ignored the bench and want to work on it. I’m thinking of adding it as an accessory lift at least 1x per week. It usually comes up a few times per month with the Crossfit program we follow – but I’m wondering if adding it an additional 1x per week will be beneficial or if I really need to do it consistently 2x per week as you guys suggested today.
    Love how you break things down and give us both the in depth, researched perspectives – and the more visceral, straightforward and frank perspective. Lets be honest – we need both!

  • Hey Chris, really enjoy the podcast, im a physical therapist in Australia, im a big fan, I do not even watch real TV anymore, just this youtube channel. I constantly get in trouble off my partner for watching to much Barbell shrugged, Keep up the good work. Dougs mobility wods are great as well!

    • In 1970’s us teens had no money and parents didn’t have credit cards to buy us — excercise equipment, there were NO modern gyms everywhere like now. > Built my own bench press when I was 16 yrs old, wood > a 2×10 for the bench, and vertical 2×4’s nailed to the bench to support the barbell. I carved a ‘U’ shape at top of 2×4’s to hold the bar. A steel mill nearby, I wandered in, they gave me steel scrap which I drilled 1″ holes thru center for bar. Free weights ! Saw ad in back of Popular Mechanics [ 1976 } for a weightlifting course called “Universal Bodybuilding” sent them $10.
      It was a good basic course; lift 3X a week. They emphasized bench press first ! I started benching, 3 to 5 sets, 5-10 reps. By age 17 I benched 295 at body weight 145 while lifting ALONE in parents basement. I had zero fear back then. I fear a lot of things now LoL. Anyway, quit lifting after HS, haven’t lifted since then, [except my construction job, masonry is heavy work} until joined Crossfit 3 yrs ago. I qualified for the Masters Crossfit Games twice, placing last and recently 4th { out of 2300 } in the 55-59 division.
      We rarely bench at the gym, too hard for the trainers to program it in with many people in workouts at same time and limited space and only 3 benches. But I think I’ll start benching again, I’m looking very middle age with the thinned graying hair, maybe some vanity curls and bench for the chest pump will – – maybe – bring back the ‘swole’ look of my youth LOL

  • Hey Chris, I tuned into this podcast and was packed with great info. I tuned in mainly because I want to relearn what I know about benching because I took a partial tear to my left peck tendon in January 2015. You explained a lot about avoiding injury, but how do I come back. I want to be able to have total body strength again and get faster. I tore it benching on my fifth rep of only 185. A few week before that I tried 225 and I found out that I could do 4 reps. I am new to this podcast, but one dude on there talked about overcoming an injury. And yes, I have gone to my personal doctor and a good shoulder doctor. My personal doctor did not specialize in shoulders, but told me more about recovery than the shoulder doctor I went to. I believe that his patients were usually athletes that needed to come back from an injury. I am trying to be a cop and I am a graduate student in computer science. I would like to be able to bench 220 so I can pass the fitness test again, instead of keeping this study and give up on being a cop. So I was a bit angry of the at the doctor for not showing interest in my injury. Again, the podcast was great!

    • Sounds like it was simply an acute soft-tissue injury. First off, however you train, I would focus on warming up and mobilizing properly. Sounds like you need to be very proactive here on out with your chest and shoulders. Basically, after you train, learn some basic practices for taking care of the pecs, ensuring range of motion, etc. Just search for MobilityWOD+Chest, as Kelly probably as a few videos already out there on simple moves (all you need). Other than that you should make sure that you’re training with some progressive, patient programming. Something like 531. Start back lifting light. Take your time. Check your form. Slowly add weight to the barbell as your strength increase and chest permit. In time, you’ll be right back on track. Just my impression that maybe you were light on self-care, and maybe eager to add load. Hope that helps.

      • Thanks a lot Chris. I will try to be proactive and check out what you told me to search. I guess patience wouldn’t hurt me, I am too determined to get back up there.

  • I’ve heard people say doing Pendlay rows will help your bench? What is the correlation to working your back and increasing overall bench performance and will weighted pull ups help with bench too?

    • The stronger your back, the more stable you will be while pressing. One, you will have a nice, muscular, strong “platform” from which to push. Second, a strong back will help to engage and control the barbell as it’s being lowered. More control, from hands to feet, means you press more.

  • Wanted to post an update.
    After this episode I started dedicating Thursdays to increasing my bench up to 1.5 body weight (was at 1.25). Adding 5# per week since the episode aired – i’m now up to #250 (1.38x) and feel like i can keep making linear progress for a few more weeks.
    Thanks for the suggestions. Working to a daily max (aiming for 5# increase). Then backing off to 80% of that number and doing three sets of 5. Working very well. And my shoulders are managing the added volume without any issue.

  • This is easily one of my favorite episodes. I hadn’t benched in over a year since I started focusing on Olympic lifting. I decided to revisit it and powerlifting in general after this episode. I have say that the thoracic mobility I’ve needed for the snatch has made me more comfortable benching and since I’ve started benching I feel stronger and more stable with the snatch. I just do this for my health so I’m not trying to do anything other than be healthy and have fun. That said, if I could leave a suggestion, it’d be that I’d to see an episode on super total training, I.e. Training for both powerlifting and Olympic lifting.

  • Chris thanks for great info on your podcasts. Can you answer a question in regards to using the chart, should you max out every workout , then go to the working sets with the listed percentages of that days max?

    • You don’t need to do that, know. Determine your best once, then train for 12 weeks or so using that number. There are many ways to do that. In short, focus on loads that range around 75-85% or so. Don’t train the bench super heavy. Just progressively.

  • Looking to piece together a garage gym. Thinking of getting a squat stand vs a full power rack for space considerations, but when it comes to the bench, is it worth spending more for a FID adjustable bench, or is a flat bench all that is needed. for argument sake, lets compare a solid flat bench like Rogue for $175 to a FID bench for $320 or Rogue’s Adjustable bench for $545? Which would be the best route to take? Thanks!

Your Cart