Excerpt from Josh Bryant’s ebook, Bench Press: The Science
I have been reading about the bench press since 1983 and have been coached by many of the best Powerlifting coaches in the world. I have spent the better part of my life living, learning and passing on what I know about the Bench Press. I even wrote an ebook on training the bench press and more articles than I can remember. Josh has put together an EXCELLENT book! It reminded me of MANY things I have forgotten and also taught me things I didn’t know. There is no doubt in my mind this is the best book ever complied on the bench press, its science and how to train it. – Dave Tate, founder Elitefts.com Inc.
Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT) Reigns Supreme
Okay, so this “CAT” idea sounds great, but what does science say? Glad you asked. This study examined the effects on strength after training for three weeks of the bench press with maximal speed (CAT) and a self-selected slower pushing speed. There were 20 total subjects, 10 trained in a CAT style on the bench press, the other half with a self-selected speed. Both groups trained with 85 percent of their one-repetition max, twice a week.
Prior to the commencement of training and after cessation of the three weeks of training, pushing speed and one repetition max were measured. The group that trained in a CAT style increased their bench press speed by 2.2 percent and strength by 10.2 percent, the self-selected group showed no improvements in either category.
Padulo, J. J., Mignogna, P. P., Mignardi, S. S., Tonni, F. F., & D’Ottavio, S. S. (2012). Effect of different pushing speeds on bench press. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 33(5), 376-380.
This again is one more study confirming the importance of explosive power in the raw bench press. CAT style is required to continually elicit gains in the bench press in trained subjects. I have seen this happen many times. Once an athlete, regardless of experience, learns to truly bench press with max force, strength goes through the roof. To reach your maximum strength levels in the bench press, you have to train in a compensatory acceleration style.
Lifting Maximal Weight Increase Force Production in Subsequent Sets
Post Activation Potentiation (PAP) is a strategy used to improve performance in power activities and refers to the enhancement of muscle function following a high force activity. Legendary Russian sports scientis,t Yuri Verhoshansky, explained PAP in layman’s terms as follows, “When you perform a 3-5 rep max, followed by a light explosive set…to your nervous system it’s like lifting a ½ can of water when you think it’s full.” The weight feels lighter and moves faster.
This study set out to determine if power during bench press exercise was increased when preceded by one-repetition maximum (1RM) in the bench press prior to lifting submaximal weights with maximal force, and it also aimed to determine the optimal rest interval to optimize PAP response.
The four experimental sessions were composed of a one repetition max followed by Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT) sets with rest intervals consisting of 1, 3, 5, and 7 minutes, performed on different days, and determined randomly. Power was measured via peak power equipment (Cefise, Nova Odessa, São Paulo, Brazil).
The study determined there was a significant increase in PAP in concentric muscle contractions after seven minutes of recovery after a max weight was used. The results suggest that seven minutes of recovery has generated an increase in PAP in bench.
Ferreira, S., Panissa, V., Miarka, B., & Franchini, E. (2012). Postactivation Potentiation: Effect of Various Recovery Intervals on Bench Press Power Performance. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins), 26(3), 739-744.
I wrote about reverse pyramiding in Muscle Mag International a couple of years ago. The idea is to start off with your heaviest sets, and then perform submaximal sets. This takes advantage of the PAP effect. If a football player is getting ready for a combine with a 225-pound rep bench press rep max, I will have him bench press 275-315 pounds first, the end result is he always performs more reps. “You feel like you are lifting half of a can like it’s full,” in Dr. Verhoshansky words.
This allows you to build strength very effectively because the most important strength building set is the first set in this rep scheme. You are 100 percent fresh! What most people don’t look at is the fact that you will produce greater forces on your CAT sets following your heavy sets. Many studies on PAP are generally done on things like heavy squats followed by an explosive activity like a vertical jump. Countless studies show the effectiveness of PAP, but it’s cool to see what I’ve known and advocated for years to be validated by science. We have learned the same effect holds true when moving from a maximal weight to a sub maximal weight. In layman’s terms, bench 500 first then 400 feels lighter and it will move more explosively.
CAT Training Continually Reigns Supreme
Division 1 football players training in a compensatory acceleration style (CAT) upper body strength regimen were compared to a traditional regimen in their off-season. The CAT group was instructed to perform the positive rep as explosively as possible. The traditional group performed repetitions at a traditional tempo.
At the end of both off-season training programs, both power and strength were assessed. Power was tested with a seated medicine ball throw and a force platform plyometric push-up test. Strength was assessed by a one rep max in the bench press.
Both groups increased strength and power. The group that trained in a Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT) style improved their bench press by nearly double the amount of the traditional group. Average power, as expected, increased significantly more in the group that trained explosively.
Jones, K. K., Hunter, G. G., Fleisig, G. G., Escamilla, R. R., & Lemak, L. L. (1999). The effects of compensatory acceleration on upper-body strength and power in collegiate football players. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research (Allen Press Publishing Services Inc.), 13(2), 99-105.
Fred Hatfield was ahead of his time advocating Compensatory Acceleration Training. It is simply superior! Training adaptations are not just a result of weight on the bar. Adaptations from training are a byproduct of tension and duration. You respond to how much force produced, how fast the force was produced, how long you produced it, and how many times you produced it. Force=mass x acceleration. More tension is result of greater bar speed. Maximal strength training and power adaptations can result from lifting weights with maximal force; one more reason to compensatorily accelerate weights.
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Table of Contents
- About the Author
- The Bench Press
- Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT)
- Elimination of Sticking Points: A Scientific Approach
- The Power of Positive Benching
- Explosive Bench Pressing: Plyometrics and Throws
- Sound Science or Bro Science?
- Partials for Raw Bench Pressers
- Bands and Chains for the Raw Bench Presser
- Bench Press: Muscle Activation, Technique, and Volume
- Science and the Sling Shot
- Miscellaneous Bench Press Science
- Building Bottom End Power
- Take Home Points
Link to Full Table of Contents - View the table of contents here
About Josh Bryant
Along with ISSA certifications in fitness training, nutrition, and conditioning, Josh has been awarded the prestigious title of Master of Fitness Sciences (MFS). He was also recently named the ISSA Director of Applied Strength and Power Development. In addition to being certified by the NSCA as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and by NASM as a Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES), Josh completed his Master’s degree in Exercise Science, with an emphasis in Performance Enhancement and Injury Prevention at California University of Pennsylvania. He is the co-author of the elitefts™ best-selling eBook, Metroflex Gym Powerbuilding Basics.
As an athlete, Josh won many national and world titles in both powerlifting and strongman. At 22 years of age, he was the youngest person in powerlifting history to bench press 600 pounds raw. He squatted 909 pounds in the USPF, officially bench-pressed 620 pounds raw, and officially deadlifted 810 pounds raw. In 2005, he won the Atlantis Strongest Man in America competition.
Josh has been focusing on providing outstanding personal training in person as well as via the Internet. He has combined his education along with his in-the-trenches experience to develop The JoshStrength Method. This method has provided countless clients the road map to success.
Josh answers 80 questions (average) per month on the elitefts™ Q and A