One of the most common issues plaguing people on the bench is an inability to properly engage the triceps on the eccentric portion of the motion resulting in the inability to properly extend and lockout. The fix for this issue is simple. Break at your damn elbows.
As the weight gets progressively heavier people will inevitably rely on their primary movers in an attempt to overcome the load. In the bench press this is your chest and lats. The result of this reliance is a curved bar path while simultaneously flaring the elbows. The triceps are not properly loaded and the bar ends up hitting a wall a couple inches of the chest.
Instead try this. On your warm ups practice initiating the movement with breaking at your elbows no differently than you might break at your knees to begin the squat. Then, once the break has begun, focus on keeping the weight balanced over the tip of your elbow where your triceps connect with your ulna. What you will find is that the positive may feel harder at first as you acclimate to this adjustment, however, you will surely find additionally drive where you normally would have just hit a wall on the bench. Rely on the triceps and your bench press will thank you for it.
As a gym owner and coach, I see people experimenting with their fitness regimes, as they should. As a novice lifter, everything is new so working on the basics is the way to go. After a while, the basics get boring and people look to spice up their fitness life. In comes accommodating resistance.
What is it?
Accommodating resistance is any implementation to an exercise where resistance is increased throughout the motion as to accommodate for the more favorable anatomical position that the body is in. Simply put, it makes the lift easier at the bottom and harder at the top.
What implements do I use?
The most common implementations are through the use of bands and chains. Bands are an exponential accommodation since they resistance will increase exponentially through the range of motion. On the other hand, chains are a form of incremental accommodation since resistance will increase in the same increments as compared to distance throughout the entire range of motion.
How and when Do I use accommodating resistance?
The biggest issue I see in lifters who are new to accommodating resistance is the lack of purpose. "Fuck it, ill throw some bands on here," is not the way to go. The simplest advise is to set a goal and research how to use accommodating resistance to achieve that goal. For instance, bands are elastic which is great for speed work since it will overspeed the bar on the negative and elicit the stretch reflex response in return which overtime will increase the speed and amplify the force potential in a lift. On the other hand, chains are great for overload work or fatigue compensation. If your body is overly fatigued using chains to decrease the load at the bottom and most difficult part of the motion will allow the lifter to workout longer without incurring an irreparable amount of fatigue. For overload work, chains are a great way to build confidence so a lifter can feel the load at the top and build up the mental confidence to support that load on meet day.
Always have a plan. Do your research or hire a coach that will do it for you. There is a massive benefit through the implementation of accommodating resistance but the misuse of the same tool will not only be detrimental but could possibly result in injury. As always, comment on this post or ask questions if you require more information
A central tool to any powerlifter, strongman, Olympic lifter, or strength focused athlete is their central nervous system or more commonly referred to as their CNS. For instance, in powerlifting, their is different mesocycles a powerlifter may implement in their training program to encourage a certain response from their body. For instance, a hypertrophy cycle allows the powerlifter to gain much needed muscle on their frame which will in turn result in an increased ability to move a greater load. In preparation for competition, the powerlifter will begin to peak which is essentially just a fine tuning of the Central Nervous System to act in coordination with the newly built muscle. This is where CNS fatigue will be omnipresent and must be managed with the utmost care.
Depending on programming, experience, and recovery, a person will accumulate and manage fatigue differently. I have provided a list of symptoms I see in my athletes when their nervous system is on the verge of overextension, which include the following.
1. Sleep - An individual who's nervous system has taken a hit will usually feel like they can never catch up on sleep. On the other hand, an individual who has absolutely ransacked their nervous system will likely have issues sleeping at all. If either of these symptoms present themselves, it is time to reduce load and intensity to allow your CNS to rebound.
2. Appetite- A sign of a healthy nervous system is a voracious appetite. If you're training encourages the consumption of food you are on the right track. If the sight of food makes you feel sick, your nervous system is way overextended.
3. Mental Clarity- An easy indicator of a CNS fatigue is mental fog. If you feel forgetful or just slow in your thought process it could be indicative of an overextended nervous system.
4. Mood Changes- Going along with mental clarity, if you begin to feel anxious or depressed and that is outside of your normal emotional state, an overextended nervous system could be a contributing factor.
5. Sickness- Sometimes referred to as "Yoke Flu", an overextended nervous system can manifest as physical illness. Symptoms such as fever and diarrhea are also good indicators of a damaged nervous system.
If any or all these symptoms are present you may be experiencing an overextended nervous system. So what do we do to fix that.
1. Rest- Sleep is paramount. The CNS repairs itself during REM sleep so getting to sleep and staying asleep for a full 8 Hours can make managing fatigue easier.
2. Eat- Eat. The body needs resources to repair any damage it experiences. Increasing your fat intake will also increase your fatigue management capabilities.
3. Reduce Intensity- If you are fucked up there is no point in fucking yourself up more. Reduce the load and intensity your body is experiencing and give it time to catch up with recovery. A failure during training can have CNS fatigue ramifications for up to 2-3 weeks after failure so give yourself a solid 2 weeks for recovery before throttling back up. Ideally, "deloads" should be preplanned to prevent overextension from occurring in the first place.
4. Reduce Stress- Stop being a crazy asshole and take a breath. Stress begets Cortisol and Cortisol prevents recovery. Listen to relaxing music, take a walk, or meditate. Whatever you have to do to reduce stress, do it.
This is just a small list of things I have seen in my experience as a coach. If you have any questions feel free to reach out. Additionally, if you have any information that you have seen about CNS fatigue I would love to hear it.
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