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How to Bent Press

June 10, 2005 07:52 AM

I thank Adam Hinson as the photographer and Karen Nashatker as the 109 lb. weight. She was harder to press then I thought 'cause she would not stop moving. :) Don't try it at home!

You will almost never ever see anyone working out in a commercial gym performing the bent press. There was only one time when someone outside the community, a personal trainer, looked at me and asked, "Sandow?" For some reason or another it is out of style. The main reason is that most people just don't know about it. In that sense, I'm glad I'm not like most people.

For those that do not know, the bent press is a standing exercise where you put up a weight overhead with one arm by getting under it. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. There are so many factors of positioning, body type and training that I will only cover the fundamentals of what I believe to be important ground rules.

Rule 1: Safety First

a. As Pavel preaches and so do I, always respect the weight. Whether it is 10 lbs. or 110 lbs., treat it the same.
b. Secondly, the bent press should be practiced where you can throw the weight down if there is a problem: on rubber mats or outside. The RKC book mentions this.
c. Common sense. If you want that PR and the numbers indicate that you should but you don't feel up to it, then don't do it. Your body is telling you something.

Rule 2: Form

You'll find that the weight has to challenge you somewhat to really feel this exercise properly. The bent press starts when you are holding the weight at your shoulder. There are many different ways to get the weight to this position. Observe.

There is a spot on the base of the palm where the wrist meets the palm on the pinky side that recruits more muscle fibers. Keep the weight there.

Now you are ready to press. There are two ways. You can twist your trunk and then begin, or twist as you lean forward. Your latissimus should be flared out and taking on most of the weight. The forearm is perpendicular to the ground. Eyes on the weight.

The crux of it is: you get under the weight as it seems not to move. You'll find in grinding power movements that the weight seems not to move at first. The magic is that more and more muscle fibers flex harder and harder creating more and more tension. Thank your nervous system for that.

Eyes on the weight.

Your upper back muscles stabilize the weight until you glide under it to lock your arm out. Now you're half done.

The second part of the movement is to keep the arm locked and slowly straighten up. That is the positive movement of what is known as the windmill. The back stays straight as you glide from the bent to the side position to a standing upright position. Keep your arm locked while performing the second step. Observe.

Through out this entire exercise keep your eyes on the weight!

Now that we have gone through some fundamentals let us move on to goals and some subtle training tips.

Arthur Saxon was one of the strongest men of all time due to this exercise, the bent press. You'll notice that if you choose to cheat this exercise one of the two things could happen: you will get injured or show poor results. Form is everything. The only way to learn is to do.

Some training planning suggestions.

Most pressing exercises yield small progress unless mass is added. The bent press you can add a lot to. I went from 75 pounds to 125 pounds in 6 months as I came to discover this marvelous exercise. You can too. The reason being, the bent press is probably the only exercise that uses the total body and hence more muscles.

Do this exercise within 85%-95% of your max twice a day for 3 ?4 days a week. I typically ramp up from a lower weight.

If your having trouble with the form or you plateau, then use pullups, chinups, or some kind of upper back exercise to maintain proficiency and you'll come back at least as good as when you left.

My latest PR immediately followed 3 weeks of no training of any type, including bent press. The bent press is such an overall strength exercise that it is good to do it less frequently, especially when you're doing other things. It will quickly overtax your nervous system.

Comrades, apply proper lifting and tension techniques as always. You can't go wrong. In the end you'll be stronger then you set out to be.

Power to you!