Got bench?

Last night I looked at my bench workout for today with equal parts delicious fear and excitement.

1 set @ 45 x 8
1 set @ 55 x 6
1 set@ 65 x 5
1 set@ 75 x 4
1 set@ 85 x 3
2 set@ 90 x 3
1 set@ 80 x 5
1 set@ 60 x failure

This is the heaviest day on my six-week program, but it was the two sets of three at 90 that gave me butterflies. The last time I tried three at 90 I made the first set but only one out of three on the second.  I’ve also been kind of squiggly with my set-up, still trying to work out how best to get set. I knew it wasn’t quite right, but when Ben referred to it earlier this week as “whatever it is that you’re doing there” I knew it had to change. He also said I wasn’t using my legs or feet. I argued that indeed I was, but resistance is futile.

So this morning I asked for guidance on how to set up. Two things changed: I brought my feet in closer to the bench and tucked them further back towards the top of the bench, and I tightened my abs before arching my back. Once you’re arched, it’s too late to activate the abs, Ben explained. The new foot position felt odd, and tightening the abs made it seem a little harder to arch, but actually ended up making it easier to hold the arch once I was in place.

I went through each set, working as it got heavier to keep my left and right arm moving at the same pace. My left goes slower when I get to about 75 or 80 pounds, but last week a trick from Ben taught me to slow down my right arm when that happens. Worked like a charm.

I got to the first set of 90 and, feeling confident by now in my new set-up, pushed right through them. Walking back for some water between sets, I thought about the difference in being confident and cocky. Once I nail a set I think will be hard, I have 100% confidence I can do it again, but there’s such a thing as being too cocky, and I don’t want to give it any less effort or focus just because I know this time I can do it. So I treated the second set like I did the first, with confidence in my strength, but a healthy respect for the bar. And nailed it again. Tired by now, the five at 80 was harder than the three at 90.

All that was left was going to failure at 60. I asked why sometimes Ben wants me to go to failure and he explained it actually helps speed recovery.  Sometimes I have a number in my head, a goal to get to before failure, but I didn’t know how many to expect I could do so I just started benching it. It seemed incredibly light the first few reps, but slowed down around eight. At 13 I thought he’d take it. At 14 I wanted him to. At 15 I thought about racking it myself, then Ben said to take one more deep breath, and I lopsidedly pushed it up a 16th time.

Bench is a sly little beast. I know I’m getting stronger and have made progress, but even Ben says adding five pounds to his own bench is a big deal. Since I weigh in pounds about what he does in kilos, five pounds is even huger a deal for me. I’ve done 100, and I think I have 105. But 110 is calling. It’s too soon to know if I’ve got it. But I can’t wait to find out!

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