Plyometric Bench Press Training
Originally posted at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Supert.../message/19776
Date: Wed Apr 24, 2002 7:06 am
Subject: Plyometric Bench Press Training
<<....there is a bench press article coming out in the May Powerlifting USA
that will help you with your bench. The article is "Plyometric Bench Press
Training for More Strength and Power".>>
<Note, when you read the above recommended article that true 'plyometric'
("shock method") bench pressing is not possible with anything but very small
loads, because the coupling time between eccentric and concentric phases
becomes too long with loads that are even as small as 25% of 1RM. >
<<You are correct, smaller load needs to be used. Research in the article
places the loading at 30% of 1RM.>>
*** Even then the range of joint action has to be very small and not at joint
angles where torque production tends to be much lower (as in the so-called
"sticking points"). This means that different loads have to be applied at
different angles over different ranges of joint action.
<Would you be able to quote extracts of that article for some analysis here? >
** Ebben, Blandard and Jensen's Quantification of Medicine Ball Vertical
Impact Forces: Estimating Effective Training Loads. J Strength and
Conditioning Res. 13 (3):271-274 1999, recommended medicine ball training
loads of approximately 30% of 1RM for biomechanically comparable weight
training exercises. The plyometric bench press in the May Powerlifing USA
will go into how to calculate impact forces based on the Ebben, Blandard and
The plyometric bench press notes that the training percentages Simmons
Westside Program uses are right on the money. Baker, Nance and Moore's "The
Load that Maximizes The Average Power Output During Explosive Bench Press
Throws In Highly Trained Athletes', J of Strength & Conditioning Research
15(1):20-24, 2001 shows bench press training percentages are best kept
between 46-62%, with 55% being the most effective.>
*** It is invalid and often misleading to liken any exercises to one another
on the simple basis of the peak forces or biomechanical factors being similar
or equal, because the training effects of a given load depend to a major
extent on the nature and pattern of neural and metabolic activation involved
in each case. Just because a ballistic bench press produces the same force
as a much slower 1RM bench press does not mean that it will have the same
training effects or even be very effective in enhancing performance.
In particular, it is grossly misleading to compare the non-ballistic training
percentages used by Louie Simmons and Co with the forces produced under
ballistic or plyometric conditions in which a load is dropped or propelled
onto the lifter's hands. We carried out plyometric bench presses many years
ago like that in the School of Mechanical Engineering at my former university
using a specially made ballistic bench press device and that error was the
very first one which we deliberately avoided in our research (see our machine
on p219 of my "Supertraining" textbook).
Equivalence of force in exercise methods A, B and C as measured by a force
plate or any other biomechanical means does NOT that the training effects
will be the same, because the neural and metabolic processes involved in each
case may be very different. Quite frankly, it does not matter even if that
sort of comparison was accepted in any scientific journals - all that means
is that the reviewers were less than thorough and should have rejected those
articles or insisted on a very careful revision of the scope and limitations
of those studies. I know that this can be very disconcerting for any author
who may rely on such references, but that is why one needs to consult as many
painfully difficult colleagues as possible before one submits any article.
Maybe those article indeed did stress the scope of their findings - if so,
the authors did not validate their application taken out of context.
<Training the bench press with these percentages will increase power output.
However, there are some inherent problems in only using this training
method. It only develops power in a very small range of motion. Plyometric
bench press training will enhance one's power on the bench.
*** Any method of training, even HIT or limited range isometrics or
quasi-isometrics, will enhance power in the bench press. What needs to be
shown is that any given method offers a superior or comparable method of
enhancing peak power, mean power and instantaneous power at crucial phases
during the entire movement. Does "plyometric" bench pressing enhance all of
these measures of power or is the measured increase in functional (movement
specific) performance a result of the combination of several different forms
of strength training, as was shown by the research of Verkhoshansky and
others? (this issue is discussed at length in "Supertraining"). Unless we
have compared volume- and intensity- matched bench pressing programs with and
without "plyometric" methods, we are not entitled to conclude that plyometric
bench pressing categorically offers any special benefits on its own compared
with more conventional methods.
<The plyometric bench press article that will be out in the May Powerlifting
USA cites some additional studies and research. The article also looks at
how Jay Schroeder (strength coach with Evo-Fit/Mesa, Arizona) has used this
method...we look at the practical application of plyometric bench press
Schroeder's claim to fame is his most impressive student, Adam Archuleta.
Archuleta was a starter in his first year with the St Louis Rams.>
*** Unfortunately, in the world of football, we find similar claims being
made for Superslow and HIT methods
in producing several other top American footballers, so that this sort of
testimonial is often of little consequence. This is why I will never
dogmatically state that any specific training method is always superior to
all other methods. The human body is notoriously uncooperative in reacting
in exactly the same way to the same stimulus and what suits one at any given
time and under certain conditions will not necessarily apply at other times
and under different conditions.
Note that, as someone who has used, researched and written for many years
about ballistic ("plyometric") and explosive methods of training which the
Schroeders and other coaches of the world are now beginning to apply, I am
not implying that such methods are useless - all that I wish to stress in
this critique is that coaches must not even begin to entertain the belief
that so-called "plyometric" bench pressing on its own is going to magically
enhance performance. It will not - it must be part of a whole training
complex to have any value at all.
I have written several articles during the past 18 months on this list on the
use of ballistic, oscillating or bar-striking methods of training during the
bench press and some other exercises, so there is plenty of material to
stimulate the creativity of coaches among us in this respect. We have also
discussed at some length the methods being used by Jay Schroeder, so do look
in our archives for that information. For those who have access to my
"Supertraining" book, you will find all the necessary theory and several
practical methods for using "plyometric" methods of training in all sports,
as Louie Simmons and Dave Tate often point out.
While we are on the topic of anecdotal evidence, let us consider what the
performances of Archuleta really means to other athletes. Archuleta may
appear to produce a very respectable bench press via the use of such methods
(and I would be delighted to bench as much as he!), most of the Westside lads
make him look almost like a sheer beginner to powerlifting, yet they do not
use "plyometric" bench presses in their routines. Maybe they would improve
their performance with such methods, but I would be the last to suggest that
they radically alter their current winning formula because a few footballers
or other non-powerlifting athletes currently are benching more than some of
their colleagues in the gym.
So, for what it's worth, on the basis of competition and empirical evidence,
the bench pressing routines being used by Westside Barbell undoubtedly
produce far better results than the plyometric methods used by Schroeder et
al. And we all know from experience that this observation is going to carry
far more weight than any article extolling the bench pressing methods of a
few competent footballers whose performances by no means outshine those of
many other athletes and certainly no powerlifters of comparable bodymass.
Interestingly enough, the methods being used by Simmons and Schroeder all
rely on theory and methods presented in "Supertraining" - does the evidence
imply that Simmons is using that selfsame information more effectively or is
this just a coincidence?
Dr Mel C Siff