Posting this here because I figured someone here might find it interesting.
On Saturday, June 11 and Tuesday, June 14, 2005 I had the opportunity to visit a small gym in rural Japan (Oono in Fukui prefecture) called "Takei Power Gym".
I learned of this gym from my wife. She normally has no interest whatsoever in powerlifting, but noticed an article in the paper about a young girl who was a junior IPF world record holder in the bench press, living and training in the same prefecture. The girl's father was her coach the gym owner, and a former World's IPF Bench Press bronze medalist (1995).
I went, not knowing what to expect exactly, but hoping that they might at least give me some tips for my horrible bench.
During the two sessions that I spent at Takei Power Gym, I talked with the father and daughter a lot about training, equipment, and technique. Her are some of the highlights of our conversations:
*Crain bench press shirts are a lot more popular here. According to Mr. Takei, Japanese benchers just don't like extreme gear. He has always used Crain bench shirts and loves the fit. He tried competing in an Inzer EHPHD, but hated it. I tell him that, for Americans, the more painful the gear, the better - he just laughs and it's pretty clear he doesn't agree.
*Almost all meets follow IPF guidelines, so everything is single-ply poly. The Rage X isn't sold in Japan yet. He mentions the F-6 too, but I didn't ask him follow-up questions about it.
*Japanese benchers maximize bench grip width. As soon as I put my hands on the bench, both Ai and her father immediately mention that Americans tend to bench close grip and they are a bit puzzled why they do that.
*Mr. Takei does a lot of rep work in the off-season, usually in the 8-10 range. Pre-contest work generally starts 8 weeks out with the last three weeks using equipment. His athletes usually do no workouts 10-14 days before a meet so they are fully recovered.
*His benchers take a lot of time to recover in-between sets. He recommends 10 minutes.
*He recommends an elbows-out bench press style. I know, I know... I mention rotator cuff injuries and he says that he has had a few, but that the shoulder and pectorals are underutilized by elbows-in benchers and that tricep-dominant lifters are limiting themselves. He says that opening up your elbows even a little will make a big difference with your bench press.
*They use large diameter PVC to help develop their arch. When I try using a 5" diameter tube, my back immediately cracks and then starts in with mild shooting spasms... I eventually settle into it and when I set myself with the bar, Mr. Takei pushes my shoulders towards my feet, saying "Down, down!". My upper back immediately tightens, solving an upper back tightness issue I've been battling on the bench press for years!