Big Bench Blueprint | Benching With Chains

May 18, 2015


A common misnomer within the training world is that we must “trick” our bodies in order to see results. This adage is mistakenly based upon the SAID Principal of Training. However, if we don’t teach our bodies to adapt to said imposed demand, progress will be without measure or fluidity. To become powerful we must accept challenge and respond to it. What’s the best way to do this? We asked Renegade Training Founder, John Davies, how we can adapt smarter to develop a BIGGER Bench Press.




“One of the first challenges encountered in resistance training is the strength curve and despite many highly complicated approaches to explain it, it is easily understood with simple common sense.


The first rep of the first lift reveals said strength curve. Learn to develop your sticking points to improve such movements as the bench press


• Ascending, where the movement is easier near the end
• Descending, where the movement is more difficult near the end
• Parabolic, where the movement is more difficult near the middle section of the action


Big Bench Press Blueprint part 3


The bench press involves an ascending strength curve challenge where the individual is at a mechanical joint disadvantage at the base of the movement. In fact, the bench press involves a series of segments, each slightly different in their muscular demands and the rationale behind the use of approaches such as pause reps, negatives, accelerated eccentrics, lock-outs, floor presses, board presses, chains and the use of a ‘non-burstable’ stability ball.

One of the most popular approaches and with good reason given their effectiveness involves bands or chains. By using bands or chains, the bar speed will not suffer at the base of the list due to a deloading factor. As the bar rises, tension will increase as the band expands or more links leave the ground increasing muscular stimulation and, in essence, matching the strength curve.

The precise mix of bar-to-chain weight will vary with individual characteristics and personal traits; hence, a period of ‘trial and error’ is natural but please always approach with safety first. This must first be highlighted as less mature lifters may not have adequate technique and may sway during the movement which will only compromise the integrity of the shoulder joint with added ‘imperfect’ (bands, chains, etc.) resistance.

Quite naturally, there are many approaches to the precise mixture of bar to chain weight. The best solution is “safety first” and find an area of confidence. Typically, the total chain weight for intermediate levels near the start of their training is 15 to 20 per cent of their one rep max. That said, I place significant emphasis upon patience, ensuring that bar speed is adequate, that technique is maintained and that the shoulder capsule is not compromised.

A few points to consider with the use of chains and the bench press.


First, cycle the use of chains approximately every four weeks with time off to ensure joint integrity and further mix a different medium, i.e. bands, to approach the strength curve from a different angle. Secondly and with emphasis, a strong bench press is built upon the foundation of triceps and the upper back


For entry to intermediate level and those not considering competitive powerlifting where the approach would be different, I suggest the following approach which provides exposure to a variety of different starting approaches:

6 Sets to a Bigger Bench


Perform twice a week for 3 weeks, followed by 3 weeks of non-accessory benching and 3 of banded bench press.


Bench Press 50% + 25% chains*, 3 sets x 6 reps
Bench Press Concentric** 50% + 15% chain**, 3 sets x 4 reps

*load is effectively deloaded in base position and completely off the ground once fully upright
**within racks such that pins are set just above chest level. Explode the weight up, lower with control with a full stop at the base. This is a TREMENDOUS movement for starting strength.

Following 6 sets to a Bigger Bench Press, the balance of training should continue as planned and suit individual needs and goals. As noted previously, place tremendous emphasis upon the triceps, upper back and shoulder capsule to assist development of the Bench Press as well as joint integrity.”


Big Bench Press Blueprint with TEAM USPlabs Holly Helton


Prepared by John Davies


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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of USPlabs or any employee thereof. Examples used within this article are only examples. USPlabs is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the authors of this article. Content contributors are not employees of USPlabs. Authors may have been remunerated by USPlabs.


The information provided in this article, as well as this web-site blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice for any condition. Always consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. By reading this disclaimer, you hereby agree and understand that the information provided in this column is not medical advice and relying upon it shall be done at your sole risk.

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