Written by Jay Stadtfeld for LiftBigEatBig.com
I’m not a fan of dive bombing attempts for squat or bench. If you go back and watch some of my videos on YouTube, you can see I used to do this very act. What caused me to change? The direction of the wind? Too much caffeine clouding my brain? Perhaps a mere glimpse into my own training and why I wasn’t succeeding to the degree I desired? Any one of these likely contributed at some point (the wind is debatable, as you can’t see it, so therefore it doesn’t exist… right?) to my desire to change.
Dive bombing, as it will henceforth be known as, is essentially dropping to the ground as fast as gravity will take you and activating the musculature required to complete the lift. As one can figure in the squat, that means loosening tension on the most important anatomy, the hamstrings, on the descent. Then turning around and activating the hell out of them in order to complete the lift. Hardly seems efficient, eh?
What happened to me when I dive bombed was loss of tightness in the upper back, and shoving my shin into a pretty vertical position in attempt to turn the hamstrings on. While it worked for a while, eventually I found that it wasn’t going to work forever. This occurred to me at my last meet in St. Louis, where I failed my final squat attempt at 418. Granted I wasn’t far removed from an injury, and didn’t have much prep time pre-meet, it dawned on me that I needed to change something. It was around then that I figured it out.
The same can be said for the bench press. I don’t claim to be an incredible bench presser. Hardly boasting about a current best of 300×4 reps, or 315 for a double. However, for me a slower descent works best. I’m able to activate my lats and stay tighter which is arguably the most important part of the bench press. Without staying tight, you’ll quickly find yourself pinned under a “max effort” attempt. Moreover, if both the lats and tightness are off, then I wish you the best of luck in your endeavor.
I also find that “rowing” the bar to my chest will help activate my lats better than trying to keep the bar from descending too quickly. That way the bar doesn’t slip out of the groove (bar path) you’ve created for yourself. Being strong is as much efficiency as it is being actually being strong.
As you can see in the video, the bar path is pretty consistent throughout. The barbell never takes a dive at my chest, and I’m largely in control throughout the duration. Take the cues I’ve given above and figure out how it can work for you. Also, I apologize for you having to stare at my penis throughout the video.
If there’s one thing you need to take away from this article, it’s that I am NOT saying to create a “negative rep” effect. Nay, I’m saying that in order to find success, perhaps focus on activating the proper musculature necessary to complete the lift in the most efficient manner possible. Go forth and succeed!