Chest Exercises

Bench Big, Get Big with the Spoto Press

Learn to get tight and increase time under maximum tension to lift more weight and add more muscle.

josh bryant thumbnail by CSCS, MFS, PES
barbell bench press

“Breathe in, breathe out” might be a cute mantra for the general fitness instructor at the local Planet Fitness. But if you want to bench press earth-shattering weights, it all starts with getting tight. Any loss of tightness is a loss of tension that should be working for you to move the barbell from point A to point B as forcefully as possible.

One exercise that teaches tightness is the Spoto Press.

The Origin

A few years back, videos starting surfacing of a former Las Vegas arm wrestling champion hoisting ridiculous weights in the bench press. Soon, he would go on to set the all-time world record bench press raw with a huge 722 pounds. This mystery man was none other than the amazing Eric Spoto.

Spoto was tight, explosive and handled these monstrous poundages with what appeared to be ease. The only criticism “keyboard warriors” routinely made of Eric’s bench presses were he never quite touched his chest. He would stop the barbell and inch or two off his chest then hoist the weight back up. Some pundits expressed there is no way he would do well with a full range of motion in a meet.

Obviously, the naysayers were shut up and history was made with the biggest raw bench press of all-time. The learning curve was virtually non-existent.

Lesson Learned

Watching Spoto lift and seeing how amazingly tight he would get, I knew this movement had value. I was fortunate enough to have had the chance to experiment the movement on lifters I coached ranging from Mark Bell to the greatest bench presser of all-time, Jeremy Hoornstra. The results were outstanding!

The lift forced tightness and built hellacious bottom end pressing power, and that power is the name of the game when it comes to the raw bench press.

What is a Spoto Press?

The movement is like the paused bench press on steroids!

However, there is one important distinction. Instead of pausing the barbell on the chest, the barbell is paused for approximately one second one to two inches off the chest.

Because the weight is levitating over your chest in open air, you have to stay tight, commanding complete control of the barbell and maximizing muscular tension. 

Because of the increased time under tension you will not be able to lift as much weight as you could pausing the barbell on your chest. For powerlifting, we generally keep this movement in the 1-3 rep range, and for hypertrophy in the 5-6 rep range.

If a picture is worth a thousand words then a video is worth 10,000. Check out BJ Whitehead, one of the top 275-pound powerlifters in the world, demonstrating the Spoto Press.

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