I grew up lifting weights the way most people did—in my basement with a set of Sears weights and a dubiously constructed bench that felt like it was going to drop the barbell on my larynx after every set. I even used the tried-and-true self-spotting method, when I got stuck, of tipping the bar to one side and sliding the plates off, then hanging on as the bar flew up and dropped the rest of them in a big, noisy pile—which caused my mother to come running every time.
Back then, I think we all used to do the same thing—bench and curls, five or six days a week. That’s all anyone ever wanted—a big bench, and big biceps. Hell, that’s pretty much all anyone still wants in the gym, as evidenced by the dozens of guys you’ll see, every day, clustered around benches and standing in front of mirrors doing curls.
When you’re young, this kind of training isn’t a problem. It’s how you learn. Unless you’re completely blind to life’s cause and effect relationships, you see what’s getting you bigger and stronger and you modify your training in favor of what’s working, discarding what’s not.
When you’re older, however, and you haven’t taken the time to pay attention to programming and technique, this bench/curl style of lifting isn’t going to work anymore because it’s bound to lead to injury. I did this for way too long—benching with too much volume and poor technique—and my shoulders have paid a steep price. It wasn’t until I was older, and done playing college sports, that I realized I needed to find a better way to do things. My shoulders were fried, I was in pain, and my bench went absolutely nowhere for several years.
In my last article, I covered programming your training for a bigger bench. Here, I’m going to address some major technique points that, if incorporated, will help you add weight to your lifts and avoid the wear and tear injuries that make it so difficult to continue benching heavy as you get older.