Masters Benching Secrets

by Roger LaPointe

Rudy Bletscher, at 70 years of age, performing a Feet in the Air Bench Press at the 2006 USAWA National Championships.

How much do you bench?

How many times have you been asked that question?

To me, the bench press is an exercise. To other people, I know it can be a way of life. For the Masters Age lifter, it can be an enigma..

I have recently been doing more bench pressing, because of my focus on the Crucifix Hold records. Thanks to a torn rotator cuff twelve years ago, I quit doing regular bench pressing. Now, thanks to the Indian Clubs, I am not so hesitant to bench. It used to put that shoulder out of commission for a week, or two, if I pushed it at all.

5 Training Lifts for the Master Bencher

  1. Crucifix Hold – I deal with a lot of Masters Age lifters and we all seem to have our particular collection of injuries, big or small. The Crucifix Hold is a funny lift. I have definitely found the classic flat bench press to be a helpful training lift to help with the crucifix 1RM, and vise versa.
  2. Olympic Power Clean and Press – Don’t use a super arched lay back, like the Russians of the early 1970s, instead press like Schemansky. Jim Bradford told me that Norb (Schemansky) told him he needed to “massage the bar”. My buddy Dave Pohlzin has been teaching me to do it. It’s pretty cool. One day I hope to Clean & Press more than I can bench.
  3. Incline Dumbbell Bench Pressing – Man, you need to crush it like Casey. I have an old Meet poster from Dr. Ken’s Iron Island Gym with a photo of Pat Casey doing incline dumbbell benches with some dumbbells that look to weigh around 220 pounds. Awesome. Most guys over do it with the flat benching and develop tendonitis and other problems at the point where the pecs, front delts and biceps meet at the front of the arm pit. This helps to avoid that problem.
  4. Side Lateral Raises – I know you have heard it a million times before but you really do need to avoid muscle imbalance in the delts. On some of these things, the bodybuilders have it right. If you hate this classic bodybuilder movement, try a one arm barbell snatch high pull. I won’t beat a dead horse on this concept. Just try it.
  5. Dumbbell Bent Over Rows – This will solidify the shoulder girdle like nothing else you can do.

Round out these movements with Indian Club work. Masters lifters all seem to have rotator cuff and biceps problems. In many cases, the Indian Clubs seem to solve that problem. They will help you bench more weight. Follow up the Indian Club work with the 5 exercises listed above and you might be benching more than when you were in your 20’s.

Roger LaPointe
“Today is a good day to lift.”