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Upper Body Strength Training for Powerlifters

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Upper Body and Grip Training Workout 8/29/13

Lots of people love the idea of building a Big Bench Press, but have little idea how to go about doing it.

Often, the type of Bench Press training we learn about is what we learned in our High School Gyms, which are most likely recycled information that the coach learned when he was in High School and has never changed one single bit. It often ends of becoming a vicious cycle of bad, out-dated information.

My suggestion for people who want to bring up their Bench is to find someone who actually is a Powerlifter and is seeing some success in their training. When you train with someone who is successful in the Big Three Lifts (Bench Press, Squat, and Deadlift), Strength becomes Contagious. Just by lifting with them, you get stronger, and all awhile learn the proper way to train.

Last Friday, I had someone visit who has done just what I am suggesting. He went from having very little structure in his training a few years ago, to following one of the most popular Powerlifting Programs that is out there. As a result, he has seen impressive gains from the new-found structure and is enjoying the design of the program and the increased numbers, for sure.

This lifter is Josh McIntyre
. I first met Josh through the Diesel Crew website in January of 2011 when I started the Weekly Grip Strength Challenges. Josh won many of these challenges during the year and has gone on to perform lots of Elite-Lever Grip Strength Feats since then, although these days his primary focus is Powerlifting with a little Strongman and Grip thrown in, a great mixture for developing incredible strength.

We hit an awesome workout this past Friday, about 2 hours and 15 minutes of Upper Body Training and then about an hour and a half of Grip Training, with a little break in between for a short interview.

Below is the video, which contains the entire session.

I asked Josh to send in a little write-up about himself so you could get to know him a bit better. I think you will also see that once you get some programming into your routine, you can expect to see some increased strength levels across the board. Here you go.

Josh McIntyre Interview

josh jedd

Jedd: Who the hell are you and how did you end up getting into Powerlifting?

Thanks Jedd for having me up to your place. My name is Josh McIntyre, I’m 32 and have been lifting off and on since I was 14, but with goals in mind since 2010 and most seriously since 2012. I’ve competed in both Powerlifting and Strongman. My best lifts to date are a 565 squat (raw w/ wraps,) a 390 raw bench and a 635 raw deadlift (no belt) but I’m seeing now that I’m capable of a lot more.

I never did anything more than a set of curls and some push up’s right after highschool. I thought I was strong back then. It’s amazing to look back at pictures and see a guy who thought he was the man. In 2007, I moved to NC from NJ and found myself with a spare room to fill. So I assembled my rusty old H.S. weight bench and got some cheap standard plates from craigslist ads and used sporting goods stores.

Around the same time I spent a lot of time on Youtube looking for workout routines. I found your channel and was floored by the feats I was witnessing. I had a “monkey see, monkey do” mentality like many others, and trained until I could replicate whatever it was that I was training for, like a 5 dimes pinch (have still to get 6 without a pipe through them,) pinching two 45’s, levering a 45# plate (still sloppy,) hubbing a 45# plate, closing an Ironmind #3 etc etc.

I also started to train the powerlifts. I use the term “train” loosely here because I had no idea what the hell I was doing and ended up with a lot of shoulder pain. For a while, since I had no squat rack and it hurt my shoulders to bench a lot, I focused primarily on the DEADLIFT. To this day, it’s still my best and favorite lift. (long arms)

Once I scored a power rack off of craigslist for $100, it was on from there. I read up a bunch on rehab and prehab for shoulders here on and Elitefts. I watched a lot of video’s and inched my DL up over 500 in 2009.

Jedd: Tell us About Your Early Competition Days

I competed in my first powerlifting meet in 2010 in the APA. I entered Deadlift only, weighed in around 235 and competed in the 242’s. I opened at 505, went 565 for my second and 585 for my third. Unfortunately they called me for hitching (rightfully so) and I was credited only for my opener. I learned a lot that day and I was hooked!

Since then I’ve competed in 6 powerlifting meets and 1 strongman contest. I’ve learned so much from each one. I really enjoyed the strongman contest but PL is where my passion is. I’ve also trained with a lot of brutally strong PL competitors I’ve met at meets and gained a lot of strength and knowledge from them.

Jedd: When I first learned of you, you were training mostly at your house and from time to time in a gym where they wouldn’t even let you bring in chalk. These days, I have seen you have been training at Raleigh Barbell.

Since March of this year, I began training with a PL team at Raleigh Barbell. I’ve seen my best gains ever just in the last 5 months since training there. We trained 2 cycles of Brandon Lilly’s Cube Method with some success. The guys are great, supportive, serious and very goal motivated. If I squat high, they let me know. If my back started to round a little there, or my ass rises off the bench slightly, they’re right there to correct it for me. Having an extra set of eyes is really helpful when you can’t see where you’re screwing up.

josh 510s
5-10′s Pinch for Grip Specific Warm-up – NO PROBLEM!

As far as the gym, Raleigh Barbell is an 864 square foot training facility located in the heart of downtown Raleigh which is owned and operated by Elite Strength and Wellness Coach Jackson Williams. He’s been a great coach and he’s strong as hell! I’ve seen him pull 650 raw like it was 315. Training with guys stronger than me has been exactly what I was missing. Coach Jackson and Teammates Mason, Hunter, Chris, Keven and Justus are great lifters and training partners, and I’m lucky to be training along side of them. For more info on Raleigh Barbell or to contact Jackson, check out or hit him up on the Raleigh Barbell facebook page, if you’re on the book of faces.

Recently we’ve started a 10 week training template written by our coach leading up to a PL meet in November in Richmond, VA followed by a Charity Push/Pull the following weekend that I’ve done for the past 3 years.

Jedd: Josh, I’ve gotten some questions asking why we chose the exercises we did during our workout and what exactly the bands are for. Could you explain these points please?

The bench workout you and I did was from our Raleigh Barbell week 2 speed bench. It focused on practicing the bench press movement over and over by doing 8 sets of 2 as fast as we could WITH GOOD FORM. We incorporated band tension to make the lockout more difficult. That forced us to generate momentum from the start to get us through the increasing resistance. We also added volume by going for max reps up to but NOT including failure. We don’t miss training lifts at Raleigh Barbell. We only took another rep if it was there. The rest of the bench day was higher volume accessory stuff, o/h press, shoulders, rows, hammer curls, tri’s, all for hypertrophy.

Jedd: Now that you are several years into serious training, maybe you could talk a bit about major lessons you have learned, pitfalls you have run into along the way, mistakes you’ve made, etc?

I’ve seen up’s and down’s in my training but the more experience I got the more I realized the anecdote “it’s a marathon, not a sprint” is dead on. Also, enjoying the journey has been key for me. I lift ’cause I love it, that makes it easy to commit to. I see lifters so focused on their goal that they suffer through and end up hating their training. It’s ok to like what you do, it makes you easier to be around too.

Some of the mistakes in my own training over the years have been:

    1. Sticking with a routine even after I stall while using it. You can’t keep doing the same thing and expect to get a different result. My numbers were up and down, up and down for far too long
    2. Not doing any kind of accessory work to bring up weak areas
    3. Thinking one way was right and ALL other ways were wrong
    4. Waiting until I thought I was “good enough” to enter a PL meet. I wish I had done it sooner. Your entire mentality toward training changes after a competition. And the friends I’ve made and the things I’ve learned have been valuable to me as a lifter and a competitor. Don’t wait, sign up today. It’s so much fun and you’ll walk away with more than you came with
    5. Finding reliable training partners. More easily said than done. If you have an opportunity to join a PL gym, or a CF gym or a Strongman crew DO IT

jedd 610s
6-10′s Pinch. Off the Ground 5 or 6 Times, but Not Quite Lockout

Jedd: Josh, great having you up here. Come back again when you make a trip up this way. I want to see you get the 6-10′s Pinch sometime soon.

Again, thank you Jedd for having me up to train. The grip feats I witnessed and failed at were humbling and motivating. I was smashed when I left your gym but mentally I was rejuvenated with the idea of grip training. I have an entirely new respect and appreciation for Grip sport and its competitors. I look forward to meeting up again soon!

I got some feedback that the videos were hard to watch in the Playlist, and that you would like them separated out, so here you go…

Speed Bench Press Against Light Bands

Overhead Axle Training

Axle Rows for Back and Grip Strength

Tricep and Biceps Superset

Hammer Curls for Size and Strength

Josh McIntyre Interview

DIESELS – If you have any other questions about the training we did in the videos, leave a comment and I will do a follow up article to answer them.

All the best in your training.


The Missing Part of Your Strength Training – Extensor Work – A Must for Any Serious Lifter – Hand X Bands

Misses Are Just Warm-ups: Going for Your Max in the Overhead Press

Saturday, December 1st, 2012

I have a little saying that I coined about two years ago that goes like this:

Misses Are Just Warm-ups

Warrior Presses Savage

This is a mental approach that you have to take when your overall training goal is STRENGTH.

You missed a new PR Lift? So What? Try it again.

You didn’t break your previous best mark on your first try? So what? Try it again.

If you set up your lifts right, you should always have at least three good attempts in you to set a new PR. And in some cases, even more.

It doesn’t matter what kind of strength you are going for: Grip Strength, Powerlifting, Olympic Lifting, Strongman Training – all of them require certain factors to be right.

If any of these factors are not right, then you might not complete your lift, even though in reality you are strong enough to complete it.

Here are just a few things that can be “off” when you go for a max and keep you from setting a new PR:

Learn from the Best in the World on Benching

Friday, March 16th, 2012

Hey there, I hope your week has been awesome.

Today I have a review for you on a new report called, Bench Press Explosion, by Mike Westerdal, which is only $7 until tonight at Midnight.

Bench Press Explosion, just $7 until midnight tonight – get your credit card out!

This is in ebook format, so in a matter of minutes you can be reading it and sampling from the routines of some of the strongest benchers that have ever lived.

Review: Bench Press Explosion

This ebook is heavy loaded on two things: Technique and even moreso on Sample Routines.

Technique: It starts and ends with emphasis on the importance of proper technique in order to accomplish your maximum strength and muscle gains.

Routines: In many cases, the routines shows are the exact routines that the monsters of the bench would follow themselves.

Keep in mind something as you read through this sampling of routines from the ebook:

These programs are coming from the best in the world. It only makes sense to follow what the best in the world have done – why try to reinvent the wheel? And with so many different routines to choose from, you could be set for about the next full year for bench press routines. If you document and track your results the right way, you should easily be able to understand which ones work best for you. So go to the store, but a notebook for $1 and track your progress.

Now, let’s look at some of the routines featured in this ebook. Take note, this is by no means the exhaustive list of routines. These are just a few of the ones that struckme in particular when I reviewed the manual.

Pat Casey’s Routine

Pat Casey broke the 600-lb Bench Barrier with 617 and he used no ergogenic aids like equipment, substances or techniques. His routine focuses on weight, technique, and volume. In fact, in some cases, to spawn gains, he would go through periods of TREMENDOUS VOLUME. Wait until you read the kinds of volume numbers he would hit with his “Binge Workouts” on the Dip Stand. Other Worldly!


Ted Arcidi’s Blueprint for Benching

Ted Arcidi is someone I have been researching quite a bit lately, both due his success as a powerlifter, and because he spent some time competing in the Wrestling Ring during the 1980′s. If you haven’t heard of him, he was billed as the World’s Strongest Man, as he was the first man to bench 700 in a recognized competition. What is awesome is Bench Press Explosion outlines his exact routine he used, which he refers to as his Bench Press Blueprint for building chest strength and size.


Ken Lain’s Program Matrix
Ken Lain has benched 721 and 740 and Bench Press Explosion shows you exactly what he did to get to the 740 mark. What else is awesome is that this routine can be used for other multi-joint exercises, so if you want to transition into a period where you emphasize a different exercise, then you can use this program to build your other big movements, such as Squats, Deadlifts, Overhead Press and more.

Bench the Chuck Sipes Way

Chuck Sipes was just plain a bad-ass. In his hey day, not only was he stacked with rock solid muscle, but this crazy bastard used to bend nails and bars, often with the bar in his teeth, as shown to the right, so you know this guy was cool. In adddition to his steel bending prowess, this strongman trained up to a bench of 570 and even a set of 6 at 520 – AWESOME! This routine is specifically indicated for thos who are “stuck in a standstill” on the bench press.

John Carl Mese
This is another dude I am not familiar with, but what I liked about this section is that it gave some indications to look for as far as specific weaknesses you might have in your bench, depending on the spots you fail at, so you can work on your weaknesses, another big part of bench press success. Mese’s program also emphasizes balance between the upper, middle, and lower chest.



DIESELS, this is only scratching the surface of what is included in this ebook. There are actually over 15 Bench Press programs included in this report.

One word to the wise, howeverdon’t be jumping back and forth between programs. If you are not seeing results after just two weeks on a given program, don’t abandon it and move on to another one. That is a recipe for sure failure. Instead, pick one program out of the many listed here and use it as your guide from beginning to end. Track your results, including the prescribed sets and reps, but also take note of how the sets felt. You may be surprised as you look back how a certain percentage of your Max early on may feel tough and then a few weeks later it is a breeze. It is nice to have indicators like that written down in your work logs.

Then, when the program is complete, assess the results. You may try going through it again, or switching completely. With this ultra-cheap $7 report, you are going to be able to enjoy a great deal of flexibility in your training for months and even years to come.

OK, guys. That’s it for my review.

Take note, this ebook is on sale for a maniacally low price of just $7, but you have to pick it up before tonight at Midnight or else the price will go up.

You can get your copy here = > Bench Press Explosion

All the best in your training.


Wrist Pain and the Bench Press

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Many people have written me over the years about wrist pain when benching. After all, everyone loves a big bench press.

It’s one thing if you are stalled in the bench due to a technique issue or because you are having trouble deciding on a bench press program.

It’s something different altogether when your bench press is suffering because of pain in the wrist, so annoying and distracting.

So, what I have done is put together a video for you that is what I call a Diesel Work-around.

What is a Work-around, you might ask?

Well, in industrial settings, when a part of a process breaks or is faulty, but the work still needs to be done, alternative measures can be put into action in order to get the same finished product or desired result.

These alternative measures are called Work-arounds. For instance, if a conveyor belt is shut down, the items being moved can be placed into a cart and moved by hand to the next location, successfully “working around the problem” until it can be fixed.

In the case of the Bench Press, when there is pain in the wrist, we can perform a slight Work-around in order to still get the work done, in order to not miss a workout.

Now, before I get too deep into this, I have to stress this point: If you are injured, you need to address the injury with professional help.

So, if you strained your wrist in a bar fight or because you fell down a flight of stairs in a drunken stupor, you need to go to the doctor, get the problem professionally assessed and follow the doctor’s or therapist’s suggestions in order to completely address the injury.

However, wrist pain does not always mean that there is a break or soft tissue damage, such as that which can occur when you try to touch the stripper on stage and the Eric the Bouncer grabs you and tosses you out the back door into a dumpster.

Sometimes the root of the pain in the wrist is actually something simple such as the misalignment of the carpal bones in the wrist.

The bones of the hand and wrist are supposed to be arranged in a specific order. However, if we are training out of balance or if we have some light trauma to the wrist, these bones can be thrown out of whack, causing noticeable pain and loss of range of motion.

To see what I mean, check out the above picture. It may seem as though the bones seem to be randomly stacked on top of one another, but that is not the case – they are placed exactly how they need to be for optimal performance of the hands and lower arms, and if they get out of whack from trauma or imbalanced strength ratios as a result of your training, you can have some problems.

In cases such as these where the pain might just be a bone slightly misaligned, the following Diesel Work-arounds fit in nicely
. They take pressure off of the wrist and allow you to perform work on the Bench without having to miss a bench workout.

Work-around #1 – Use a Thicker Bar

A thicker bar, such as an axle or fat pipe, can be used on the bench press instead of the normal Powerlifting bar. This will feel different to you, but you should notice that there is not quite as much pain when performing the pressing movement.

The force will be spread out over more of the hand and not so much directly on the point of pain within the wrist. If you do not have an axle or thick pipe that is set up for pressing movements, then you might also try a set of Fat Gripz placed on the bar to accomplish the same general objective.

Diesel Work-around #2 – Wrist Straps

Another suggestion to try is wrist straps. These can help cradle the wrist as you press can be very helpful for reducing pain.

A lot of people think I am completely against wrist wraps, but that isn’t really true. I think they are great for preventing injury and for helping to recover from injury, like if something is “out” in your wrist.

The most important thing to know here is exactly how to wrap the wrists in order to get the right support, which I show you in the video, below.

That wrapping technique is something that you can use on a lot of your lifts
when you get into the big numbers. It will give you the support you need for confidence on lifts where the wrist is open for potential injury, such as overhead lifting.

I hope this has been helpful for you. If so, please leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks and all the best in your training!


P.S. I just got interviewed by Andres Gonzalez of Andres seems like a very nice guy who has decided to improve his lifestyle and has been doing a lot to better his health and well-being. In addition to that, he has been interviewing people he has been following who have made strength training a part of their lives. He found my site and said it is something that has helped him out with his journey to become stronger and I really appreciate him seeking me out.

Also, last week, Andres put together this cool video of the Top Nail Benders in the World. Check it out

3 Keys to Building Muscle the Right Way

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

If you take out questions about Grip Training, one of the most common questions I get is how to set up a program in order to put on muscle.

With this post, I want to list a few principles I follow in my training. Next week, I will cover some how to select the right movements and how to program them.

3 Keys to Building Muscle

These are the three main keys I follow in my training when it comes to exercise selection. Now, of course there are other things that go into it, but these are the main three things.

1. Multi-Joint Movements

If you want to put on muscle and develop strength, then you have got to get lots of muscle involved in order to do so. The best way to get lots of muscle involved is to select exercises that involve movement over more than one joint. Examples are Bench Press, Overhead Press, Squat, Deadlift, Bent Over Rows, Clean, Snatch, and other movements that are similar in movements to these.

Now, if you take a look at the exercises I listed, you will see that there is often movement taking place at two or more joints. For instance, with the Bench, there is movement at the shoulder and at the elbow, plus if you approach the movement like a Powerlifter does, you are using even more muscle across other joints as well.

Movements such as the Squat, Deadlift, Cleans, and many Olympic lift breakdown drills involve even more joints. With these we are working over the knee, hip, back and possibly the ankle, shoulder and elbow, meaning even more muscle is being involved.

In other words, select movements that are working larger portions of your body and keep isolation movements to a minimum.

2. Train for Power and Speed

I like to incorporate exercises of increased speed in my training. What I am referring to is explosive movements that produce an increased power output, such as Cleans, Jerks, Snatches, Stone Lifting, and other movements where virtually the entire body is working together in order to move large loads very quickly.

Another way I like to accomplish this is with Accommodating Resistance using exercise bands. I have bands of many different strength levels in order to be able to use this concept on different movements.

The Bench Press is a good example of how to employ bands in your training. Remember when using bands that the purpose is to move the bar quickly against the resistance in order to train the fast-twitch muscle fibers to fire quickly. These muscle fibers need to be stimulated like this, but most guys are missing this aspect. I say this, because when I ask people who email me about this they say they have either never heard of this type of training or haven’t bought into it. I am a firm believer in it and have been experimenting with how to incorporate it in different ways aside from just with barbells in my training and with my clients (these guys kick ass).

3. Work in Balance

One of the recent times someone wrote in, they wanted to know how to put muscle on their chest and shoulders and I asked them what they were currently doing. Their answer? Bench Pressing two days a week and Shoulder work on another day. Essentially three Upper Body Pushing days and each one was balls to the walls intensity.

One of the things I always tell people is that if you are trying to fill out your shirt, you’ve got to remember there are two sides of it to fill. You don’t want to be like Tom Cruise in the movie Knight and Day and look like your back muscles are non-existent.

There needs to be a balance between your pushing and pulling exercises in order to pack on muscle on the upper body, and do it safely. Remember, we are doing something that is supposed to be good for us, not something in order to set ourselves up for imbalances, poor posture and pain down the road.

What I suggest people do is for every movement where you are pushing something, try to also incorporate a movement where you are pulling. If you can pick out complementary or contra-specific movement patterns, that is a bonus as well. For instance, a complimentary movement pattern for the Bench Press would be Bent Over Rows or Seated Cable Rows (although, I’d suggest the Bent-Over variety in order to have a Ground Based Movement – another post for another day).

One other thing to think about with Balanced Training, keep in mind that if you are going all out for maxes on the Bench every time you do it and then you do Bent Over Rows with a fraction of the weight, that doesn’t count as balanced. The loading and effort need to be similar in order to realize benefits.

One good way to do this is to perform your Upper Body Push and Upper Body Pulling movements on the same day and match up the loading and effort that way. If you do it like this, it is easier to monitor than if you do it on different days.

Do You Have Muscle Imbalances, Currently?

If you have been following traditional programs and have not taken things such as antagonistic balance into account with your program, you could be headed for some issues. Unfortunately, imbalances can develop from more than just the way you program you workouts and your exercise selection.

Time seated in a car, time at your desk, time at home in chairs, and other considerations that affect posture can really do a number on you.

If you think you run the risk of having imbalances because you slouched in your seat in high school for years (like me), spend a lot of time at a desk at your work (like me), or have muscular imbalances due to an injury or something else, you should consider checking out Rick Kaselj’s Muscle Imbalances Revealed – Upper Body Edition.

I recently made Rick’s acquaintance on-line and began following some of his work and he has an impressive background. A few months ago he came out with a 2.0 Program for lower body and now he has updated his Upper Body Edition as well.

The sizable clientele he has worked with and the expert backing he has gotten is unbelievable. I strongly suggest you give his program a look if you are a candidate for imbalances. Here is my link: Muscle Imbalances Revealed by Rick Kaselj.

All the best in your training and look for Part II coming next week.