Big Jim Williams: Correct Bench Grip and Placement

Submitted by Mr.Berg on Wed, 03/25/2020 - 16:21
big jim williams benchpress

"As my physical attributes increased and my body enlarged, I found myself forced to drastically change my bar grip. What had once afforded me a comfortable and relaxed lifting clutch, now only hindered my performance and caused unstable lifting practicies. I was particulary upset that I could not get the lock-out that I had achieved at a lesser weight.

At first I attempted additional arm work, but quickly realized that it would not be the answer, especially since my upper arms were almost 23 inches at the time. It was then that I began a concentrated study of the human anatomy, and quickly realized that the movement involved in "lats" played a unique and important role in the movement of the entire body during the bench press.

Probably the most important realization I was to learn through my research was that the pectoral muscles of the chest are likely to be a miniscule of a second ahead of the initial arm thrust, being that when the weight being lifted reches about midway through its lift, the "lats have already began to expand. It is at this height that the triceps are really coming into play in an attempt to force the "Lock-out". The reasoning being that when the pressure being applied by the arms moving in an upward motion inadvertently creates an opposite motion which forces the arms to assist in holding and securing the "lats" during the downward pattern.

With this knowledge, I immediately began work on a superior style of lat development of myself. At first, I used many methods, but quickly settled into several tried and true avenues, such as "lat" pull-downs, in front and in rear, while sitting flat on the floor, and barbell pullovers using extremely heavy weights, and the press.

Sometimes, using this method, I would go over 400 pounds for each 10 rep-sets. I also used the dumbbell bent over pull and the T-bar pull. Within a year with this exercise, I had developed some of the most awesome looking and thickest lats imaginable, but I had also increased my girth, and because of it my bench press began to suffer again.

In an effort to dilute the situation, I dropped my weight from 275 to 225 pounds, and began to experiment with my stop-and-go tactic. The first thing I was to realize was that my grip was now too close to get the bench press in action I was looking for. Actually I was extremely pleased that the "action" off of my chest during lifts was tremendous, the bar seemingly exploaded upward during my lifts, but unfortunately the lift ultimately died at its end, with consistency. So, I went back to the heavy arm work, laying triceps, French triceps, triceps pull-downs using both a slant bar for the inside and a straight bar for the outside head. My arms increased to 24 inches.

My next experiment dealth with the grip. My philosophy was to inch out an inch at a time on the bar until I found the grip that was most conductive to my build. It was then that I returned to the heavy benches and began pushing through lifts of 575 and 600 pounds, making me only the second man to accomplish a lift of 600 pounds, whether in practice or a championship competition. The number one lesson I learned from this experience was that if a lifter is weak in the triceps area, it is best to first set yourself with a closer bar grip. With one will come greater lifting acceleration, but a more difficult finish.

If one has admirable triceps, along with good "pecs", then it is easier for some to take a wider grip, making possible heavier lifts. This method will prove to be a slower lift reaction of one's chest, but in the end, the lock-out will be easier.

But lifters should not be confused. The most important aspect of achieving new weight goals ultimately ends with one's placement on the bench itself. Too many lifters, both male and female, do not understand the importance of placement, and far too many just flop down on a bench, reach with their arms and proceeds to do a flat, laid-out benchpress using just their arms. Once they find out that they cannot do a certain weight, they make adjustments, such as lifting their buttocks off the bench as if to throw that weight into the lift.

But more serious lifters realize, that with the correct bench placement, it may be impossible to lift one's buttocks from the bench during a lift.

The correct bench placement is as follows: lay flat on the bench with your eyes stationed just inches behind the bar, place your legs perpendicular with the surface of the bench, which will cause your legs to be at a right angle (shin bones should not be extended in front of the knee, but always perpendicular), next place your feet about 18 inches away from each side of the bench. This will give you complete stability and will act as struts.

The purpose of the 18 inch spread on either side of the bench is simple. It make it easier to slide down on a bench through one's leg when assuming, thus giving a lifter a laid out sumo style extension on the bench. While sliding one should come to rest on both buttocks with the shoulders creating a deep arch in the back. This stance will cause your chest to peak high, therefore shorting the distance the bar must travel, and also allowing you the luxury of the bow and arrow effect.

That laid out bench style should only be used for power training of the arms and shoulder areas. At this point in my training, I was immersed with personal goals, that I had failed to realize how close I had become to matching the immortal accomplishment of the great Pat Casey. It was than that I began to enter in thoughts of being the next World Champion on the bench.

Having already devised and utilized my own personal conditioning program, entitiled the 5 by 6, which I will explain fully later on, I was ready to exploit my tried and true method on a full scale basis. Having prepared myself mentally, I was now ready to accomplish the physical end of my goal. For the following three months, I conditioned myself daily through my 5 by 6 routine. It involved doing 30 intermediate reps, sometimes twice a day. To accomplish this effort, I would take a desired weight for 5 sets of 6 reps each 400 pounds. By doing 400 pounds X 4 X 6, your total poundage will end up at 9,000lb.

By using this method, by the time one is lifting and warming up daily with repetitions of 10 using 400 pounds of weight, the once inconceivable thought of the 600 pound press is not very far off.

I, myself, accomplished the same feat after the 400 pound daily reps, to the gawking and clapping of a room full of businessmen and professionals at a banquet held in Scranton, Pa, at which I was the guest of honor. I remember receiving a humbling standing ovation from the crowd as it counted to 25 and I benched the 500 pounds. Now it may be clear to visualize these figures coincide with the maximum weight lifted. Only through my 5 X 6 program was I able to achieve these proportions."