The Dynamic Method is defined as lifting a submaximal load with the highest attainable speed. This method is used to improve the rate of force development and explosive strength. See Science and Practice of Strength Training (Zatsiorsky 85). And while this method is popular worldwide for driving speed improvements in the lower lifts, its often ignored or used poorly when it comes to upper. What do most people get wrong with the Dynamic Method when it comes to bench?
1. They fail to even use it. This is foolish, because speed off the chest is the name of the game in bench! Studies show that the bar already starts to stick .2 to .35 seconds after being reversed off the chest (Tillaar,R. & Ettema, G. 2010). This is why you see recreational lifters smashing the bar off their chest, using their sternum as a trampoline, and wildly popping their butt off the bench: they’re trying to drive the bar through the sticking point. These ugly “benches” wouldn’t be a commercial gym staple however if the same lifters instead worked on getting FASTER to drive through the stick point inherent in the press. You cannot lift a heavy weight slowly. If you’re looking to improve your bench, you must get fast!
2. They go too heavy. For those that use the dynamic method, this is the most common mistake I see. Sometimes its failing to leave their ego at the door, sometimes its failing to accurately assess their bar speed, sometimes it’s being stubborn and sticking to a percentage that isn’t appropriate for that day. Whichever it may be, many athletes use too heavy of a weight to be able to move the bar at the correct speed, and end up making little progress from their speed work as a result. Speed work should fall under the speed-strength category of the F-V curve, which is .8 m/s. We’ve found for our advanced lifters this is an intensity between 40%-50% (plus band tension), and for our weaker lifters, 50%-60% (plus band tension). Keep it light, fast, violent, and beat the crap out of the bar.
3. Their environment sucks. Speed starts with INTENT, and intent is purely a mental state of being aggressive and violent. So trying to do speed work with old guys shuffling by in bathrobes, potted plants next to the bench, and “One Kiss” playing isn’t going to get it done. Every Dynamic day at our facility we review with our athletes the rep and set scheme for the day, their specific bar and numbers, and then emphasize the importance of bar speed and the correct rest periods for the day’s training. And then after a general warmup, setting up racks and warmup sets, it is a high pace, LOUD, focused and violent session of slamming bars. I’ll never forget I had a friend swing by the facility on a Wednesday night that coincidentally some of the older athletes were doing Dynamic Upper. He watched silently, as it was way too loud to be able to hold any conversation, and then at the end simply remarked, “F***. That was intense”. Anything less, and your bar speed, and ultimately your press, will suffer.
There are many conflicting voices in the strength and performance world on how best to implement the dynamic method for upper, and over the course of my lifting career I’ve tried nearly them all. And what I found unequivocally to be the most effective, was going lighter. Leave your ego at the door, focus on pounding the bar, and watch your acceleration, and your max bench, rapidly improve!
Sample 3 week Dynamic Upper Cycle for a 315lb* 1RM bencher:
*We write all percentage work off what we call an athletes “anyday” number: so in this instance, while the athlete has benched 315 before, we take his speed numbers off what we consider he could bench any day of the week, no psyche, no peaking cycle, and having a bad day. That’s our “anyday” number. In this case, 285
Week 1: Fat Bar 115 10x3 red bands
Week 2: Swiss Bar 130 8x3 red bands
Week 3: Straight Bar 145 6x3 red bands
Van den Tillaar, R., & Ettema, G. (2010). The “sticking period” in a maximum bench press. Journal of Sport Sciences, 28(5), 529-535.