One Weird Trick: Installment 9 – Wrapping the Barbell in the Bench Press

The bench press is one lift that has been one big struggle bus for me in recent history. Not until I started working out with a crew of people and started actively troubleshooting my errors did I realize my [several] mistakes.

One technical piece of the puzzle that has allowed my bench to skyrocket involves understanding the difference between “wrapping” the barbell and “breaking the bar.” While both of these items are external cues, I believe the input of one imagery guided cue has greater power than the other.

Further, you’ll learn the principles behind what is being taught behind both of these external cues, which will be a key difference in improving how tight you can get and ultimately improve your efficiency in the this classic powerlifting movement.

This or That

When looking to improve your overall numbers in the bench press, there are two easily understood ways to improve: get stronger, or become more efficient. Allow me to clarify.

Farm Boy Strong

When looking to get stronger, you can use a multitude of ways to improve overall strength in order to build a more resilient and physiologically sound individual.

To make this conversation even easier to digest, strength can be loosely defined as, “What can your body qualitatively handle when there is a stress (such as lifting weights) to the body?”

For someone who grew up on a farm (or other likewise physically demanding lifestyle) and is used to the daily rigors of picking stuff up and putting them down hundreds of times throughout the day for months and years on end, the body can handle a lot.


For someone who hasn’t done anything physically demanding, the category of “strength” is one area I’d love to improve from a general perspective.

Now add physics into the equation, and you can add in a specific distance, and total weights used to make it a more complete formula.


Keep in mind that when the body is stressed, the body will adapt accordingly (either good or bad).

Technically Efficient

I make this distinction in order to differentiate between someone who is naturally strong, but has no knack for technique with respect to leverages, barbell placement, tension techniques, along with appropriate arching, this person will still have the ability to display great levels of strength in the traditional barbell movements.

If you give someone without large amounts of “strength” technically sound coaching and guidance, you are improving their ability to be efficient with respect to bar path, grip, tensioning techniques, timing, and coordination.

So if you are lumping yourself under the category of someone who isn’t naturally strong, I’d click the video below to understand what some cues others may give you in your quest for strength.

At the same time, even if you are naturally strong, by applying these principles, you’ll be able to display your strength levels to the next degree, instead of flailing around, losing energy, and perhaps even losing integrity anywhere within your approach to the bench press.

How does this make you more efficient?

Well, I’m so glad you asked. Essentially after pursuing strength techniques and powerlifting more specifically, I’m more able to understand what it means to use this technique.

I’ll describe this one movement in a few steps:

  1. Lay on your back.
  2. Now have both hands at your side.
  3. If you are on your back, hopefully your legs/feet are on the ground.
  4. Now push into the ground with both hands, without moving your head or legs.

If you are sitting down while reading this, sit tall.

  1. Place your hands on your knees.
  2. Push your hands down into your knees.
  3. Push down as if you are pushing your feet through the floor.

What do you feel?

Ideally, you would feel your abdominal area “kick on” to a great degree, maybe even shaking a little bit as you are holding this position.

Well, this is a great PNF technique that involves understanding a specific motoric pattern – if you perform bilateral shoulder extension (what happens when you push down into the ground/knees), you will kick on thoracic flexion.

Photo Credit: PNF in Practice
Photo Credit: PNF in Practice

How does this translate to powerlifting? Well, if you’re looking to do a bench press, you’re very likely to have some sort of an arch – essentially going into a gross extension pattern.

Side note: If you’re into powerlifting, efficiency is the name of the game. Dysfunctional or not, extension helps, especially with respect to arching in the bench press.

In fact, it could be dysfunctional to bench press with a flat spine to the bench, as you are now increasing range of motion, which could lead to other issues up or down the chain from a sport specific point of view.

Read more: Redefining Dysfunctional and Finding Pieces to the Puzzle

Bench Press - Arching

What happens if you perform shoulder extension (the act of “wrapping the barbell with both hands simultaneously”) on top of extending through your posterior chain/lumbar/thoracic spine?

You’ll get a co-contraction – you are asking your body to hold a position in extension (kicking on your extensors) while simultaneously performing shoulder extension (which kicks on the flexion muscles in your body, and flexion motor pattern from your brain).

Extension + Flexion = Co-Contraction of everything

Now, this is a great way to increase total body tension, and is likewise a great example in irradiation.

“Wrapping” Up This Technique

Many of these “one weird tricks” are simply ways to improve strength from a neuromuscular pattern.

I hope you find this one specifically helpful, and if you do, please share, like, and/or comment.

This technique will help you feel tension throughout your whole body but it won’t add 100lbs to your bench press automatically (maybe it can take you from 0lbs to 100lbs, but not from 225 to 325lbs).

Long story short, that process of improved strength takes time, physiological time for your bones, muscles, and hormones to allow for adaptation! But this can definitely improve your ability to feel certain things kick on that you didn’t know could kick on, along with perhaps a 10, 15, or even 20lbs personal record!

As always,

Keep it funky.


One Weird Trick: Installment 7 – Roll Out, Roll Out

Many times in our quest for six-packedness, we embark on several different exercises that are targeted towards our abs. In reality, what is the true, underlying solution towards revealing a six-pack? Positive hormonal changes due to sleep, nutrition, and training derived changes, along with slight hypertrophy of the obliques. (I say obliques intentionally, because many times the rectus abdominis could be overly relied on in a synergistic dominance point of view.)

That isn’t where the weird trick comes into play. The above is meant to be followed through with of course!

During this quest for aesthetics and awesomeness, torso position is something that is of utmost importance during various abdominal and core-related drills.

If our ability to produce force is limited by the ability to resist motion in our midsection, then this idea of challenging motion in any capacity will be introduced. Well, why does resisting motion even matter?

Well, to put it very simply, imagine if you have two linemen opposing each other. From a biomechanics and muscular level, would you rather take someone who can resist being pushed around, or someone who will fall down at the slightest movement?

(Keep in mind, from a tactical point of view, there may be an advantage towards letting someone push while you allow them to push – which will ultimately let them fall on their butt.)

Pull when someone pushes and you get thrown!
Pull when someone pushes and you get thrown!

There are tons of other science-y reasons why developing resiliency at the abdominals, and ultimately, the spinal vertebrae will help you get a six pack!

Spinal motion can involve rotation in both directions, extension, flexion, and side bending both ways, not to mention a total combination of all of these movements. When trying to perform stability ball rollouts, however, you need to be cognizant of not letting yourself lose position!

Spinal Function

Another Trick That Involves Balls

In any case, this one weird trick involves developing tension in the most correct path towards improving co-contraction for your abdominals and even extensors of the posterior chain in your backside.

If you perform stability ball rollouts, or ab wheel rollouts, make sure to do these items from an external cuing perspective:

External Cues

  • Maintain a long line towards the ceiling.
  • Resist motion in any one direction while in your first starting position
  • Punch arms down into ground as you descend into the bottom/second position.

How Does This Trick Work?

Many are focused too much on their abdominals during this exercise, and performing rollouts in this manner is probably the most efficacious way to do them! You feel your abs kick on right away, and you can even maintain a better position while performing your stability ball rollouts!

Long story short, performing bilateral shoulder extension (the act of bringing your hands down and back, or away from the ceiling) will elicit torso flexion. Now, as we perform this movement in the stability ball rollout, we are in fact challenging torso extension – so if we combine the two…

Torso Extension + Shoulder Extension = Co-Contraction of All Torso Muscles

This is great news, because we don’t need to think about our position too much, just performing the action in a subconscious and perform it to an immediate mastery! That’s what I’m talking about!

As always,

Keep it funky!


My Favorite Exercise Combinations: Installment 14 – Improve Your Speed Today

There are tons of ways to improve explosiveness and athleticism. One of the coveted ideas for achieving athleticism involves “triple extension” – extension of the hips, knees, and ankles in a very rapid manner.

Since there are a plethora of exercises can help develop the quality of explosiveness and power, many may throw the baby out with the bath water, instead of identifying the goals of the individual. With this in mind, it is always important to keep in mind these things:

  • Does this person have the requisite joint position to get into the desired position?
  • Does this person have a pre-existing context for which this movement can be taught?
  • Does this person have any soft tissue structures that can be limiting them from moving well?
  • Does this person have any pre-existing anxieties about the movement?

After identifying these items, quickly move on to the fitness side of things, and try this exercise combination out!

Let’s Talk Power

The DB Snatch is a great exercise aimed at improving triple extension in a unilateral fashion. In this exercise you can achieve a lot of great power qualities, on top of improving your ability to stabilize a weight overhead, something not many people can do effectively (simply because they are uninitiated with how to do so).

When performing the 1-Arm DB Snatch, make sure to keep these external cues in mind!

Coaching Cues

  • Throw the weight to the ceiling.
  • Snap your arm like a whip/rope.
  • Head goes to the ceiling.

It is common to be unfamiliar with the movements of the DB Snatch, so make sure to keep these “phases” in mind.

DB Snatch - Phases
Left – Hip Hinge, Middle – High Pull, Right – Receiving Position

However, sometimes individuals do not have the initial ability to bring their arms overhead – they may need better control on how their humerus moves in conjunction with how their scapulae move on their ribcage…


… on top of relaxing their neck muscles!


The Shoulder Joint is Connected to the…?

By improving shoulder and scapular stabilizers, you are better likely to improve upon your neck motion. The reasoning for this is because you are now improving how your shoulder feels, instead of often “shrugging” or using compensatory patterns that involves your head/neck to take the brunt of the workload.

By performing the next exercise in this combination, the Supine Band Resisted PNF Diagonals, you are better able to keep reinforce these qualities:

  • Reintegrates anterior core stabilizers (IOs, EOs as you exhale)
  • Reintegrates anterior neck (SCMs as you rotate neck)
  • Improve scapular control (as you hold band in position)

Practical Programming

Ideally, you can super set these movements back and forth. If you’re in a supine position for the band pullaparts, you are in the easiest progression their is – which isn’t a bad thing. Sometimes you need to relax in order to move fast. No one just stays “tight” in order to develop athleticism – you need to move quick, and also relax in order to develop that “whip” like feeling.

So with this in mind, let’s combine these movements in a pairing.

A1. 1-Arm DB Snatch – 3×4/side
A2. Supine Band Resisted PNF Diagonals – 3×8-10/side

One thing to keep in mind is that power development can be justified as being used in the 3 to 6 rep range. As long as force development is the main goal, adequate rest is improved upon, and technique is on point, utilizing the DB Snatch is a great choice of an exercise!

With respect to the band pullaparts, I view these items as simply improving upon the various functions of the scapula and shoulder motion. That is, when you go down by your side, you are performing shoulder extension and scapular retraction/depression. When you bring your other arm up, you are working on shoulder flexion, and scapular upward rotation.

Also, if I am moving my neck after locking my shoulders into position, I am forcing my neck to turn on my SCMs, which help with rotary motion with the neck, something that I is often an issue with our athletes and even everyday folk.

With these things in mind, it is easy to see how you can integrate a great power development exercise, while still respecting the need for your overhead mobility and stability!

As always,

Keep it funky.