Strength (special guest: Mark Bell)
So I love Mark because he's big and strong. He's ready for anything. (Mark screams)
Jesus! (laughing) Very springy, this guy.
Yeah, and I'm spry.
Let's just take a real embrace. (laughing) There we go. I need a hug here and there.
So we have a lot of weights. Big guy, I know.
I mean, first off to say that Kelly Starrett does not know what he's talkin' about, it's totally cool to stand like this. (laughing) I'll be standing like this throughout the duration.
Not on Mark but you often see this I.L.S., Invisible Lat Syndrome. And you guys have a name for this in your gym.
I call it the beginner stance. We get a couple guys that start lifting with us, they get a pump, they start feeling good and the next thing you know they're walkin' in like, hey bro, what's up, I'm gonna bench.
So we make fun of them a lot.
So to give a little bit of context, so a few things, weight lifting strength. Forget about weight lifting, we're talkin' about strength. Strength appli...
es to everyone. It applies to both genders. If you look at, let's say, Marilyn Monroe. How did she build her physique? Part of it was actually weight lifting. Back when it was really unpopular for women to do so. Photographs of her doing bench press with dumbbells, pretty wild. And that is how you create the shape. That is how you create the structure. And from my perspective, and I think perspective of a lot of people who are interested in longevity and performance over time, strength and weight training is first and foremost about preventing injury and secondarily about improving performance. All right, the single highest ROI activity that I have found, if I could do one activity for all the health benefits possible, it'd be weight lifting. Resistance training, and there is definitely, there are few right ways and a lot of wrong ways to go about doing it. So today, we have Mark to show us some of the right ways to go about it and very few people are as qualified. So, in the 275 pound weight class, and he's competed in a few weight classes, that's the ultra light weight class by the way, he is one of the top five totals of all time. So could you explain maybe how the sport of power lifting works and what your totals are.
I'd like to share with everybody that I feel that strength is a key element of life. When your strength runs out you die, that's it, it's over. And strength is never a weakness no matter what sport you're doin', or not matter what you're doin' in life, whether you're just gettin' out of your car, or whatever it is that you're doin', but this has been a passion for me since I've been a kid. I started lifting weights around 11 years old. Had a lot of people tell me that was way too young to start but it was something that I fell in love with quickly. Things didn't come easy. It took a lot of hard work. My best bench press is 854 pounds in the 275 pound weight class. I've also done 1,080 squat and a 766 deadlift. So a power lifting contest they take your total of all three of those lifts, they add 'em up, that's your total for the day and I was able to accomplish a all time total.
Just put that into perspective 'cause people are like, wait, what? 800 what? So, this is, I believe, I believe this looks like a standard Olympic bar.
Yeah, yeah. 35-ish, a little light. I think these are 45 pound, yeah, these are 45 pound plates. So if you were to put these plates on to this until they fell off this entire bar would hold, I think 720 pounds, something like that.
All right, maybe, if you're lucky.
So you have to put 100 pound plates on for him to bench 854.
Yeah, at my gym we have specialty bars, we have special bars, special plates to accommodate all this but it's really not about the numbers. What I like about it is that anyone can get stronger, any one of you right now can work towards getting stronger. You may not be able to do a handstand pushup, you may not be able to do some of these crazy things you see other people do but everyone in this room could work on getting stronger.
And what I would say also is that when you're looking for role models, whether it's in strength or elsewhere, you have to, it's very important to learn to critically evaluate experts and performers to discern whether they are good at what they do despite there behavior or because of their behavior.
Okay? I know a lot of NFL players, ripped eight pack, breakfast, McDonald's, lunch Wendy's, dinner Burger King. I mean, they succeed because of their raw materials, all right? So I'm very interested in looking, watching let's say the career of someone like Mark where you can watch the progress over time and you can see these milestones, you can see the weaknesses being fixed over time. Because it reflects it, he's thought about how to dissect it so that it's not only replicable for the guys in his gym. I mean, in your gym, Super Training, Sacramento. And I saw that Mark after seeing a film that his brother put together called Bigger, Faster, Stronger which is incredible. Has one of the highest ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, you should definitely check it out. But, of the guys in your gym right now how many of the guys who train their regularly squat over 500 pounds?
Oh, there's probably, the whole gym.
I think the whole gym's like 20, we don't even really, 500 pounds we don't really sneeze at anymore, so. But again it's a progression over a period of time. The guys didn't just start out there. It's a progression over a period of time.
What's really helpful to look at is rate of progress. So let's say you look at someone who's really really muscular, if you want to get muscular, okay, let's not the intention here. If you want to get bigger you could look at, let's say, the 350 pound 'roid monster and you could go ask him for advice, sure you could, but there's a lot at play there that you can't replicate. You could also then go to, on the other hand, somebody who is, let's say, a beginner or an intermediate who kind of crack the code and put on, let's say, 30, 40 pounds of muscle in a year. They are gonna have a recipe and a set of steps that you can probably apply to where you are, it's more optimal, okay. So what I think would be really fun is to look at the fundamentals of powerlifting and that is comprised of the deadlift, the squat and the bench press. And so we'll look at all three 'cause this is, no one better to teach us than Mark, and then we'll have people come up and we'll actually do spot checking on form for a few things. 'Cause form is number one, first and foremost. So, what do you think Mark? Do you want to start with the deadlift?
Yeah, we'll start out with some deadlifting, I also wanted to point out that when he was talking about The 4-Hour Chef, I thought I was comin' up here for a buffet. (laughing) So, I'm pretty disappointed actually. You know, Kelly Starrett, when he was out here pointing out some of the cues and things like that for the squat and he was talkin' about neutral head position, he was talkin' about how to make your body more optimal and for me, it was kind of a shock to have a doctor be able to help me with my squat. I always think doctors, I always think they suck. You know, I always think that you go to a doctor and they say, ah man, your knee's too torn up, you'll never do this, you'll never do that. They just kind of put negative thoughts in your head and as an athlete that's the last thing you want to hear but when I went to see him and started communicating with him further I went from a 964 pound squat, which many of you can imagine is already at a very high level, to 1,080 squat. So I put 120 pounds on my lift so imagine what that kind of stuff can do for you guys, I'm not talkin' about just squatting, I'm just talkin' about life in general. Standing in the line waiting at the bank or standing in line and waiting at Starbucks or whatever it might be. It's applicable all the way across the board, whether you're talkin' about a deadlift, a squat, a bench press, playin' baseball with your kids or whatever it might be.
Yeah, I want to add one more thought too. So, I would say almost every woman in the audience right now with six months of training could be stronger than 90% of the guys you would ever meet.
I'm just sayin' that because I've seen, you know, like in The 4-Hour Body there was an example, also in The 4-Hour Chef, like 132 pound high school girl who's able to deadlift more than 400 pounds of repetitions and she doesn't look big. She does not look bulky. You don't have to add a lot of bulk to get really strong. All right, so let's look at the deadlift. As you know Mark there are a million and one ways to do the deadlift but I thought maybe we could show Conventional and Sumo?
So I'll let you walk us through it.
All right, so with a deadlift a lot of times people say, oh you know, my back hurts. I don't think deadlifting would be a good idea for me. And I usually say, you know don't be such a wuss, get in there and work on your back and strengthen your lower back so it's not a problem. Usually people, when they have pain, a lot of times it's due to a weakness or due to some sort of mobility issue of some sort and getting some good movement patterns developed through exercise like this can be extremely beneficial to you. So the first thing I do in a deadlift, I sometimes call it a death lift because it kills your whole body basically. It is a brutal exercise. It does take a lot out of ya, it's very demanding. But what I do is I like to kind of walk up on the bar and I have the barbell kind of basically slice my foot in half, the barbell is directly over kind of the middle of my shoe. The next thing I do is kind of what Kelly was talkin' about earlier, squeezin' my butt and externally rotating my feet a little bit. From here, I'm just gonna simply, a lot of times you'll see people try to squat down, I think that's unnecessary, most people don't have the skillset to be able to squat into this perfect deadlift position and it's too stiff of a position, so what I do is I just bend right from the waist. I just come right from here, pretty much anybody can do it, and I grab the bar. After you grab the bar you want to get your stomach tight, as Kelly was talkin' about earlier, you want to organize yourself before, you know, I'm not just gonna go like this with this, right? It's a very light weight for me but that would start to hurt at some point.
That's how you get hurt. And just to add one more thing, the way that you treat light weights is the way that you will treat heavy weights.
You gotta respect the weight otherwise you are gonna get hurt.
And the way people get hurt, you see guys doin' incredible stuff and then they kind of walk to pick up something in a sloppy way and boom, they throw out a disc. So treat, practice makes permanent, right? Treat the light weights the same way you treat the heavy weights.
And you want to take air into your body, you want to take air into your stomach and you're trying to push your stomach outward, sometimes that's a little bit awkward of a thing for people to understand so if we could everybody stand up for a second. And give yourself a little bit of space and try just to bend down as much as you can from the waist and just let your body just hang. Let your total body, let your arms just hang. Now, take in a nice deep breath of air into your stomach and you'll feel your stomach tighten up and you can actually push your stomach against your legs. Even if you don't have a big stomach you should be able to feel that. Some of you guys feel what I'm talkin' about? Kind of bracing your stomach for a punch, as Kelly was mentioning earlier? Or taking a dump. (laughing) You're flexing your stomach. You guys can pop up. You guys feel what I'm talkin' about there though when you're down in that position? You actually feel it even more when you have some resistance to go against. So, we'll get down in here, right? Bend from the waist. I'm gonna take air into my stomach. (exhaling) I'm trying to flatten out my back before I come up best I can. For me, I'm not very mobile so I actually use the bar to leverage myself underneath. As I bring a few of you up here to try it that won't really be necessary for you to do. But I'm not very mobile, so what I'll do is I'll scoot my butt back, I bring my hips underneath me, I force my knees out, I get my back as straight as I can and I go from there.
And this is Conventional Deadlift. There are couple of different options. So what he's doing here, where the feet are at roughly shoulder width, or maybe even hip width, depending on who you see, I mean, there are many different styles. But right about here, this is considered Conventional. The lift that you use is partially dependent on the geometry of your body. The proportions of your body. Really long arms, short legs, one thing. Really long legs, short arms, God forbid.
Then a different approach entirely. So what I'll do is have you, if you wouldn't mind, demonstrate the, maybe the Sumo Deadlift?
Which might be a little easier for people. And then we'll actually, I'll add a few thoughts then we'll have some people come up and have Mark critique the technique.
Would you like to try it? I'll talk you through it. I know you're pretty good at 'em.
Yeah, yeah, so I'll explain how I've approached it, and there are many many different approaches. For Sumo Deadlift you're taking a wider stance. Sumo, so called because Sumo, all right? All right. And this is used by people in some cases who want to keep, who really are concerned about the back, want to keep a straighter back. It also in some cases means that you pull the weight a shorter distance off of the floor.
Okay, because you're lowering your hips.
It's kind of more hips and butt and less on your lower back.
Less on your lower back. So I actually use the Sumo Deadlift, I will show how I do it, not saying it's the only way. One of the powerlifters, of course you know this gent who is worth checking out, as far as deadlifts go, Ed Coan
Ed Coan, what was it, 220 weight class nine--
He's like the greatest powerlifter of all time.
Was it 901 at?
Well, he squatted over 1,000 pounds only weighing 220 pounds.
And then deadlift was?
901, 901 pound deadlift at 220 pounds. It helps that he's like my height and his hands, literally I've seen photographs next to a NBA player and they're the same size.
Yeah, he's enormous.
Lot to be said for design. But, so here's my approach. When I do Sumo, and I have a particular way of approaching it though, I'll put my legs out, make sure that they're, my feet are equidistance from they place themselves, and I'll angle them out, I get my shins right up close to the bar.
Notice how it's in here and not out here.
That's putting his hips closer to the barbell. Less stress on his lower back.
See, you're here so that you can do that. If you shins are here you can't bend your, you can't actually go down. So for the Sumo, I'm getting wide out like this, I make sure that my knees are tracking over my feet, so I'll check both sides to make sure that my knees are traveling, or pointing over my feet, and then for me it's a hip backwards motion. So my hips are going back, almost like I'm holding groceries and I'm shutting the car door with my ass. (laughing) That's the motion.
And then I'm gonna come-- (laughing) And then the lats, lats are these big bat flapping muscles, right? That a lot of guys have an invisible basketballs under their arms when they want to show them off. I'm gonna sort of get my lats contracted and then I'm gonna drop straight down like this, boom. And different people grab different places. To have the shortest biomechanical advantage I go straight down. So I actually, when I deadlift, oddly enough I'm not grabbing the knurling. I'm grabbing the smooth part and I use chalk, I don't ever use wraps. Down like this, boom. And then I tend to look up at about 45 degrees at a point on the ceiling.
You guys think he's gonna be able to do it? (laughing)
And then from here.
Come one Tim, tight! There you go.
Boom, here. Okay, now when I practice, if you ever seen the Effortless Superhuman in The 4-Hour Body, I actually use a very short range of motion. For the purposes of practicing here we should use the full range of motion but I will often times come here, and then up to the knees, down to the floor, up to the knees, down to the floor. And that's to minimize some of the potential for injury in the hamstrings and in the back.
It'll also help you learn how to become explosive off the floor which is a huge problem in deadlift. A lot of times the weights get stuck to the floor, the gravity seems to be turned up (laughing) and the odds are stacked against you.
Exactly, so who'd like to, do you want to give somebody shot at this?
Yeah, do you mind comin' up and givin' it a try? So, let's have you do Sumo Deadlift first. So, put your feet out here. Okay, and turn your feet out a little bit. And try to just relax your arms and make them as long as you can.
Now I want to make one point too here, just from the standpoint of kind of dress code for deadlift. It's a good idea, it's helpful in some cases if you don't have high heels. And when I say high heels I mean even a thick heel.
I thought you were talkin' stilettos.
I was like, man don't know how to do a deadlift.
Definitely a bad idea! Mark's like, what have I been doing all this time? (laughing) And that will actually, it will make you, it will lower you towards the bar and give you a little bit more stability so that your feet don't move, all right? But the important point is that it's an equal distance at the toe and at the heel. So like, Chuck Taylor's, a lot of powerlifters wear Chuck Taylor's. These have Vibram soles.
These are very flat.
Those have pretty even soles throughout. So anyway, not to interrupt, but just a point.
So from here you just want to go ahead and bend from the hip. Just kind of bend down right straight from the hip, just like that. Okay, what I like to do is--
So let's get the, and we're not gonna get to the lifting just yet, we're just gonna focus on the form. But you're fine.
I like to kind of simplify things here. So again, she's gonna bend from the hips, right? And she's gonna grab the bar and now she's basically in the worst possible position and I like to kind of feel that out, I like for my athletes to kind of feel that out, you're like, okay this would really suck to try to lift from, it would hurt if I lifted like this. So now what she's gonna do is she's gonna utilize the, go ahead and straighten your legs out a little bit more, and now she's gonna duck down, squat down a little bit, straighten out your back, bring your hips down lower, straighten out your back and bring your head up.
A little bit more, from here to here you want to make sure it's one line.
And now she's in a pretty good position so go ahead and relax and come back up without the bar. Okay, so now we're gonna give it a shot here, okay?
Okay, let's, we'll spot on our side.
So, bring, whoops, sliding around. So make sure that when you're at the bottom position here just go ahead and straighten your legs out a little bit and then duck down and then come up, okay?
Straighten it. And.
There you go. Good you got it, whoop. There you go.
Put your shoulders back, okay, put it down.
Go ahead and try it again. I think she can do it no problem by herself.
Go ahead give it a go.
Now what I would say, just a quick thing, is that your shins are pretty far away from the bar now that you've put it down. It's a good idea to be aware each time you do a repetition, every repetition should be an exact duplicate of the one before it.
Want it to look similar, right.
So if you put it down and it moves you need to reset, okay?
Make sure you're kind of forcing, you want to actively force your knees outward towards your feet, okay?
So kind of like you're here and then you feel like you're trying to spread the floor out with your feet. If that makes sense.
You're doin' a great job though.
There you go, good.
Great, shoulders back, okay.
Okay, put it down. Gonna have you try it one more time. Okay, just relax without the bar.
How are you feelin'?
Good, okay great.
Good work. One thing that she's doin' that's very common to do and even more advanced lifters sometimes do this is she's kind of yanking the bar before she goes. She's getting down and she's coming off tension, she's got a lot of slack in her system, and you want to try to make everything as long as you can, I'll just try to demonstrate real quick. So what you want to try to do is you want to try to get everything as tight as you can, you're in here like this. As you go to pull yourself down make sure you take that air into your stomach as we talked about earlier. (deep breath) And then you're in position to just basically from here, you just try and kind of throw your head back. Your basically trying to throw your face back behind the barbell.
Just gonna point something out. So just to point out another thing that Mark just did. So you'll notice he lined up, and again, there's more than one way to skin the cat. Equidistant, you want to make sure you're in the middle of the bar. As a side note, if I could only do one barbell, this is a barbell, one barbell exercise for the rest of my life, it would be the deadlift. It hits everything from the base of your skull down to your achilles tendons.
Works your entire body.
Only thing you don't get is the pectoralis muscles which I don't really need. I don't use them for much. So in any case, I want to point out something. So, Mark started out, his shins were a few inches away, okay? He came down and you'll notice, again, he didn't have his elbows, there's no. (barbell clinking)
You shouldn't hear that when it gets lifted, okay? So he took the slack out and then what he did is used his (thumping) his back here, his back's flat and he.
Kind of pivoting off the barbell.
He rolled it back into, oh, you guys can sit down, sorry about that. He pulled it back with his lats and then kept the tension on and then went up, okay. But the point being when the bar came off the ground it was touching his shins. And there was no slack in the bar. (barbell clinking) You shouldn't hear a lot of that when it comes up.
So if you could try it one more time. Just try not to bend your arms. Just leave your arms real loose.
Just one question, for breathing. 'Cause you had mentioned just quickly about that, so I breathe when I come up?
You want to take air into your stomach and have your stomach tight before you go and then as you go, any time you're exerting yourself you can breathe out at that point. Some lifters like to hold their breath throughout the range of motion. I don't really suggest that. That's gonna blow your head off. It'd be too much pressure basically. Just blow your air out as you're exerting yourself.
So if you're here, yeah exactly, and you come down. (sharp inhaling) (sharp exhaling) Right, so you're like holding it for that right at the max exertion floor and then (sharp exhaling) on the way up.
Okay, here we go.
You're all right from there. Good.
Very good. Awesome job.
Okay. Now let's put that down. Great, excellent.
Great work. Thank you very much.
That was great, good work. (applauding)
Probably never even done that exercise before have ya?
Not that specific one.
So I want to point out a few things that were really well done. So one of the things that you were very deliberate with is when you put the weight down, you put the weight down under control. And so you'll, when people get hurt it's because they are neglecting the form. And I have almost never ever been hurt lifting weights, I've been doing it since at age 16. Because I pay attention to form. And again, thinking that first and foremost your goal is injury prevention and then far second place is performance improvement, for most people. Almost everyone, and even as a powerlifter, it's like if you get injured you're out for six months?
You're reduced to zero. I mean, the strongest toughest guy in the world, I actually took a pretty nice face plant with 1,085 on my back and that'll humble you very quickly. I was unable to walk around for a few weeks and it was just pretty brutal. I mean, I was determined to get back at it as quickly as I could but any false move with a big weight like that and you can end up with a problem. That's why it's so crucial that you learn the right technique and you reinforce it over and over again.
So when you picked up the weight, so we're here, right? So, a couple things. We're here, I want to emphasize a couple of points we've already talked about but it's not a, and there are different approaches but the approach that I think is safest, I guess it's depending on the strongest portions of your anatomy. You're hinging at the hip. It's not a squatting, scooping motion, okay? So, like Mark said, you're here, straight down, hinging back, like closing that car door, right? And then boom, boom. And then here, see how tight that is before it ever comes off the floor, and then you're just coming straight up. And if you have your feet spread out make sure you don't drop the plates on your feet. (laughing)
This exercise is great to build up your butt, your hamstrings, your quads, obviously your lower back is involved. In Sacramento there's a gym that's not too far from me where this female, a woman, she trains about 20 fitness athletes, you know, girls that get on stage in a bikini and all that, and they always come to see me to work on exercise like this to help build up their butt. So the exercise like this'll really help give you that J. Lo bootie.
Glutes and hamstrings, they're a beautiful thing. So we have about 15 minutes. I think maybe we should move on to some of the other exercises.
Move on to some bench presses.
Thank you very much, good job.
You can grab the other end we'll just stick it over here on the bench.
And I think, actually, you know what, we could leave this just to keep the technique simple, let's use this over here.
We have this one, wine bottle.
Yeah, there's the wine bottle for rolling things out. All right, so we'll look at the bench press next. This is a very misunderstood exercise because every guy on the planet likes to pound his chest and talk about how much they bench.
Yeah, basically guys are a bunch of assholes. That's the truth of it. They always think they know how to do stuff. So like, I have kids, I have a lot of people comin' to my gym that are all different ages but a lot of times it's a high school kid comin' in and they're like, oh I know how to bench. I'm like, okay, don't listen to the guy that benches 854, I don't know what I'm talkin' about. (laughing) They're so excited to get in there and do it and they just think they know how to do it. And I run into a lot of other guys that think that they know how to bench press, you even see it in running, you see it in all walks of life where people just, they take it for granted and they think they know how to do something because they feel like it looks very simple and it does look pretty simple. You're laying down, you're pressing the weight off your chest. But a lot of the techniques that are involved with bench press are very similar to the way that Kelly was pointing out on how to stand. Actually, in one of Kelly's presentations, you know, where he was talkin' about the external rotation and kind of standing in this position, he then put up a picture of me doing a 900 pound bench press in the gym where my elbows were tucked in and he was saying you should type the way Mark Bell bench presses. So what you're tryin' to do, just to simplify it, just to break it down to it's simplest form, you're really just tryin' to keep your chest up, we're tryin' to keep our shoulder blades back. You wouldn't want to bench press like this, with your arms like this because it's gonna put too much stress on your shoulders. Some people will say, oh, you know, I've been benchin' like that for years and I'm fine but what I'm tellin' you is you will run into a problem at some point if you bench with shitty mechanics. So what we're tryin' to do, we're just tryin' to take our shoulders from here, pull our chest up, and that's good enough right there. You don't have to be in any crazy.
Yeah, you sometimes see people really arch their body into these crazy positions, it's kind of unnecessary and it's more geared towards straight up powerlifting type stuff.
Right, so just to point out, or elaborate on what Mark just said, so there are powerlifting competitions. You want to see some crazy stuff, look at the World Champion female bench pressers in the lighter weight classes and the arches they have, their feet are almost back by their heads.
It's insane but that's because they're tryin' to get the point of their chest as close to the bar as possible so they're only lowering it a few inches. You don't need that to develop lots of functional strength and to be safe, all right?
Something that a lot of people don't realize with the bench press, a lot of people have been taught the wrong way. They've been taught to bring their arms out here in this position and that's not what we're lookin' for. We're lookin' to have your elbows tucked in so there's less rotation on the shoulders. Again, the shoulders, it's not a huge joint, you can run into a lot of problems with it so you want to make sure that you're pulling your elbows in towards your body but not exaggerating it too much. I'll demonstrate over here.
Yes, we'll demo, and I wanted to say also, you know, the bench press is an exercise that I always avoided because it gave me shoulder pin.
And it was because I didn't have the proper technique and I've had complete reconstructive shoulder surgery from doing stupid stuff like MMA. Just kidding Dave. But doing really aggressive stuff in wrestling and when I actually started bench pressing after visiting Super Training, my shoulder health actually improved. Which is wild and I'll explain some of the things I did but let's look at--
If something hurts it's usually weak.
Yeah, exactly. So let's look at the proper form.
One of the things I like to do is I like to try to develop a routine. I like to develop the same pattern on each thing that I do, even with the deadlift, with the bench press, kind of lay down the same way and things start to become very routine for you. You see it in the NBA, you see the guy dribble the basketball, he points up to his homey, spins it a couple more times and shoots the ball and makes it. And they've asked some of these high level free throw shooters, you know, why are you doin' that with the ball? And they'll say, well I'm just tryin' to feel the weight. You figure these guys have been playin' for 30 plus years, why do they need to do that? But same thing here, same thing with any of these exercises that you're gonna do, you want to develop a routine so you don't hurt yourself and so you become very familiar with what you're about to do. The first thing I like to do on a bench press, I like to just lay down completely flat. Again, kind of putting myself in a crappy position. So I'll just lay totally flat. Again, this would be the worst way to bench press with my arms all the way up here. I can almost punch Tim in the face. (laughing) I'm sure he'd appreciate.
This is a position of strength.
Yeah, exactly. So what I'm gonna do from here is I'm gonna--
I just want to point out a few things. Mark where's your eye line relative to the bar when you lay down?
The barbell is right in front of my eyeballs and my head is close to being off the bench at this point. Now what I'm gonna do, I'm grabbing the bar, making sure I grab the bar evenly, there's rings on the bar, you can grab those. You could go thumb away from the smooth part of the bar. You could even grab closer to the smooth part of the bar, just make sure your hands are even, whatever way you need to do that. You want to squeeze the bar firmly and what you're gonna do from here is you're gonna tuck your shoulder blades down towards your butt.
So did everybody kind of see what I did there? Just basically picked myself up and pulled my shoulder blades in. Now my chest is up and now what we're gonna do is we're gonna pull the weight out of the rack, on the way down you want to try to bend the bar this way. So, a lot people are benchin' up in here, that's not what we're lookin' for.
That's how you damage your shoulders and your pecs.
That's gonna hurt a lot of stuff. So what we're lookin' for is to bend the bar this way, we're squeezin' the bar firmly, bringin' the bar down into position here.
Just about to, what would you say, at the top of the solar plexus?
Yeah, right around the sternum area. Yeah, solar plexus and then from here we're gonna push the bar up and we're actually gonna try to spread the bar apart, like we're trying to bring our hands apart this way. So again, you're gonna tuck the elbows in, you're trying to bend the bar on the way down, on the way up you're trying to throw your arms out and spread the bar apart.
So, now you might be asking why on Earth would Tim Ferris do a hand off to Mark Bell, that makes no sense at all. So, I would never recommend bench pressing by yourself for safety reasons, number one. Number two, if you are getting into position and you have this beautiful position with your shoulders tucked back beneath your body and you have to reach up, what happens? You lose the whole thing. You lose that entire protective position. That's why you have someone hand it off, someone you trust. So we're gonna bring some people up and do this, a few points that I want to point out. So when you actually get the bar, it's very important to have a ritual. Now, rituals, I just want to talk about this for a second. Whether it's powerlifting, whether it's writing, whether it's sales pitch, whether it's performance, speaking engagement, you want to apply your decision making only to the things, your creativity, your decision making, only to the places where you have the greatest benefit in doing so. For instance, having to sit there and choose among the hundred different types of toilet paper at Safeway, not a good use of your decision making. And there is something called decision fatigue. You only have a certain number of hit points you can expand on decisions so don't waste it on figuring out how you're gonna approach the barbell to do a deadlift each time. You watch Mark, a person who deadlift's, watch some footage. Every time it's the same. The steps, which hand he puts on first, all identical, all right. So, when you come down, make sure you don't smack your head.
You see a lot of people do that.
Line up, I like to do the same thing that Mark says which is getting the top of my head aligned with the back of the bench here, making sure my head is underneath. First thing I'll do is grab here, and again, Mark, a lot of it's from Mark, certainly correct me if I'm wrong, first thing I'll do is kind of pull a little bit so I can tuck my shoulders underneath and then from here what I like to do, and this is a function of your biomechanics, this ring right here, I put my ring finger on these two smooth parts of the bar just so I know that I have them equidistant and then I'm gonna do the handoff myself but once you have the bar out you have somebody hand it off. What I like to do because I was afraid of injuring myself, number one, my legs aren't loosey goosey, okay? I'm pressing into the floor so that you feel, (smacking) yeah, exactly. No, no, seriously. You see guys who are bench pressing, I mean like Scott Mendelson, this is another guy I know benches thousand plus pounds and he tore his quad bench pressing because he had that much tension in his quads.
You want to keep your legs into it for sure.
You want to keep your quads tight, almost like you're doing a squat but your ass does not come off. Now from here, what I would do again, you're keeping your elbows in and when I lowered it down I got into the habit of pausing here for a second and then coming up. And that is because if I get caught up in the arms race of tryin' to put on as much weight as possible, that's when you see guys going, (squelching) and doing this kind of shit. Pardon my language and then people get injured. So, in the gym is not the place to express your ego or validate yourself. It's the place where you get stronger, okay? It's about your improvement. It doesn't matter what anyone else is doing. So, who wants to try this out, anyone?
A couple people come on up.
Bench press, we can choose someone.
Yeah, come on up.
Great, that's perfect.
You want to learn the bench press? Here we go.
No that's great, that's great, perfect. (laughing) Okay, so Mark I'll let you walk her through this.
Okay, so the first thing we're gonna do is we're just gonna lay down flat so we know what that feels like. You got a good idea of what that feels like. Okay, now grab the bar, make sure your hands are even, do they feel even? They look even, right? Okay, so now let's go ahead and pick our shoulder blades up and try to tuck 'em down. There you go, that's a great job. Let's just bring your feet back underneath you just a little bit more. Like right there, there you go. Let's just try to keep your sternum and your chest up. And now go ahead and just give her a little boost out of there, okay.
Make sure your arms are straight.
Relax your arms so that your arms are, there you go, there you go. Now bring the weight down.
There you go. And then push it back up. Let's try a few of them. Okay, make sure. Okay, now what you're going to notice is, go ahead and do one more, there's gonna be a little bit of a natural arch, go ahead and push towards your eyes just a little bit. Maybe a little bit of a natural arch to her bench press, each person's different. She's very thin, she has pretty long arms, she's got a long distance to travel so she's not gonna bench in a total straight line. Some athletes can do it. Some guys are bigger. Some people are thicker and they can bench in a straight line. But for most of you and most other athletes you're gonna see them bench with a little bit of an arc. That's gonna help you to lock the weight out as you get to the top of the bench press.
We'll do it again in a second. That was a great job, thank you.
And I want to point out one thing also, so if I were to punch Mark, which would be very unneighborly, but if I were to punch Mark I'm not gonna punch him like this. I'm gonna punch him like this. Now, the point I'm making is if the weight is on the top of your hand here and it's splayed back like that you're going to be transferring less power to the bar. So, you want to have the weight over your forearm to the extent possible.
And again, that's why you want to try to squeeze the bar. If he just shakes my hand normal you can see there's not a whole lot of, there's a little bit of tension in here but if he squeezed it real hard you see all the tension go all the way through this shoulder all the way into his neck. Again, back to some of the stuff that Kelly was saying about kind of upstream and downstream. So squeeze that bar tightly.
There's some pretty cool demonstrations also just to express how important that tension is. Like tight, tight, tight!` You hear powerlifters yelling that as someone is about to lift. 'Cause you don't want to relax and then go down. Relax and then drop the weight. If you were to do, let's say, a one armed press with a dumbbell, a kettlebell, anything, and you keep this hand, the hand you are not using really loose you'll get one result. And then you squeeze this hand as hard as you can you'll see people improve 10, 20%. And the amount that they can press with the other hand.
All right, let's get one more. Anybody else want to try this? Yeah, come on up. All right.
The bottom of the bench press ends up kind of putting your shoulder in a compromising position, so that's again, why some of these techniques and the form is so critical.
All right. Okay.
So, the same thing. Go over the steps in your head. Let's get those shoulders positioned. There you go. There you go, good job. Hands are even.
Make sure you're keepin' those legs tight. There you go.
Okay, all right, ready?
Okay, all right.
Yeah, there you go. Good, as you come up try to spread the bar apart, go ahead and move it a little faster, I know you got more umph in you than that. There you go, good. (laughing) There you go, good, very good job.
Okay, excellent. And so that tension that we were talking about.
Good job, thank you.
With the grip on the bar also applies to the legs. So if you relax your quads when you're benching, you relax your grip when you're benching, you will lose strength. And not only that but it will compromise your safety. And one thing I would say, which is very anti powerlifting training in a lot of ways.
I know, I know, this is when we get into a fight which is why I'm glad that I have fast and frisky feet. (laughing) That if you cannot perform the movement slowly you shouldn't perform it quickly, okay?
You mean you should walk before you run.
You should walk before you run. And not only that but if you, for instance, until you are absolutely producing a carbon copy of the technique every repetition, let's say you did five seconds down, five seconds up, boom. You will not injure yourself if you remove the momentum that way, you'll have to use lighter weights. And there's no harm in taking an extra two months to get to the point where then you're handling heavier weights. So let's see, I guess we have.
We have the Sling Shot. Let's look at the Sling Shot. So, this is a tool, I want to look at some of the gear. So we have weight belts people are accustomed to, that's inter abdominal pressure, a lot of people have seen it. Wraps on the knees, a lot of people have seen it.
So, wrist wraps in addition. So, I'll let you demonstrate.
This is another piece of gear. As one of the world's top bench pressers that Mark developed. So, let's explain what this is.
This is a product that I developed. Gotten injured over the years, you know several times. Tryin' to push the envelope. There are gonna be injuries whether you're playin' pro football, basketball, whatever it is, you're pushin' the envelope for a long period of time, such as I have, you are gonna run into issues here and there. And so I just thought to myself, how can I make a product that would allow me to train through some of these injuries. And I developed this product about two years ago. It's called the Sling Shot and what it does is I kind of mentioned that in the bottom of the bench press your shoulders are the most compromising position. This elastic material stretches over your body and helps protect you in that bottom position. On top of that it's also queuing you because this is wrapped around your arms, it's also queuing you to stay in proper alignment during the bench press. So if we can have you come on up here. She's gonna demonstrate a couple of pushups. It works for pushups, dips, and bench press. Go ahead and slide it up. It goes right up over the bicep, just like that, and she could wear one that was even a little bit smaller than that but the only size I got with me. So go ahead and try to do a couple pushups if you don't mind. There we go. So, now just go ahead and just try to bring your elbows in a little bit more, underneath your body more. There we go, good. Very good, thank you very much.
Great, perfect. So, I just want to point out one of the applications of this. So for instance, if people want to get really good at proper pull-up form, well sometimes you're starting off, you're like, I can't even do a body weight pull-up. How am I gonna do and added weight pull-up, right? And so there are different machines, you can use bands, you can tie things to your legs but it's quite a production all right. And certainly you can do lat pulldowns and what not, for pressing movements, for pulling movements or for any movements, you need to repeat the proper technique to make that ingrained. So for instance, if you're not able to do a whole hell of a lot of pushups you can do the same thing, my sleeves may get in the way here, but you can apply this and then you can add the repetitions so you're able to ingrain the proper technique, all right.
It's time somebody used a little bit of weight with this, would you mind comin' up in the back there? Do you have any idea how much you can bench press?
How much ya bench? (laughing)
I weight 138 so I would think around 150.
Okay, well let's just have you put it on, put it up over the arms, do a pushup with it first just to get used to the material.
I actually don't bench, it's not one of the exercises I do.
Okay, well you're goin' to today buddy. (laughing) Welcome to hell.
Time to get big.
That's right, time to get swole. (laughing) Okay, there you go, good.
Wow, feels good.
It helps take some of that stress off the shoulders. So, let's just have you do a little practice one.
Yeah, let's do the proper technique first. Let's actually take that off first and we'll put it on when you're actually in performance mode, but let's make sure we have the proper technique. Okay.
Let's kick those feet underneath your knees a little bit, there we go.
So, equidistant? Okay.
Good, as you're taking the weight out try to pull the weight out of the rack, there you go, bend the bar on the way down, touch your sternum, very good, then elbows out on the way up.
Okay I want you to try one more time. Bring the bar a little bit lower, hitting more towards your hips, yep.
Yeah, 'cause you want your wrist.
You want to find your most comfortable position of strength.
You guys kind of see? I've paused here at the bottom position. The barbell's lined up with his wrist and his elbow, that's exactly right.
Okay, let's do one more.
How much weight do we have here? Load up a couple hundred pounds?
Let's do it!
300, 400 pounds.
Now I want you do it one more time only put a little bit more pressure down with your feet so you have more tension in your quads.
All right, there you go.
So, let's throw a 45 on there and see what happens.
Now, do we want to Sling Shot now?
Yeah, throw that on there.
Okay, so let's get you up and put that on.
You guys ready for this, 150?
So for powerlifting there are also, there's raw, which would be using less gear. There's like single ply, double ply, people wear bench shirts.
A lot of different rules.
They have belts, a lot of different types of gear and different competitions. All right, just make sure your equidistant.
Push your elbows out a little bit. There you go, like that.
Yeah, just to get it taunt. And you tell me when you're ready, when your form is ready to rock and roll. Get your shoulders back, okay. You give me the count.
Down here more. It's gonna feel a little different at first. There you go.
There you go, good.
All right, one more time.
There you go, good. Keep the chest up, yep, good.
See how it's kind of poppin' him out of the bottom? Just help me take some of that stress off. It's just another tool but you guys should be aware there's many tools like this as he mentioned earlier. You have weight lifting belts, you have wrist wraps, any of those things that you can utilize to allow you to lift safer and allow you to handle more weight for more reps, more sets. Just allows you to handle more work but safer.
Well, I had a, one more. I'm not sure if we have it out here. I can actually just explain it, so chains. I just want to add that as a quick note.
Oh right, we had our little bucket. It's over here actually, I'll go grab it.
No problem, so we could explain exactly how this works. So you don't need a lot of money at all to get very very strong. You can get very strong without anything. Convicts do it all the time. (laughing) Just by going from--
That's how I got strong.
Two leg squat, one leg squat, pushup, to handstand pushup to one arm handstand pushup. All right, so if we look at chains. And Mark can certainly do a good job of explaining this, these are really long. But you know what, I'm actually going to simply explain it. Chains, these are chains, all right. And if you take chains and you work to, let's say, you tend to do them on the outside of the plates or in between right?
Right, yeah, normally it's, well in a deadlift it's normally on the inside. Just so it doesn't land on it.
Okay, so it doesn't matter. Yeah, that's true, that's true. Like I said, you would have these chains draped over chains of equal weight, equal length. Like this, here's the bar. So what does that mean? Where can you lift the least weight? You can lift the least weight the closer you are to the ground, right? And at the top you can lift more weight. So what happens is, as you pull the chain off the ground, more chain is being supported by you and not the floor, and so you're actually lifting incrementally more weight as you get higher into your strongest range of motion.
So it might be 200 pounds at the top and 100 pounds at the bottom.
Yep, and there are other ways you can go about it like, I guess it's what, EliteFTS?
Right, EliteFTS, roguefitness.com, they sell bands and they sell chains and they help to accommodate resistance. Teaching your body to accelerate, teaching your body to move faster. But again, you know, you should learn to walk before you go out and sprint.
Before you run. And in terms of training protocols, we can get that in a minute. How are we doin' on time?
We're getting there, okay.
We are wrappin' up.
Okay, well let's do this. Let's see, if any questions from the audience, then we can do internet as well. But any live questions anybody has? Yes?
Do you have a mic?
What if you're starting from not even being able to do a pushup? Like, where would you start if you feel like you really want to improve upon your strength but you're not starting from a very strong place?
Some of things that you can do would be to strengthen all the muscles that are involved in a pushup. That's actually the way that I train. I don't just always bench press, it try to train all the muscles that are involved in bench pressing. So, if you struggle with a pushup, do you struggle with pushups?
Well why don't you come up here and we'll have you try one on because that's exactly what this is for. It can keep you from doing lady pushups. Let me.
I love yoga but the one thing I can't do is pushups.
Do you struggle with pushups? Hey, we all struggle with something. I know Tim and that's been a major struggle of mine. (laughing) Constantly bothering me. So just go ahead and go down in a pushup.
Now, the same rules apply as the bench press. So, like keep your body tight, quads tight and do forth.
Looks like you got plenty of strength for pushups. Push your elbows outward a little bit. There you go, come up. Up, up, up, up, up, good, good. Try one more and see if we can squeeze one more out of ya. There you go, push up. Very good, there you go.
No help at all, great job.
So, over a period of time you'll be able to do a little bit of work like that, you might want to try to basically do a pushup, you know, something like this, where you're here, this way. Where you're body's not totally horizontal so that way it'll take a little bit of the stress off, but the girl pushup thing, you know, where you're on your knees doesn't really help equate.
I've been doing it for years--
Yeah, doesn't really help equate over to a regular pushup. You can do something like planks. Are you familiar with planks? You can do planks and you actually want to do those weighted some way. Have somebody--
So when you say planks do you just stay straight?
Well just holding yourself up straight would be great for a pushup but also just on the forearms as well. And have somebody put a little bit of weight on your back and because I think you need that I'm gonna let you keep it for today.
Oh, no way. It made it way easier actually.
And I have a couple more for some of you guys. I also have a magazine called Power Magazine. It's the only strength magazine in the world and I have copies for everybody.
All right, cool. (applauding) Mark, thank you sir.
Thank you very much.
To be continued. So we'll refer back to strength many many times but maybe we could jump into some q and a?
How would you like to go about this?
We just have a couple of minutes left, we're actually a little bit over time but that's cool because you guys are amazing. We can take another question for Mark and then wrap it with that and then go into our final wrap up. So, we did have a question here.
Yeah, stick around folks. We'll be doin' plenty of q and a.
My question is in another avenue within this because I'm here because I want to work on getting a lot of this off of my body and I have it so deeply tied, this size is so deeply tied to my identity, and who I feel that I am as a person. So, when I think about letting go of that and changing who I am and then I see a guy who also has his size tied to who he is as a person and I think about having that in a healthy way. I was wondering how you feel strength ties into who've became as a man?
Holy shit, that's a big one. (laughing) I'm not allowed to use f-bombs.
So use the s-bomb.
Basically, but to answer that question, for yourself, to make improvements on yourself you got to just realize it's one step at a time. At one point, when he first met me, I was about 330 pounds, I'm 260 pounds now. I've lost a lot of weight. I've realized that without your health your strength can be compromised. I'm all strength, that's what my life is about, that's what I'm passionate about and I try not to let anything interfere with it. And in that case it was myself that was interfering with it, I was just trying to get myself bigger and bigger so I could be stronger and stronger and at a certain point it no longer worked for me. But what you need to just realize is it's just one step at a time. If you're on a diet you're one meal away from being in the diet and you're one meal away from being back out of it. So if you're back out of it, don't get down on yourself. Don't be like, don't think your a bum or whatever just try to get back into that and keep yourself going, keep yourself motivated. Don't let negative, I call it negative thought viruses, don't let those things grow inside your body. You'll have people say, oh man, you're always gonna be big or you'll be this or you'll be that, don't listen to any of that stuff. It's all BS, you can do it. Just take it one step at a time.
Do you have another question?
Well, my question is, I have, okay, I'm sorry. I have hyper flexibility in my shoulders and in my elbows so when I'm doin' a pushup, like, I have the strength but then I get all wonky and I like bend in half. So do you have suggestions for helping with that?
It sounds like you're lookin' for a free Sling Shot. (laughing)
A lot of that has to do with stability and strength over a period of time. Have you been working out for--
I've been doing yoga for two years and we open up our chest. I mean, I can like. So as part of that, that's good for yoga but then when I'm doing strength exercises sometimes it's tricky.
Do you do barbells?
I can do the Chaturanga Push-Ups fine but it's just when I'm tryin' to do the normal ones it's just really weird looking.
Do you do weight lifting exercises? Do you do this kind of stuff?
I do not.
Well that's what you're gonna have to get into to make changes.
Well, for any of you out there, whatever your strugglin' with or whatever it is that's in your way you're gonna need to made some changes in your life so you can overcome these things. So, for you, sounds like you're already good at being flexible and you're already good at the yoga stuff, it be probably a good time to start to implement some strength training.
And that will also just knowing a lot, I live in San Francisco, know a lot of yoga people and very high level yoga people, at a point you need to also have the strength to really excel past plateaus that you have in yoga. If you really want to exploit your full potential and as far as weight training goes, and we can talk about protocols a little bit in just a minute, we'll get into q and a, but if you're working on the same machine with a fixed plane of motion, straight up and down, you're not going to have, it will not force you to develop the stabilizing muscles that allow you to not go all loosey goosey. All right, so a great way to develop that in my experience is using a moderate weight, could be, let's just say, I'll use a pressing movement. Doesn't have to just be a pressing movement. But if you were to do, let's say, relatively--
There's a kettlebell there if you want to do one.
Yeah, yeah, so I'll show you guys.
Any sort of dumbbell or any sort of kettlebell movement would be very good for you to do, to implement.
So I'm not going to teach like crazy kettlebell technique or anything like that but, I mean if you were using a kettlebell, I'll bring this over. All right. So this is a 25 pounder. I'll just demonstrate, and you'll notice like 25 pounds, I'm treating that as I would a 125 pound kettlebell. Which I also have. All right, so if you have a 25 pound kettlebell, all right, here, I'm sort of going to hike back and then come to a clean, I'm not gonna spend a lot of time here but doing it one arm at a time. And then from here a weight that you can use so that you can do it nice and slowly up to here. If you can't walk with a weight overhead comfortably for like 30 seconds, you shouldn't be pressing it. As a general rule, if you're starting. All right, and then come down in front of ya. (exhaling) So you're not using momentum, all right, boom. (exhaling)
Even though that's not a heavy weight for him he could still get a really good workout with just that weight.
Strength is not always associated with moving these huge masses.
Yeah, exactly. And then, you know, you could do all sorts of stuff, but the point being, you want to use the weight, under control, that challenges you enough to create a growth adaptation, all right. A strength adaptation, you don't need any more. Do it under control and by doing things in extremely slow motion I can travel, I can have a backpack, I'm like, oh, got a couple of books, threw it in a backpack, I can get a full workout with a backpack full of books and you know, I'm not as strong as this guy but I'm decently strong, for a civilian non-powerlifter. As a powerlifter I would laughed out of the gym but--
Strong for a woman. (laughing) No offense.
So in any case, you can always get stronger, it's surprisingly easy. But I would say that very slow, unilateral, meaning one side, exercise would be a very good place to start.