The Bench Press: Life Saver & Strength Builder

“Give a man a fish; feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish; feed him for a lifetime.”

Lao “Captain Obvious” Tzu

Writing strength-training articles is a tricky undertaking. Using the metaphor above, you must decide whether to “feed” the reader or “teach” them to fish.

If I write an article that includes a 12-week periodized training program, then I’ve given you something that will aid you temporarily. However, once those 12 weeks are up, you’re back on your own, trolling the Internet for your next training program. So much for consistency!

However, by teaching you concepts and techniques used by successful strength coaches, as well as the reasoning behind them, then I provide you with a life-long education that will allow you to design your own training programs.

This issue of self-reliance shouldn’t be underestimated, as it will ultimately lead to increased performance in the gym, or bigger guns…if that’s your thing.

The lesson that self-reliance leads to confidence has gone relatively unnoticed by the majority of weight lifters. This newfound confidence in your program-design abilities leads to increased motivation, which ultimately means greater weight on the bar, along with the admiration of men, women, children and small barnyard animals across the world.

Therefore, my aim with this article, is to not only provide you with the tools necessary to design and trouble shoot your own training programs, but to instill a sense of achievement and ownership.

The first issue I want to cover is one that all weight lifters will encounter at some point in their lifting career: the strength plateau.

The Bench Press, MMA & Strength Plateaus

Mixed Martial Arts

In the past few years, mixed martial arts (MMA) has enjoyed remarkable commercial success, evolving from underground club events to sold-out arenas.  As one of the aspects of MMA involves taking your opponent to the ground, its rise in popularity should perturb law enforcement officials.  Anyone, regardless of criminal record and intentions, can access Youtube instructional videos, demonstrating vascular and respiratory restraints from the ground.  The key therefore, becomes standing on your feet…keeping your opponent or perp away from you.  And this is where the bench press can literally save your life.

The Bench Press

One of the most revered exercises, the bench press builds the horizontal pushing strength required for 2 worst case scenarios:

  1. Perp attempting to take you down to the ground, or take away your firearm
  2. Perp has taken you to the ground and is attempting a vascular/respiratory restraint or take away your firearm

In both instances, a strong bench press allows you to maintain or create space between you and the perp, providing opportunity to execute an escape or reversal.

Unfortunately, the bench press experiences strength plateaus more so than any other exercise.  While some biomechanists have reasoned it’s due to the large number of smaller muscles involved and the effect of weak stabilizing muscles such as the rotator cuff muscles, it’s an issue that must be dealt with intelligently.

Bench Press Strength Plateau

Nothing is more frustrating than busting your ass in the gym day-in and day-out and no matter what you do, the weight on the bar stays the same. It’s times like this that you question your dedication to the sport of weight lifting.

The only comfort you can find is in knowing that you’re not the first person to encounter plateaus, as it’s a topic that strongmen from as early as the 1800s spent considerable time and effort developing techniques for overcoming strength plateaus. Their techniques ranged from performing every variation of the lift in question during the same workout to performing the troublesome lift multiple times in the same day.

The problem with the majority of the techniques employed for overcoming plateaus is that they usually rely on performing more of what you’re currently doing.

For instance, one of my current clients hired me to improve his bench press as his numbers in that lift hadn’t improved since the last time Charlie Sheen’s liver enzymes tested normal.

The standard barometer of success in his chosen sport is that he needs to bench press at least 1.75x bodyweight. When he hired me, he was approximately 75 pounds short.

His previous strength coach placed him on a three-month “bench press specialization” program, which required him to bench press 3 times weekly. After three months, his bench press only improved 25 pounds. How’s that for specialization?

I call this type of programming the, “If some is good, then more is better” approach. And while this approach does have some value, it was the correct answer to the wrong question. The issue was not his work capacity, or his volume of work, but rather the intensity, or the weight being used. To take advantage of the latter, one of the best tools at your disposal is partial range of motion repetitions.

Partial Range of Motion

When it comes to lifting more weight, whether the goal is strength or hypertrophy, the best approach is to break down a repetition to its individual parts and use a weight appropriate for that specific portion of the repetition.

For instance, due to improved leverage, you can use a higher intensity of resistance performing a 1/4 bench press than you can during a full repetition bench press. And it’s only logical that if you only perform full repetitions, the amount of weight you use would be limited by what you could lift past your sticking point.

Therefore, the key to eliminating sticking points, which if neglected long-term lead to particularly obstinate strength plateaus, is to use a higher intensity of weight in the range during which you possess the mechanical advantage.

Accommodating resistance – the use of chains, bands, or eccentric hooks for overload – also accomplishes this, but not with the precision that partial range of motion repetitions offer.

Besides, depending on the rules and regulations of your training facility, they might not allow you to use such devices anyway. However, by using a power rack with a set of safety bars, you can choose to intentionally overload a few specific degrees of the range of motion, i.e. your sticking points, while avoiding the wrath of your local YMCA certified holistic personal trainer/MonaVie distributor.

The Program

Here’s one of the phases I designed to achieve my client’s bench press goal:

A1) Top 1/4 Bench Press

3 sets, 4-6 reps
2010 tempo
120 seconds rest

A2) Wide Grip Pull Ups

3 sets, 5-7 reps
4010 tempo
20 seconds rest

B1) Top 1/2 Bench Press

3 sets, 4-6 reps
3010 tempo
100 seconds rest

B2) Parallel Grip Chin Ups

3 sets, 5-7 reps
4010 tempo
100 seconds rest

C1) Full Range Bench Press

3 sets, 4-6 reps
4010 tempo
100 seconds rest

C2) Kneeling One Arm Rows

3 sets, 5-7 reps
4010 tempo
100 seconds rest

The Rationale

Top 1/4 bench press – The upper range of motion of the bench press offers the most advantageous leverage, allowing the use of weights considerably heavier than you’re accustomed to when performing full range of motion reps.

Not only does this heavier weight provide a greater stimulus for strength and hypertrophy gains, but it also gets rid of the, “Oh shit” factor, as in when you unrack the barbell from the supports and, “Oh shit, this is heavy,” runs through your mind.

This exercise not only provides a huge psychological boost, but it provides the added benefits of desensitizing the golgi tendon organs and subsequently recruiting a greater number of motor units. Performing this exercise first is vital, as the heavy loads will prime your nervous system for the work that follows.

Top 1/2 bench press – This is one of the most common sticking points, and performing a top 1/2 repetition allows you to overload this position specifically, generating the strength required to drive the bar past this point. The heavier weights used in the previous movement (the top 1/4 bench) will allow the use of a heavier weight in this exercise, usually allowing for an additional 10-15% to be used. Can you say “facilitation?”

Full range bench press – Performing the full range of motion here allows you to specifically overload the most common sticking point, getting the barbell off your chest. This exercise provides the added benefit of minimizing any altered length-tension relationships between muscle groups, which may occur from exclusively performing partial range of motion exercises. This is vital, as altered length-tensions will affect both the normal movements of joints and proprioceptive input to the CNS. If you think this part of the progression is unnecessary, talk to Wolfgang Unsold and Charles Poliquin. Yeah, that’s what I thought.

And while you might be tempted to change the order of the pressing exercises, don’t. The variations listed, in the exact same order presented, allow for the greatest loading. One of the tenets of weight training, whether working for strength or hypertrophy, is to always perform first the exercises that allow for the greatest loads.

Depending on your conditioning, the difference between performing the top 1/4 bench press first or last in your workout can mean a 25-35% reduction in the weight used. Why? The explanation is simple: you’ll expend a significant amount of energy overloading your sticking points and you won’t have anything left when it comes to handling the heaviest loads.

 The Set Up
Top 1/4 bench press – Position the safety bars so the barbell only travels 6-8 inches. For each rep, the barbell should make LIGHT contact with the safety bar before you press it to the starting position. I’ll say it again, the barbell should make L-I-G-H-T contact…don’t slam or drop the barbell onto the safety bars.

Performing the eccentric portion of the rep at a speed faster than the indicated tempo is a clear indication that you’re using a weight beyond your current capabilities. Don’t be that guy.

Top 1/2 bench press – Position the safety bars 2 inches below the top half of your range of motion. Again, let the number of reps determine the weight on the barbell, not your ego or your desire to impress the fitness bunny at the water fountain…unless she’s Marla Duncan (blush)…in which case, do what you gotta’ do.

Full Range Bench Press – By this point, your pecs should be twitching like Gary Busey on crystal meth during an earthquake. Make sure the barbell touches your chest for every rep. Again, don’t mistake your pecs for a trampoline and try to ricochet the barbell off your sternum. Make your muscles do the work, not gravity.

As fatigue continues to accumulate, you’ll be tempted to raise your hips off the bench to help you press the barbell off your chest. Don’t! Keep your feet on the ground and your hips glued to the bench. If necessary, reduce the weight on the barbell. Proper form is a necessity for both injury prevention and improved performance.

Key Points
  • Sticking points limit how much weight you can lift in any given exercise.
  • Partial range of motion exercises allow for heavier loads to be used, thereby placing great load on muscle fibers and improving neurological efficiency.
  • To reduce the risk of injury, observe the prescribed exercise tempo and maintain proper form.
  • Partial range of motion training can be applied to the majority of exercises, but is best reserved for multi-joint exercises.
  • When performing partial range of motion training, always incorporate full range of motion sets within the workout.
  • Ensure you use the same grip or stance for every partial range of motion exercise.
  • When possible, have a training partner lift the barbell off the supports for you.
  • Partial range of motion training is the best method for overcoming strength plateaus and only requires a squat rack.

Conclusion

“No pain, no gain,” was the mantra of the 80’s. In the 90’s, it became “Work smarter, not harder.” For 2012, I offer, “Work smarter and harder.”

To ensure constant improvement in the weight room, it’s important to remember that variety is not only the spice of life, but a necessity. It’s been stated numerous times, that the workout that took your bench press to 225 pounds will not get you to 315 pounds.

Don’t allow yourself to be held captive by yesterday’s success. The beauty of partial range of motion training is not only the ease with which you can introduce it into your current training, but the speed of returns on your time and effort invested.  Plus, it might just save your life.

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Tactical Gloves Performance Endurance Test: Intro

Big thanks to TomThumb for the excellent idea…wish I would’ve thought of it sooner.  While the majority of the endurance testing will take place with tire flips, I’ll also wear the gloves performing other exercises where grip plays a major role: pull-ups/chin-ups and deadlift variations.

5.11 Tac A2 vs. Blackhawk S.O.L.A.G.

When selecting gloves for the performance endurance testing, my criteria was to select two pairs of the most popular, moderately priced gloves on the market.

Prices as ordered through Optics Planet:

  • 5.11 Tac2 – $24.99
  • Blackhawk S.O.L.A.G. – $28.99

The wearing of gloves will be a new experience, whether for shooting or physical training, as I don’t wear gloves performing either.  Rumor has it, women dig calluses.  It’ll be interesting to see if the gloves affect my performance at all when lifting heavy objects off the ground.

Any bets as to when the gloves will fail…if at all?  Keep in mind, when my professional athletes perform tire flips, they make certain to wear old shorts, to keep from ruining their fancy Under Armour gear.  Additionally, they all wear long sleeve shirts, as protection from the abrasive tire surface.

Let the games begin!

Quick Links:

Week 3

Week 2

Week 1

Testing Intro

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For the Hater…

A few days back, I received an email (a rather nasty, accusatory one) from an individual doubting that I actually perform all the tire flips I mention in my blogs, specifically, my Vertx Tactical Pants Endurance Testing videos.  Here’s the proof, over 20 minutes of me flipping a 450 lb tire.  Other than that…there’s nothing else to see here.

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Vertx Tactical Pants Endurance Test: Week 3

Hard to believe three weeks has already passed, but as the cliché goes…time flies when you’re having fun.

This week’s testing protocol relied on an old favorite exercise, tire flips and introduced a new one, barbell split squats.  As I’ve already mentioned, when it comes to testing a material’s ability to withstand and endure  prolonged exposure to abrasive surfaces, a heavy equipment tire is hard to beat.  By the end of week three, I have already performed over 830 tire flips, with an average of 93 tire flips being performed per training session.

Monday’s session: 100 tire flips in under 30 minutes

The barbell split squat, was my go-to exercise for testing the functionality and execution of Vertx’s version of the gusseted crotch.  The purpose of the gusseted crotch, is to allow a great freedom of movement for the legs by sewing a delta shaped piece of material into the crotch region.

The barbell split squat, due to the extreme range of motion performed in a split stance, provided immediate feedback as to its performance…it worked as advertised.  Normally, when descending into a full split squat position while wearing exercise pants, the extreme stretch required, pulls down the rear wasteband…and worrying about plumber’s crack is not ideal when you have over 135 lb on your shoulders.  Additionally, I was able to descend into a full split stance without the need to prepare the pants by hiking the pant legs up over my hip crease.  A more experienced wordsmith would probably explain this better for you, but I have video…and if a picture is worth a thousand words, then my 1080p HD video speaks volumes.

*BTW, notice the pair of Magnum Cobra 8.0 boots I’m wearing allow for maximum ankle flexibility*

The rest of the week consisted of more tire flips and exercises I’ve already captured on video, so no need to re-visit those.

July 21, 2012

After washing the pants and allowing them time to dry, I noticed the first signs of wear on the right pants leg, specifically on the thigh region, where the tire makes contact with the pants.  If you recall from Week 1, I  decided to intentionally use the same leg for all tire flips during the nine week endurance test.  While this will lead to an overdevelopment of my right leg, it provides us an opportunity to compare the right pants leg vs. the left pant leg, which acts as a “control.”

Over 800 tire flips and the pants finally display some wear

The wear showing on the right leg, is not overly noticeable or even unsightly, but appears more of a slight discoloration.

Overall, the pants are performing well…perhaps even better than advertised.  However, we’re only one-third into the endurance testing and I still have a few more surprises in store.

Here are the quick links for the previous week’s updates:

Intro

Week 1

Week 2

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Record Setting MLB Debut

Congratulations to my athlete Matt Harvey.  During his MLB debut last night with the NY Mets, his 11 strikeouts set a new franchise record for a rookie debut and was the first pitcher since 1900 to have at least 10 strikeouts and 2 hits in his debut.

I first worked with Matt when he was 16 years old and had a fastball in the mid 80s mph.  After 6 months of working together, he was throwing 97 mph. His dedication to becoming the best athlete possible was evident back then and will continue to serve him well for many years.

Here’s part of the training program that took Matt’s fastball from mid 80s mph to over 95 mph.

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The Training Program Guaranteed to Improve Your Shooting Speed

The Shooter’s Training Program

A1) Snatch grip jumps 8 sets x 4 reps
rest 60 seconds

A2) Medicine ball throws 8 sets x 8-10
rest 120 seconds

B1) Front foot elevated split squats 4 sets x 8-10 repetitions per leg – 4010 exercise tempo
rest 75 seconds

B2) Uni-lateral lying leg curls 4 sets x 6-8 repetitions per leg.  Perform 2 sets with toes turned out and 2 sets with toes turned in – 4010 exercise tempo
rest 75 seconds

For a thorough explanation on exercise tempo, read here.

Perform the training program twice per week, for five weeks maximum.  Allow at least 48 hours per training sessions.

What You Must Remember:

  • There are a continuum of muscle fibers which must be trained accordingly
  • Type I (slow twitch) fibers possess high endurance capabilities, but low strength potential
  • Type I fibers are trained with 15+ repetitions
  • Type IIB (fast twitch) fibers possess high strength capabilities, but low endurance potential
  • Type IIB fibers are trained with 1-6 repetitions
  • Type IIA (intermediate) fibers possess the best capabilities of both Type I and Type IIB fibers
  • Type IIA fibers are trained with 6-8 repetitions
  • Type IIA and B fibers can take on weaker characteristics of Type I fibers if trained improperly
  • The shorter the running distance, the more important strength becomes
  • Full sprints generate 3-5 times bodyweight with every foot strike
  • While running, hamstrings act as “shock absorbers,” helping negate vertical oscillation
  • While running, strong hamstrings will facilitate quicker stops and changes in direction
  • You have only ONE nervous system…whether your interest lies with running faster, jumping higher,  or shooting faster, it all begins with an efficient nervous system.
  • Maximum shooting speed can only be achieved when technological advancements are paired with strong and efficient muscular and nervous systems

Give this shooter’s training program a go and you’ll soon experience an increase in your shooting speed as well as better health and well-being.  Just keep me posted on your progress.

 

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Vertx Tactical Pants Endurance Test: Week 2

Week 2: Monday morning

While Test Week 1 focused on “slower” lifts, such as tire flips and snatch grip deadlifts, Test Week 2 was all about explosive lifts.  Utilizing explosive lifts would gauge the pant’s construction and material at handling repeated, high-speed, full range of motion movements.  Any weaknesses in the stitching and you’ll be walking around with a gaping hole in the crotch…not a good thing.

Here’s the weekly breakdown:

Monday – July 9, 2010

  1. Pierre Roy warm up
  2. Squat cleans: 10 sets of 3 repetitions, 150 seconds rest.  Worked up to 265 lb.
  3. Light Prowler Sprints: 7 sets of 30-40 yards, 90 lb, 90 seconds rest between sprints.

Prior to any Olympic/explosive exercises, I perform this warm up I learned from Canadian weightlifting coach Pierre Roy.  This warm up performs 2 functions: it introduces and prepares the muscles and joints to the movements that are about to come and warms up the joint’s synovial fluid, thereby lubricating the joint.  From a product testing perspective, it’s an excellent evaluation tool for determining how the rear waist band will perform while bending forward at the waist.  While a higher cut waist band is not exclusive to Vertx, they did execute it well.  During the warm up, not once did I feel as if the pants were riding down my backside, nor did I feel the pants pulling/pinching down on the front of my hip while bending forward. To me, this indicated Vertx achieved the proper cut ratio of the rear and front waist bands.

When time is short and you need a total body exercise that trains explosive speed and flexibility, there is no better lift than the squat clean.  Due to the nature of the exercise, restrictive clothing can hinder performance and ultimately, the amount of weight lifted.  The key to this exercise, is to lift accelerate the bar upwards and then to quickly pull yourself underneath it and catch it on your front deltoids.  Normally, when performing this exercise, I wear an extremely loose pair of shorts to  achieve a deep, comfortable position effortlessly.  And to be honest, I wasn’t sure how the pants would stand up to the demands of the exercise.  Initially, I thought the pants would restrict my explosiveness, thereby reducing the amount of weight I normally handle by 15-20 lb…at best.  Surprising, this didn’t happen.  Vertx apparently found the proper balance of strength and stretch in their pant’s material by their 98% cotton canvas and 2% Lycra construction.

The explosive nature of the exercise was a great evaluation tool for the pant’s articulated knees.  Optimally, pants with articulated knees, would allow for mobility without restriction or chafing.  Watch the section of the video where I perform squat cleans and notice how I perform the exercise: without needing to prep the pants by pulling extra material at the hip crease or knees.  If they allowed me to perform this exercise without restriction, they should work for you in the field.

Tuesday – July 10, 2010

  1. Lumberjack: 10 sets of 6 reps, 75 lb.
  2. Glute-Hamstring Raises: 6 sets of 6-8 repetitions
  3. Reverse Hyperextensions: 6 sets of 10-12 repetitions, 90 lb.

The Lumberjack, invented by Pierre Roy, is a great tool and assistance exercise to the full Olympic lifts.  Due to the small size of the device, it’s overwhelmingly the favorite training device of many of my clients deployed overseas.  Additionally, due to the ease of use, is a great introduction to the Olympic lifts, as it utilizes the same hip drive needed when lifting heavy weights explosively off the ground.  For evaluation purposes, it provides valuable information on the strength and comfort of the elastic side panels in the waist band of the pants, as well as their metal button closure.  Normally, when performing this exercise wearing loose shorts, I still need to fold over the waist band, to prevent pinching in the waist and hip crease, where the upper thigh joins the hips.  However, this wasn’t an issue, the waist band allowed ample mobility without appearing overly baggy.

The glute-hamstring raises and reverse hyperextensions further tested the backside of the pants construction and fit.  While the majority of product testers solely focus on the front side of the pants, namely the knees, they overlook the all important back side.  These 2 exercises, are a great indication of how the pants will perform while leaning forward at the waist, as in  picking something/someone off the ground .

Wednesday – July 11, 2010

  1. Arm training
  2. Dynamic Stretching: 10 minutes

While last week I focused on slow and static stretching, this week I focused on a more dynamic, movement based system of stretching.  The difference between the 2 systems of stretching, depends on timing.  Slow and static stretching is best performed after training/exercise, due to the sedating affect of the central nervous system.  Dynamic stretching, should be performed pre-exercise, to stimulate the nervous system and promote a state of heightened awareness.

How many of you would be comfortable on stretching dynamically in a pair of pants?  For the record, I was…the pant’s construction and material, allowed full range of motion stretching without fear of ripping the gusseted crotch.

Thursday – July 12, 2010

  1. Clean Grip Jumps: 10 sets of 3-5 repetitions
  2. Front Squat: 10 sets of 3-4 repetitions, 150 seconds rest, maximum weight 245 lb.

Out of all the variations of squats, front squats require the most flexibility in the hips, knees and ankles.  The key to this exercise, is the maintaining of an upright position.  This prerequisite of above average flexibility and unencumbered mobility, is the reason the majority of weightlifters perform this exercise in shorts.  During the 36 repetitions I performed in the pants, mobility wasn’t an issue.

Overall, the pants continue to exceed expectations.  While impressed with their mobility, I especially appreciate the material utilized…it allows freedom of movement without appearing baggy, nor does the material feel rough and extremely textured like sandpaper.  Something you’d appreciate when wearing them for hours at a time.

Next week, I’m back to a outdor, modified strongman training regimen…yea, more tire flips.

To review Week 1 of my endurance test, click here.

For a review of my testing requirements and protocols, click here.

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Firearms and Forearms: Relieving Forearm Pain for Shooters

If you’ve been shooting firearms for a considerable period of time, chances are, you’ve experienced forearm pain.  Generally, the main cause of forearm pain among firearms enthusiasts is due to the over development of the forearm flexors.  Utilized when squeezing firearm grips and/or stocks, you overdevelop these muscles at the expense of your forearm extensors, muscles utilized when curling your wrist backwards.  The strength and usage differences between these two muscles grip is what primarily leads to what’s referred as golfer’s and tennis elbow.  However, forearm flexor pain is not only experienced by firearm enthusiasts, but anyone practicing any of the grappling arts (BJJ, wrestling), as well as construction workers and auto mechanics.

The solution is simple, to relieve the tension in the tight muscles, but not always easy to implement.  Hiring a qualified bodyworker to manually release the tension, can cost upwards of $250/hour.  Fortunately, there is both a simple and effective, but little known technique you can utilize RIGHT NOW.

The key however, is to practice the one of the techniques on a consistent basis.  Keep in mind, 2-3 five minutes sessions daily, will prove more effective than 15 minute session twice a week.  Also, once you forearm pain has diminished or been relieved, it’s vital that you keep performing these techniques.  As we say in the USN diver community “it’s easier to keep up, than to catch up.”

Vertx Tactical Pants Endurance Test: Week 1

Freedom of movement

If there’s one phrase that encapsulates my reasoning for endurance testing a pair of pants over a nine week period, that would be it…another would be “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”

For the few past years, I have been reading online and print article reviews of tactical clothing with a cautious, but positive curiosity.  While a part of me eagerly seeks details and features of the clothing, another part realizes facts alone cannot determine if an article of clothing will hold up after an extended period of use.  And let us be clear about tactical clothing, it is essential gear which will be USED, not WORN like your favorite pair of skinny jeans on your daily jaunt to Starbucks.

So, how best to determine if a piece of tactical clothing will live up to the hype found in its marketing material?  I found the answer in one of my favorite blogs: www.pistol-training.com.

Over the past few years, ToddG of http://www.pistol-training.com has been performing the most informative and longest duration handgun endurance testing. Here are some of his results:

  • M&P9 62,333 rounds in 228 days
  • HK45 50,000 rounds in 252 days
  • HK P30 91,322 rounds in 322 days
  • Gen4 Glock 17 71,260 rounds in 473 days

After reading ToddG’s reviews, I began to question why no one had performed a similar endurance testing of tactical clothing…shortly followed by “why not me?”

Why Not Me?

To borrow a phrase from Andrew Tuohy, “I am not an operator.” I have never HALOed into Iran wearing nothing but a pair of UDT swimmer trunks and a knife between my teeth.  However, I did spend 8 years and 364 days in the US Navy, as a lowly, under-appreciated/underpaid/misunderstood Deep Sea Diver.  And since 1987, my main source of employment has been as a consultant in the field of structural bodywork, as well as strength and conditioning.  I have worked with clients ranging from a 17-year-old pitcher who threw 97+mph, to professional triathletes, Stanley Cup winners and security contractors.  Additionally, in 2010, I was afforded an appreciative opportunity to write for SWAT Magazine by its editor Denny Hansen.

Concerning the endurance testing of tactical clothing, what I bring to the table is a profound understanding of biomechanics.  As I stated in my Vertx Tactical Pants Testing Intro video,  there are seven primal movement patterns common to every human.  Possessing a keen understanding of these seven movements, allows me to replicate in a matter of days, quantity of movements that would normally take  months to achieve in a real world environment.  Condensing thousands of deliberate, explosive and labor intensive actions into nine weeks, allows me to share the results of my endurance testing sooner, rather than later.  And by uploading weekly video recaps, you will experience every step of my testing procedure, allowing you to determine the relevant nature of my endurance test to your real world experiences.

I recommend you watch my Vertx Tactical Pants Endurance Testing Intro video here first.

Monday – July 2, 2012

Tire flip: 450 lb. tire, flipped for 20 sets of 5 receptions each (100 total flips) in 31:33 minutes.

 If you have never lifted and flipped an extremely heavy tire, then you don’t know what you are missing.  Due to their construction and intended purpose of being used on heavy machinery, these tires have  immensely rough treads which literally tear into your hands.

What better way to test the strength and abrasion resistance of the 98% cotton, 2% Lycra blend Vertx uses for their pants?

Normally, when flipping tires, I utilize both knees to prop the tire up while changing hands positions to flip the tire over.  Alternating knees prevents overdevelopment of hip musculature which can lead to overuse injuries and lower back pain. However, for testing purposes, I will only use my right knee.  This serves two purposes:

  1. Using the right knee repeatedly, to prop the tire up, will turn the right thigh into a stress point.  Over time, a high number of tire flips will test the resiliency  and stain resistance of the pant’s material and construction.
  2. By only utilizing the right knee, the material on the left thigh becomes a “control,” giving us something to compare the pant’s right thigh against nine months from now.

The first 100 flips.

While I had read much about Vertx’s articulated knees and high cut rear wist band, I was not sure how well this would translate into actual performance.  However, notice in my video when I squat down to lift the tire, that I do so without having to “hike” the pants up over the crease of where my thighs join my hip.  I was able to  drop down into a full squat, hamstrings touching my calves, without any preparation or hesitation, or without any pinching from the pant legs bunching behind my knees   Additionally, the higher cut waist band felt extremely comfortable and I did not have to worry about exposing any plumber’s crack.

While the temperature was nearing 90°F, the pants were not uncomfortably hot, but did become slightly damp from perspiration.  However, 15 minutes after the completion of tire flips, the pants were relatively dry.

Tuesday – July 3, 2012

  1. Light Prowler sprints: 140 lb. 10 sets of 25-35 yards each, 90 seconds rest between each sprint.
  2. Heavy Prowler pushes: 450 lb. 5 sets of 20-30 yards, 90 seconds rest between each push.
  3. Vastus Medialis Oblique (VMO) Prowler walks: 630 lb. 3 sets of 15-20 yards, 2 minutes rest between walks.
The Prowler, a nasty piece of equipment developed by Elite Fitness, produces severe bouts of nausea more consistently than any other piece of equipment in our gym.  I utilized Prowler sprints to test both the articulated knees and gusseted crotch.  The VMO Prowler walks proved extremely comfortable, without any binding of material behind the knee, nor did it limit how far I could flex my heel back towards my rear end.

Wednesday – July 4, 2012

8 seconds followed by 12 seconds rest, performed 60 repetitions (20 minutes total)

Yes, 20 minutes of sprints suck.  However, they could have been made worse had the gusseted crotch not performed as advertised.  At no time did I feel as if the pants were limiting my stride, both in the crotch, nor around the thigh/hip area.  While I could feel the material in these areas moving around me, they were not binding nor restrictive.

Thursday – July 5, 2012

  1. Snatch grip deadlifts on a podium: 275 lb. 10 sets of 3 repetitions, 2 minutes rest between sets.
  2. Tire flips/sledgehammer medley: 5 tire flips, 10 over shoulder sledgehammer strikes per side, 5 tire flips. Performed a total of 6 medley, with 3 minutes rest between sets.
100 flips from Monday + 60 flips Thursday = 160 flips
Snatch grip deadlifts on a podium are an evil exercise.  Standing on a podium makes you begin the exercise in a deficit, requiring a significant amount of full body flexibility.  In the video, again notice I can drop into a full squat without any preparation or fidgeting with the pants, nor do I have to worry about getting arrested for indecent exposure.  Again, the higher cut rear waist band kept me covered and the elastic panels on the side of the pants, were snug, but not compressive or restrictive in the bottom starting position of the exercise.  For those of you who have performed this exercise, notice the barbell is literally scraping the top of my boots.

Friday – July 6, 2012

Myofascial stretching 15 minutes

 Guy Voyer, a osteopath from Canada, is one of the leading authorities on myofascial stretching.  Here are some of his stretches I utilize with my athletes to maintain their flexibility and joint health.  While I only demonstrate 3-4 minutes of my stretching program, I stretched for 15 minutes.  Again, as with the tire flips and  snatch grip deadlifts, I didn’t need to hike the pants up around my hips, nor did they feel restrictive at any point.  My transitions between stretches was seemless and extremely comfortable.  More importantly, I was displaying the same level of flexibility in the pants, that I usually exhibit when stretching in gym shorts.

Dirty Pants

Saturday – July 7, 2012

Washed in cold water, without laundry detergent and dried outdoors.

As I stated in my Vertx Endurance Testing Intro video, I planned on washing the pants once a week, on Saturdays.  Additionally, I decided to wash the pants on the shortest cycle and without the benefit of detergent. Only then, would we see how the pants handled stains and delayed washing.  Overall, there was some improvement, however, it will be interesting to see how they pants stand up to continued exposure to tire flips.

 Wrap Up

So far, the pants have  lived up to their reputation.  However, nine weeks is a long time…plenty of time for things to go south.  However, what I find most impressive is the extreme ranges of motion I am able to perform without any hinderance or fear of tearing any of the stitching.

What Next?

In the second installment, I will further test the limits of the pant’s stitching and bartacks with a week filled with explosive lifts.

To review my testing standards and protocols, click here.

Send any questions or comments to info@Jessbanda.com

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Secret Project Revealed!

If you wear tactical clothing, whether for work or training, you don’t want to miss out on this!  First review is out this Friday.