Bench Gains, Finally

Yea, I know. Blog kinda sucks right now.

I’m so demotivated; in fact, so much so that I’m writing this from my phone. Life waxes, and it wanes. Embrace, I guess. I’m no more imune to a creative funk than the next guy or gal.

But I do have news. After six weeks of trying to gain on bench (I’d laid off that for a while), finally did it today with just a tweek or two on form (get those shoulder blades kissing, before you even start). I also went about 2" wider combined on hand position. Voilà.

When failure came, it was different. So was the exercise. Anyaway, 165 since forever, going from 7 reps to 5, back to 6, and today, 8. …And I even gained reps on my second set.

Lost nothing on my incline bench following. All in all, a productive and satisfying day.

Pics will follow. Not yet quite as dramatic as the back shots. So, just another element of motivation I have created for myself.

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Richard Nikoley

I started writing Free The Animal in late 2003 as just a little thing to try. 20 years later, turns out I've written over 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from diet, health, philosophy, politics, social antagonism, adventure travel, expat living, location and time independent—while you sleep— income by geoarbitrage, and food pics. I intended to travel the world "homeless," but the Covidiocy Panicdemic squashed that. I became an American expat living in Thailand. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. ... I leave the toilet seat up. Read More


  1. Ned Kock on May 26, 2010 at 14:21

    Richard, 8 reps at 165 for bench press translates into a 205 1RM:

    Am I missing something here? This is not bad at all.

    If I am not mistaken, this is intermediate to advanced territory.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 26, 2010 at 15:15


      Thanks, and your bog never sucks. So happy to have you around and keying things to blog about and then call attention in comments. If you weren’t sure, keep it up, please.

      I’ve done super slow negatives on bench upwards of 250, so I think I might get a 210-215 1RM. Funny, my trainer is far lighter than I, prob 20 lbs or more. He kicks my ass on bench, but I can humble him on squats and DL and on standing presses, he can’t do even one of the 8 I do at 130. We’re all composed very differently.

      • chris on May 26, 2010 at 16:33

        Hi Richard,

        I thought this formula was standard for the male human
        (kinda like “an ant can carry 50x their body weight):

        Clean & Press : 1.0 x body weight
        Bench Press: 1.5 x
        Pull-up (weighted): 1.5 x
        Squat: 2.0 x
        Deadlift: 2.5 x

      • Richard Nikoley on May 26, 2010 at 16:40

        Maybe so, but it’s lacking in specification.

        1RM, or some number of reps & sets? If the former, then we are really talking about different things. Since I’m not compteting, I’m not very interested in 1RM.

      • chris on May 26, 2010 at 18:40

        Yes, 1RM.

        Perhaps 1RM doesn’t interest you but this formula combined with the chart Mr. Kock referenced might be helpful in terms of gauging one’s potential.

        Love the site man.

      • Richard Nikoley on May 26, 2010 at 18:45

        To me, and you’re welcome to argue otherwise, but from a risk-reward perspective if I’m constantly moving the bar forward but in a fashion of weight that I can do 4-8 reps instead of one, hit 8-10 and up the weight next time, seems to me like I have a very good hedge againsty injury, especially given my age.

        From what I can tell, I am already approaching weights at or greater than my 1RM 2 months ago, yet can move them for multiple reps. No injury, not even any soreness or pain, at this point.

      • chris on May 26, 2010 at 19:17


        No arguing with your injury free results/gains – n=1.

        I have in my mind both running and weight training goals that I’ve been trying to achieve before the inevitable fitness plateau which occurs in late middle-age. I’ve been eating progressively more and more Paleo over the past two years. This has corresponded with achieving the above goals in four of the five exercises I listed. (A 1.5x pull-up has alluded me thus far.)

        I’ve lost nearly 70 pounds of fat, eating healthy plants and animals. My fitness has improved as well by turning up the intensity and reducing the volume in the gym and on the hills.

        Free The Animal indeed!

      • Richard Nikoley on May 26, 2010 at 20:39

        Chris that’s super cool. Let’s just keep exchanging info in these comments as opportunities present. We’re all on a path and I have already learned a lot from comments.

  2. Patrik on May 26, 2010 at 14:34

    No worries, big man. Take a bit of time off, it must rough and stressful to produce as much high-quality content as you do. Go do something fun and don’t force it.

    BTW FTA never sucks.

  3. Gary Katch on May 26, 2010 at 15:27

    Yes, but Richard, how old are you? I’m not saying you’ve peaked, but it very possible. At some point you have to accept your limitations, and be happy to keep the inexorable degeneration to a minimum. What are you going to do if your bench just is what it is, and won’t improve?

    I know my body is still in good condition at age 54, but there are many things I cannot do that I did twenty years ago (nor do I think I even want to!)


    • Richard Nikoley on May 27, 2010 at 07:40

      49 Gary, and I’m quite certain I’m far from having peaked. I was actually told that the bench is particularly hard to gain at on a leaning regime.

      On the other hand, I’m not worried about it, particularly since I’m making gains every where else, and still at a pretty good clip. I know it will slow down eventually, probably soon, but all seems to be going great, so far.

  4. Tim Starr on May 26, 2010 at 15:59

    Maybe it’s the chest-press machine at my gym, but I’ve never had any trouble maxing it out at 200 pounds for at least 5 reps w/ a little bit of training, with either a wide or a close grip. Last time I was working on it, I’d do 5 reps with each grip per set. Don’t have access to a standard barbell & bench, so can’t say how well I’d do w/ that, but I’d expect it to be a bit more difficult.

    • Richard Nikoley on May 26, 2010 at 16:26

      Tim — and yes, will have you over once this weather gets out of the funk and we can sit outside — the press machine is completely different for me. I can easily push out 5 or more reps at 220 and using the foot bar can do negatives in excess of 300, or whatever the whole stack comes to.

      I suspect the difference is largely explained by the fact of machine vs fee weight. The latter can get somewhat scary or involve trepidation and that can count for a lot of performance difference.

  5. Tim Starr on May 26, 2010 at 17:23

    Free weights also require more use of stabilizer muscles, which makes for greater difficulty. That’s why I like my kettlebell & home-brew clubbell. They’re not the heaviest things in the world (54 & about 12.5 lbs, respectively), but their lack of balance makes them more challenging than conventional weights.

  6. Mike Sicuranza on May 27, 2010 at 07:03

    I’ve never understood the obsession with the bench press. It does nothing for functional strength and conditioning. Deadlift, squat, clean and press, pullups much more effective imho.

    Then again, I haven’t touched anything but a kettlebell and a pullup bar in 4 yrs.

    Great blog.

  7. welding electrode on June 1, 2010 at 04:09

    I know my body is still in good condition at age 54, but there are many things I cannot do that I did twenty years ago

  8. welding rod on June 1, 2010 at 04:09

    BTW FTA never sucks.

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