Metal Militia Training
Anywhere you go in the world if you meet a Metal Militia lifter, they will be able to help you instantly whether its to handle you at a meet, hand off to you, spot you or yell at you during your lift. It’s because Metal Militia is a way of lifting which once learned is consistent in its principles, training exercises, technique, volume and intensity. There is also a pride in the way the lifts are executed.
Metal Militia was founded by Bill Crawford and Sebastian Burns. During a time in powerlifting where criticism and bashing other lifters, Bill and Sebastian wanted to get people together that were cool with each other and supportive. They were at a time when bench shirts were becoming popular but not many people knew how to use them or how to train to get the most out of them. They began to travel across the US giving training seminars on how to put the bench shirts on, how to set up on the bench and how to get the most out of the shirt. Sebastian followed up with articles on Hard Work and Bench Press set up along with DVD videos explaining their techniques. With time, the camaraderie and the understanding of what Metal Militia was about began to grow and Metal Militia training chapters were formed across the world.
So What is Metal Militia?
Mike Miller when asked this question in an interview, answered with “if you don’t know, I can’t explain it to you”. He is right, you have to experience it to understand it. Which means train with the Metal Militia or attend a seminar given by Metal Militia.
Let me try to explain. Metal Militia is “strength in numbers”, a slogan on one of their shirts, meaning Metal Militia is a team. You lift in a team, you support the team and the team supports you. When you experience that feeling of a team behind you willing to step up and do anything you need, you will know what it means. You will feel the strength of the team. Metal Militia is now has chapters all over the world. When you are Metal Militia you have brothers that will help you everywhere.
Metal Militia is an attitude. A quiet internal rage for achieving your goals, unleashed in every workout in every lift. When you see Bill Crawford or Sebastian Burns before a lift, don’t talk to them, don’t try to have a conversation with them, don’t even stand in front of their line of vision. They are focused in their training as if they were at a meet. They have goals for each training session and each lift and their lift begins long before they even approach the bench. When you see that quiet intensity, you realize that everything that you have been doing up to now is just trying, just pretending. You learn that to make a lift, you decide to make it, you are deliberate in your movements. You take control of the bar, you are in charge, not the bar. You don’t let the bar come down until it stops, you take it to where you want it to go. You are in control. When you miss a lift it is not because you weren’t focused or didn’t push hard enough, its because something technically went wrong or the weight was just too much for now. There is no fear, there is no trying, there is just attitude and that’s how you make your lift. When you see a Metal Militia lifter at a meet, their chair is turned away from the platform, they are not watching the other lifters, they are mentally focusing on their next lift, building the internal rage to achieve their goal.
The other part of attitude is team based. After your lift, you focus on the other team members. Spot, load, help with setting up their gear and encourage them during the lift.
Metal Militia is a technique. Metal Militia are bench press specialists. Every Metal Militia lifter knows how to put on a bench press shirt to make it tighter or to make it looser. The technique extends to proper bench press set up which is more than half of the success of the lift, then the bar path and groove. The training technique is competition lifting every lift, which means hold the bar before descending, wait for the press call and then hold it at the top for a few seconds before racking it. There is a pride in executing the lift properly. I saw Sebastian Burns almost attack a referee for giving a rack call too early on a successful bench. Burns was raging because to him the lift although was perfect, was taken away from him too early. You can fail on strength but you never want to fail on technique. This is why in Metal Militia training you ALWAYS touch in your shirt. The last two inches is where all the technique and groove come together. You are always working on technique. If you work up to a max weight and fail, it is because of technique. What you do then is go back down and work your way back up with better technique.
When you learn the Metal Militia technique you use it all the time. Your raw benching now becomes the same as your shirt style benching with just the exception of moving your grip in slightly. Bench the same way raw as you would in a shirt from now on and never go back. You are learning a new groove and reinforcing it every time.
Metal Militia is a way of training. Train the upper end and train to build strength. If you train for full power, you may bench just once a week otherwise you should bench twice a week. At Metal Militia Montreal, we added a second bench day to build our raw strength and build bottom strength. On our main bench day, we bench in a shirt every week of the year. In fact, if you want to build more raw strength, training in a shirt will get your body adapted to lifting heavier weights without the strain on the weak links such as shoulders and pecs. The rest of you will be overloaded.
The Basics of Metal Militia training
Technique is important. You always touch in a shirt every workout. If you bench 800 you should be able to touch with 500 lbs. Train in a loose shirt to learn how to tighten it up, and train in a tight shirt without losing your form. The higher up you pull the collar of the shirt, the easier it will be to touch. To tighten the shirt pull the collar down more with each lift.
Pull your shirt down to the right level for the weight you will bench. Put your belt and wrist wraps on and then have someone pull your shoulders up on the shirt, but not too high. The closer the sleeves are to the elbows the more support you will get.
Sit down on the bench, lean back and grab the bar in the middle with both hands. The reason for this is if you grab the bar wide, your shirt will rise up as you set up. Try to set up without letting your shirt rise up. Set your feet up behind you and then pull yourself back way off the end of the bench. Plant your feet and then pull yourself forward, stretching out your hips as much as possible. Point your knees down. One of the big differences of making a lift or not is whether you are able to stretch your hips out. Arch your lower back and puff up your chest and arch your upper back. Pull your shoulder blades together. Your eyes should be directly under the bar or slightly ahead of the bar on the feet side. Move your hands out to take the full legal grip allowed.
Your lift off person should hand the bar to you in a way that your arms are straight and when you receive the bar, they tilt forward. You don’t want to waste strength getting the bar with bent elbows then having to push up to lock out your elbows. Your hand-off person should not hover over you after they give you the bar, they should step back, but be ready to jump in to save you. If they hover over you, you will get used to them being there and then at a meet, when the hand-off person has to step away, you will lose your orientation. So, get use to looking up at the ceiling.
Now once you have the bar out over the top of your chest, keep your elbows locked out and “settle the weight”. This means let the weight of the bar push your shoulder blades together even more and puff up your chest. Take a big breath and fill your stomach. Turn your elbows out and start to lower the bar straight down toward the top of your chest. Bring it down until the shirt stops you. Keep your elbows out, that will keep the shirt tight. Once the shirt stops the bar from going down any further, you now have the shirt loaded. Start to move the bar toward the lower part of your chest, toward your stomach, but keep the elbows out the whole time, Keep your forearms straight under the bar. Move the bar forward with your shoulders not your elbows. AS the bar comes lower your arch pushes harder, your heels push down and you push you belly up hard. AS you get closer to your belly, the last two inches the belly rises to the bar. Touch with just the bar barely touching the surface the shirt, don’t sink or rest the bar on your chest. Wait for the press call, but anticipate it. The last two inches of the bar movement should be almost at a 45 degree angle and when you get the press call, you start backwards at the same angle as you came in, back at 45 degrees, then start to go up. Don’t explode off the chest because you will end up pushing straight up. Instead, move the bar in the right direction first, then explode all the way to the top. As the bar goes up, you move it backwards so that it goes up on an angle, like a leg press. When you reach the top, lock your elbows out and hold it there for a few seconds. Even in training get used to holding the bar at the end of each lift. This will make you stronger.
Elbows in is Wrong
A lot of times you will hear people at a meet or in training elsewhere yelling, “elbows in”. This is wrong, very wrong. Elbows in is used only as a last resort, when you are hovering two inches from touching and you have done everything else possible to touch, then try bringing your elbows in to touch. Otherwise, if you start with your elbows in right at hand-off or even half way down, you are loosening your shirt immediately and moving away from the support of the shirt. With elbows out, you are using the full support of the shirt, first by loading it properly and then riding down with the shirt supporting your elbows all the way. Turn your elbows in and you lose that support instantly. So, people who turn their elbows in, then compensate by looking for tighter shirts. The other reason the elbows in technique is wrong, is because, now with a tighter shirt, you bring the bar down and move toward your stomach and the shirt locks up on you two or three inches off your chest. Now, because you have already turned your elbows in, you have nothing left to bring the bar down lower with. You have nothing to loosen your shirt with. You literally are stuck, hovering. Then people in this position often make it even worse by curling up their back and trying to touch, but their stomach and chest run away from them and the bar still hovers, the bar comes down, but so does the chest, so the bar stroke just got longer. Plus, now they have lost all back strength and lost their groove.
Heels down! When you set up, position your feet back far enough that your heels are off the ground if your federation allows it. Also, put your feet out wider if you can for stability and keep your ankles in line with your thighs. In other words push your ankles out so that they don’t turn in toward the bench. Stretch you hips out in your warm-up and when you set up, point your knees down as much as you can. You will feel when you get leg drive, you whole arch will feel solid.
The arch is your solid foundation. Developing a good arch not only cuts down on the length of the bar stroke, but more importantly
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