With the title, I may have gotten the attention of our resident rocket engineers, but I’m talking about the bench press here. Dave Tate of EliteFTS recently ran a great article asking “Does Your Lift Off Suck?” and I wanted to share some of the key points with all of you.
The reason we emphasize a lift off is so that the lifter can get their shoulders into proper position, maintain their arch and activate their lats by pulling the bar into place. While Dave Tate scoffs at the idea of lifting off with lighter sets, I encourage it. This is because I feel that it is important to repeatedly practice the correct setup to build muscle memory. If you only ask for a lift off when the weight gets very heavy, you cannot be absolutely certain that you aren’t changing things for the worse.
When giving a lift off, note that we aren’t asking for a hand out. As Dave Tate says:
I didn’t need someone to lift the weight for me. I didn’t need them to hold my hands (or the bar) through the entire lift. I didn’t need their moral or emotional support, and I didn’t need them to help finish the set. What I needed was a bit of help getting started – the rest was up to me.
This is why we do not allow people to help — even just a little — in the middle of the lift. If the spotter’s hands touch the bar, the set is over, period. That way we have no doubt that the lifter fully performed the lift on their own. No one can say for certain how much they assisted while putting two fingers of each hand under the bar as they yell “It’s all you, bro!”, and that is why you may witness such in your local globogym, but not at CFI.
Dave succinctly describes the “Perfect Lift Off” in his article:
The perfect lift off must be one of mutual understanding. You both trust that the job will get done. There is a complete understanding of the work at hand, the strength and weakness of the lifter are known, the lift off person has enough strength to focus and get the job done (mentally and physically), and the right amount of help must be given. Nothing less or nothing more – enough help to get you on your way and leave the rest up to you, while they stand back and spot. There’s NOTHING worse than a soft lift off where you have to take ALL the weight out yourself, thus screwing up your set up and causing a missed lift. It also sucks when you get too big of a lift off and the bar feels like it is being tossed on top of you because your helping hand wants to show how strong they are instead of helping to showcase your strength.
Much like the tale of Goldilocks, some lift offs can be too light and some too heavy, but our goal is to make sure each one is “just right”. Make sure you’re not trying to impress the lifter with your improvisational deadlifting ability and likewise, don’t be lazy about it. Your goal is to take a decent amount of weight off the bar so the lifter can get into proper position and just like everything we do, it takes a bit of practice!
10 minutes to work to a heavy Snatch
2 rds of 1 min on / 1 min off:
Knees to Elbows