Archives For Q&A

Your questions, my answers!

I get this question asked a lot, so instead of re-typing my answer every time someone asks, I'm just going to answer it here and copy-and-paste my answer (or send them the link to this post) the next time I'm asked.

Man, should have done this earlier! Would have saved me a lot of time!


Why do you do reverse grip bench presses instead of regular bench presses like a normal person?


I started doing reverse grip bench presses because a regular grip was causing me pain.

First it was shoulder pain that radiated down both of my arms from regular bench presses.

Shoulder Pain

Even this magical bright light couldn't cure my shoulder pain

It was probably shoulder impingement. As for grip width, my pinkies were on the bar markings so it wasn't very wide.

Forearm PainI narrowed my grip, tucked in my elbows and tried "bending the bar". This more or less fixed the shoulder pain problem, but it ended up giving me pain in my forearms (forearm splints maybe?). I felt the forearm pain in what seems to be in between the bones of the forearms, the ulna and radius.

I think the forearm pain from bench presses was from tucking the elbows in while gripping the bar hard on the descent. Gripping the bar with an overhand grip naturally makes the elbows flare out a bit. Forcing the elbows in to the sides of the body naturally makes the hand want to rotate (ie. supination). So trying to do both at the same time (tuck in elbows while keeping a tight grip with hands aligned with the bar), the strain is going to go somewhere, and that went to my forearms.

At lighter loads, there wasn't much pain, but as soon as the weight went up, the pain in both my shoulders and/or forearms would shut everything down and I would instantly lose my strength. I frequently missed reps because of pain.

With a regular grip (both pinkies on the bar and a more narrower hand placement), the best I could do was 340 lb. That was like an obstacle that I couldn't overcome because the pain held me back.

I have seen Jamie Lewis from ChAoS & PAIN use the reverse grip bench press (here's an article he wrote on the RGBP btw), and recall reading that he did this because of shoulder issues he had himself (or something like that).

Well, figured I might as well give it a shot because a regular bench press was going nowhere.

I switched over to the reverse grip bench press on October 1, 2012.

At first benching with a backward grip was awkward. Unracking was strange, and I wasn't accustomed to the pressure of the bar on my palms while holding the bar backwards. The first time doing it, I only got up to LMAO2PLATE (230 lb) for 2 reps. And I still experienced a bit of pain.

I stuck with it though.

It took me about 3 weeks to really get the hang of the reverse grip bench press. I ended up benching 330 lb (10 lb away from my max) in just 3 weeks of starting the reverse grip.

And it has been steadily increasing since. At the time of writing this, my 1RM is 390 lb.

Since I don't experience pain with the reverse grip, I can bench frequently (currently twice a week) and heavily, and have been making gainz since.

If you want to see some more videos of me doing the reverse grip bench press, just go here.

UPDATE: If you want to learn how to perform the reverse grip bench press, read this article I wrote for T-Nation.

Differences Between A Regular Bench Press And The Reverse Grip Bench Press

Here's a few bullet points describing some of the things that are different with the reverse grip bench press:

  • Bar touches lower on body. For me, it's below the sternum.
  • Cannot flare out the elbows (at least not much). So if the bar drifts towards the head, it's difficult to maintain/regain control because you can't flare the elbows out and get the elbows under the bar.
  • Elbows naturally tuck in (ie move towards the side of the body), so I didn't need to force myself to tuck in the elbows. I do find that if I try to force my elbows to touch the side of my body, I can feel the contraction in my lats.
  • Need to focus on pushing "down" or "out" towards my abdomen or feet.
  • Bar cannot be allowed to drift backwards (towards the head) or else you'll lose control of the bar.
  • Grip on the bar can range from 100% supinated (so that the palms are inline with the bar) to something that's almost a parallel grip (actually more like a V-grip). I find that if I'm struggling with a weight during the reverse grip (either 1RM or the last few reps of a multi-rep set), my palms will start to rotate towards each other, probably as a result of trying to flare my elbows out.
  • It's a little more difficult to control the bar, so this should be done inside of a power rack with safeties to save your life in case the bar decides to move above your neck.

MRW When I See Someone Else Do The Reverse Grip Bench Press

Every so often I see a video of someone doing the reverse grip bench press. I like to think that I had some part in inspiring them to bench press with a backwards grip, but I'm not really sure.

In any case, here's my reaction(s):

Chow Yun Fat Thumbs Up

Jackie Chan Thumbs Up

Bruce Lee Thumbs Up


So if you're experiencing shoulder pain and/or forearm pain from regular grip bench presses, try out the reverse grip. It allowed me to bench heavy twice a week without going through the pain I had with a conventional grip, and allowed me to break through a plateau once limited by pain.

The reverse grip bench press works for me, works for other people I've come across online, and it could work for you too.

Steven emailed me a question about conditioning and the Texas Method:

Hey John, I've been following you for quite some time and really enjoy your blog. My question is how would you recommend starting to place conditioning work into the Texas method.

Hey Steven,Thanks, glad you enjoy my blog!

To answer your question, assuming the typical Monday-Volume, Wednesday-Recovery and Friday-Intensity training days, I would place conditioning work on Tuesday and/or Saturday, and have Sunday and Thursday as a full rest day. Which is what I am currently doing.

The reason why is because I want to be totally fresh and fully recovered (if possible) on the 2 hardest days of the week. That is, volume days on Monday and intensity day on Friday.

The type of things to do for conditioning is really up to you, but I would do something that wouldn't interfere with your lifts, and if possible, hit some body parts that are typically not covered during your main training days and if possible still, develop and/or refine some sort of skill.

In my case, my "conditioning" days (Tuesdays & Saturdays) currently consists of:

  1. Jump rope
  2. Heavy bag
  3. Neck training
  4. L-Sit chin ups

I jump rope because back when I was training in Muay Thai, I used to skip all the time. I'm familiar with it, and it doesn't require much equipment other than a skipping rope, and doesn't take up a lot of space. It's a decent cardiovascular workout and my calves are fried after a few minutes, and I'm sweating after a few 3 minute rounds. I don't do any direct calf work, but jumping rope at my current body weight seems to be all the calf work that I need.

Hitting the heavy bag can be a hell of a workout. It allows me to stay somewhat limber with the kicks, practice the basic techniques that I've learned in the past and condition/desensitize my shins for kicking stuff. I do take it somewhat lightly when it comes to punches on Tuesdays, because I've found that if I go to crazy on the heavy bag with punches, my shoulders would be fatigued for overhead presses the next day (which is a Wednesday for me).

For jumping rope and heavy bag, I work in 3 minute intervals with 1 minute rest.

I round out the workout with neck training, and normally do L-sit chin ups in between sets throughout the entire workout.I've heard good things about the prowler and hill sprints, but I have never tried them myself. I prefer to do all my work indoors in a temperature controlled environment.

As far as intensity and duration goes, it really needs to be determined by you. As long as it doesn't interfere with your existing training, I think it should be fine. Just write it down in your training log and make notes about how you feel after adding in some conditioning, whether it is interfering with your lifts/affecting your strength etc., and make appropriate adjustments from there.

Hope that helps, and keep adding weight to the bar!


I got an email from someone who was interested in how I’m running Texas Method (TM):

Hi John,

I enjoy your blog and I was going through your log to “reverse engineer” your custom TM.

  1. Can you give more details on the weight progression and the rep scheme?
  2. Also, don’t you feel drained after the volume squat? That’s the issue I had with vanilla TM, I was dying after the squat and the volume on pressing was not as productive as it could be if I was fresher (e.g. the next day). I would be interested to know your opinion on splitting TM (volume upper/volume lower/intensity upper/intensity lower).


Hey Julien,

Glad you enjoy my blog! And I'm flattered that you're reverse engineering what I'm doing haha.

To answer your questions:

1. For weight progression, currently I am increasing by 2.5 lb weekly. It used to be 5 lb, but I've lowered it to 2.5 lb for all lifts. It’s more manageable, and I probably won’t hit any plateaus anytime soon.

If I’m trying to hit a PR, it might be 5 lb or more.

For rep schemes:

Volume Day (Monday):

Total of 30 reps of squats. I’ve done 5x5 and 10x3 previously. Right now it’s:

  • Low bar squat: 5x3
  • High bar squat: 3x5
  • Bench press: 5x5

Recovery Day (Wednesday):

  • Some sort of squat: 2x5
  • OHP: work up to a heavy single, then back off sets. Usually 3,5, up to 10 reps.

Intensity Day (Friday):

  • Low bar squat: 1x3
  • High bar squat: 1x5
  • Bench press: 3x3
  • Deadlift: 2x3

Sometimes it varies a bit, but that's generally it. I’m thinking about trying out Zercher squats on recovery day, because doing lighter squats are a bit boring.

I do not alternate bench presses and overhead presses like in the standard Texas Method template.

2. Yes, I feel drained after volume squats. I like that feeling actually. If I'm not breathing heavy in between sets and a little bit fearful of my next set, then it doesn't feel right (for volume day squats that is).

Doing volume squats will affect anything after it, but I find that I catch my breath after a few warm up sets of my next exercise.

These days I do not perform OHP on volume days. I do them on recovery day only and bench press twice a week. This has been working well as I am getting stronger in both lifts.

I've read of people doing splits with TM (in Texas Method ebooks I believe). I’ve never tried it myself though, but it looks like it could work well. Try it out!

Here's a question from Ryan from SAPT about combining Smolov Jr for Bench Press and Texas Method:

Hey John,

This is Ryan from SAPT in Virginia.  How has training been going?  Judging from the website you are smashing PR's daily.  I had a question for you.  I saw for a time you were combining the Smolov bench program and the Texas Method.  How did that work for you and how did you go about setting that up?


My Answer:

Hey Ryan,

Thanks! Actually the PR train has come to a grinding halt (been missing a lot of 1RM attempts) so I'm going back and working on 5,3 and 2RM.

Smolov Jr for bench press worked OK for me. It was really grueling, but fun. I got a 10lbs PR @340lbs, which is a bit lower than expected however.

I remember having a constant chest pump, and usually sore chest/shoulders/triceps all the time. The frequency of benching made the movement feel easier.

Basically I combined Smolov Jr for bench and Texas Method like this:

  • Bench Press on Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday
  • Squat on Monday, Wednesday & Friday

I don't think I did any deadlifting back then because I was recovering from a strained muscle in my lower back.

I started doing some overhead press at first to warm up, but I found that my anterior delts were getting too much stimulation for benching 4x a week that I ended up removing it. I stopped doing OHP for a few weeks, but when I went back to it I didn't lose any strength. I did warm up with face pulls before bench presses though.

Here are my training logs and any posts involving Smolov:

Hope that helps!


Got a question? Just ask on my contact page and I'll answer it!

Q&A: Heavy Warm Ups

September 25, 2012 — 2 Comments

Here’s a question from ShawnAcker from Fitocracy about my squat warm up:

Hey bro was looking at your workouts mad squats im hoping to eventually get to a high weight myself.. had a question tho..

Is there any reason you do light weight 1st ( as a warm up ill assume) but then you go right to heaviest but back down to lighter weights again.. do you find that helps?

I was told you were never suppose to go from heavy to light.. if that really matters i dunno.. but obviously your doing something right

My Answer:

Yes, going from a heavy weight during warm ups to a lighter weight for the work sets makes the load feel a lot lighter.

I got the idea of warming up to a weight that is heavier than the working set a few months ago. I also read about it from Charles Poliquin:

Basically the idea was to warm up to a weight that is a little heavier than the working set, so when you start doing squats on the working set, it will feel lighter.

Also, I read of something similar from Nick Horton: but he writes about squatting up to a max, and then dropping down and doing a few backoff sets.

John Broz's method also goes up to a max squat, and then does a bunch of backoff sets.

Kirksman, who apparently trained with the Chinese weightlifting team writes about Chinese lifters going for a "daily max" then dropping the weight and perform more reps:

What I've been experimenting with lately is hitting a heavy single (or double), before performing my work sets.

Currently for high bar squats my last "warm up" set is a single at 460lbs, and

My current high bar squat 1RM is 490lbs.

460lbs is challenging (94% 1RM), much higher than my working set of 395lbs, but it is not so difficult that it takes away from my work set. Once I hit my work set, 395lbs feels like nothing. I haven't tried squatting to a max every workout (yet) but it sounds exciting.

I also think that squatting heavy (90%+ 1RM) multiple times per week will get me, at least psychologically, accustomed to squatting loads near my 1RM and not be intimidated by heavy weights.