- Books & Biceps
- 💪Books & Biceps - Issue 263
💪Books & Biceps - Issue 263
Teddy Roosevelt White House Boxing, Jeromy Bryk on How to Bench 300, Mastering Your Dad Morning
Welcome to the hundreds of new meatheads joining our Books & Biceps crew this week! Thanks to everyone who has shared this with a friend (or many friends). You’re all Hall of Famers!
If you missed the recent issue where we interviewed the author of The Last Real World Champion: The Legacy of “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, you can read it here.
Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton by Jeff Pearlman
With the NFL season about to start, football fans are inundated with “best of” lists and “greatest of all-time” lists and every time they do running backs, Walter Payton is number one or two behind Barry Sanders or Gale Sayers or Jim Brown or sometimes even Emmitt Smith.
It’s been 30 years since Walter’s last game and wherever you rank him, one thing is for certain: Payton had one of the longest, toughest, hardest fought roads to becoming an NFL star.
And he contained multitudes.
Here are a few things you likely didn’t know about Payton:
Walter Payton was an excellent dancer - like, could have been a professional-level dancer for Michael Jackson or a stadium touring breakdancer.
Walter Payton had an electrifying personality. He was the most popular person in every school and on every team he was on.
Walter Payton was handsome and slick with the ladies, often juggling several women at a time.
Walter Payton was heavily into fashion way before most athletes who care about ‘drip’ were born.
Walter Payton overcame racism, a small town, a small college (Jackson State) and a small-minded NFL coach to become a legend, and Jeff Pearlman tackles all of it in Sweetness. If you’re looking for a football bio to read before this seasons starts, pick this one up.
Every Monday morning I post a live picture from the Flex Factory like this on social media:
bench o’clock monday morning
— Jon Finkel (@Jon_Finkel)
Aug 28, 2023
It started as a joke but now it’s become a de facto bat signal for my fellow early morning meatheads haha. I post it super early on Monday morning when I’m finishing up my bench and all my social media lifting dudes will post pics of their home gyms. It’s awesome…
As I mentioned a few Books & Biceps ago, I’m on a mission to get my bench back to about 315, so I’ve been following some powerlifters for tips. One of my favorites who I’ve gotten to know a bit is Jeromy Bryk of the Bryk Squad (yeah, it’s cool to have a cool last name).
I’ve been getting a lot of Qs about benching lately since I talked about my goal, so figured I’d bring in the big guns (literally) to answer our questions.
Please enjoy this exclusive Q&A about all things bench with Jeromy:
Finkel: When you cruise through your local gym or see people posting videos online, what is the most common mistake you see when it comes to bench press form? And how do you fix it?
Bryk: The most common mistakes are usually flaring the elbows too wide/using too wide of a grip, or forgetting to stabilize their lower body.
Typically we want the upper arm to be at around a 45 degree angle to keep the shoulder safe and also get as much strength as possible out of the pecs+triceps.
For the legs, try to drive the heels into the floor through the entirety of the press. If someone came up along side you and tried to push you off the bench, your lower body should be so stable that you don’t move at all!
Can you give us a breakdown of the muscles responsible for a big bench? Like is it 80% chest, 10% legs, 10% triceps...? Where does the force come from?
The pressing power comes from the pressing muscles, which would be your chest, shoulders and triceps. HOWEVER, a big strong upper back/lats are necessary to stabilize the weight and allow the pressing muscles to do their job.
Think of the back like the “brakes” and the front of the body like the gas pedal.
When it comes to growing your bench, what is the best non-chest exercise to increase your strength during the lift?
Any sort of rowing variation, or my personal favorite, the incline chest supported shrug!
This builds the mid traps which help stabilize the upper back during the press.
Here’s a link if you aren’t sure what it is: https://youtu.be/e9tgabmpV1o?si=ZvMnNQAnU0qUYfXy
Let's talk about bench press grip and where your hands should be. It used to be that your hands were one thumb length into the grip on the bar. What's a better way to visualize proper hand placement?
Usually I recommend utilizing a push up grip for most- but bench grip can be wider or closer than that depending on what you are trying to bias or where you get most power output from.
But in general, shoulder width or push up grip is the move!
If someone has been benching for a long time (me) and they're trying to get past a plateau (also me), let's say they want to get from 290 to 315 (yeah, me again), what's the best way to break through? Higher volume? Lower reps more weight?
Hear me out- increase your frequency.
On the BRYKSQUAD, most of us bench 3x a week- one heavy day, one volume day and one day that is either focused on explosive power or volume using another variation like incline bench or floor press.
That extra frequency will help you practice your bench press skill and force your body to adapt to the additional stimulus- as this happens, you can expect to see marked increases in your press sooner than later!
You can follow Jeromy on Twitter/X here, where he posts some great videos… And check out all of his programs or book a coaching session with him here.
I wrote this column about how much fighting Teddy Roosevelt did in the White House. Yeah, fighting:
Forget 90-year-old politicians. Imagine a President of the United States who invited fighters to the White House to brawl with him. Repeatedly.
This is the true story of how Teddy Roosevelt nearly lost an eye boxing in the West Wing... at 50 years old:
1/ It's… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
— Jon Finkel (@Jon_Finkel)
Aug 31, 2023
I’m always curious about how other dads make their mornings happen, so I shared my typical weekday morning routine here. Got some great responses, so feel free to message me yours:
Let's hear how millions of dads make it happen every morning.
When I was 25 I never would have believed what's possible by getting up early and getting after it before 9AM.
This is my typical weekday morning schedule - lots of weights, sunshine, sweat and family time - I'm sure… twitter.com/i/web/status/1…
— Jon Finkel (@Jon_Finkel)
Aug 25, 2023
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Did you know I wrote the only book that researched, reviewed and ranked every single United States President?
It’s called Jocks In Chief and it was endorsed by The New York Post, CBS: This Morning and Muscle & Fitness.
"Presidents aren't just the commander in chief - they're also athlete in chief... The Oval Office has a long history of being occupied by athletes. These sweaty pursuits are detailed in Jocks in Chief." - The New York Post
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Thank you all for reading.
Have a great weekend! - Jon
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