More about Benchpress Legend Pat Casey

Ken Leistner used to write for the strength magazine ‘Powerlifting USA’. He was a highly decorated author and chiropractor. He met the legendary powerlifter ‘Pat Casey. The following excerpt is from PL USA (1996. July) – Mr. Berg

“Not every lifter has his or her own ideas about the squat, the deadlift, or training for those two lifts.

They are hard, technical, fraught with potential danger relative to injury, and done by many only because they are part of the competitive lifts and/or because one cannot get truly strong without doing those two movements.

Almost everyone thinks they know something about the bench press. Most lifters, if they did any weight training, bodybuilding, or strength training for a specific athletic activity prior to becoming a powerlifter, did the benchpress.

Because of that, and the fact that everyone seems to want to talk about the lift, there are literally thousands of opinions and approaches to improving the bench press. Of course, the fact that some of our lifters can move a ton of weight in this lift while knowing absolutely nothing about training, nothing about training for the bench press, nothing about why what they do works or doesn’t work (this is called getting stronger in spite of, not because of, what you do) doesn’t negate the fact that they still don’t know what they’re doing.

While this occasionally happens in the squat or deadlift, it often happens in the benchpress.

I was fortunate enough to understand how little I actually knew about lifting and other things. To this day, I believe that our lifters are successful because I’m always looking for ways to improve my knowledge, a function of knowing that I just don’t know enough.

Reverend Robert Zuver and the guys at Bill West’s garage gym were very instrumental in giving me a good foundation of knowledge, despite the fact that they did things differently.

Pat Casey, a gentleman whom I am in contact with constantly, was one of the best examples to observe and learn from.

Few were as focused on a goal as he was. Hugh Cassidy let me know that having limited equipment in a garage setting was an advantage to one’s lifting, not a detriment. From these individuals, I learned and from so many around today, I still learn.

One can take two distinct approaches to the bench press. I have dubbed one the ‘Hugh Cassidy Approach’ and one the ‘Pat Casey Approach’. Fitz Cassidy was and is of the belief that one should bench press if they intend to bench press well in competition.

Any assistance work looked very much like the benchpress. Some favorite were close grip bench pressing and weighted pushups, the latter done on a “frame” that sits in my garage, that allows one to achieve a greater than normal range of motion, but with a grip similar to the bench press grip. I have always used the overhead press as a primary pressing movement, most often doing it instead of the bench press.

During the course of any particular specific program, the press may have been done instead of the bench press and with no other bench related movements done. At times the weighted dip or pushup may have been done as an adjunct, but this would be the maximal amount of work done.

Remember that Fitz benched 600 doing nothing but the bench press and his aforementioned variations. He felt that the musculature involved in the benchpress would be given all the work needed in this way. No matter what one’s belief he also felt that one had to spend a long time laying the foundation for the three lifts, obviously including the bench press, and that one’s first few years, should be spent concentrating on this particular approach.

The Pat Casey Approach was very different. Pat did a myriad of assistance exercises, each designed to give work to one or some of the muscles that were involved in the benchpress. Of course, he always included the bench press in competitive style in his programs and he always trained heavily. Even his assistance exercises were done heavily, although for Pat, what might have been moderate or light, would definitely be a very heavy chore for almost anyone else. Pat included the bench press and then, some or all of a variety of raises and other pressing movements.

Included were the one arm lateral raise, front raises, incline press, incline press with dumbbells, seated press behind the neck, dumbbell press, one arm dumbbell press, rack work from various positions, weighted dips, lying tricep extension, and chins.

As Pat was quoted, “…to become a really good benchpresser you have to concentrate on bench pressing and those exercises that favor this lift.”

Hugh once said to me “I think Pat Casey is a great, great lifter, especially as a bench presser. I have tremendous respect for him.

I do however think that his programs are more like bodybuilding programs and as great as he was, perhaps he could have been even better if he had done less work for the lift”.

Of course, we will never know but both approaches have advocates and examples of those who have done very well. Mike Bridges, a model of training efficiency, did little more than the bench press for that lift, and, of course, is arguably the best lifter of all time.

Lou Simmons and his Westside crew do a variety of innovative assistance movements to augment their benching, and he has a number of world record level bench pressers. Part of the process of becoming a powerlifter is to find out what works for you. I do agree with Cassidy that, no matter what, a lot of time has to first be spent learning how to bench press properly for one’s particular body leverages, getting technically proficient, building strength by doing the bench press and little else, and then, seeing what is needed to improve further.

Like bodybuilding, most lifters tend to do too much than too little. They also are very quick to adopt whatever new program or exercise are shown in PL USA whether their needs are satisfied by the new movement, or not.

Powerlifting requires patience and, if nothing else, that is good advice no matter who is giving it.”

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