Bench Press Shirt

Info on the bench press shirt. Ever watched a world record bench press attempt and thought "What the heck is that funny looking shirt that guy's wearing!"? Well, it's a bench press shirt. To sum it up in a sentence, a bench press shirt is a shirt worn by big benchers to help increase their max 1 rep bench press. We've put together a list of bench press shirt frequently asked questions to help you understand what a bench press shirt is and how it works.

What is a bench press shirt?
As mentioned in the first paragraph, a bench press shirt is a tight fitting shirt worn by big benchers to help increase their 1 rep max bench press. The bench press shirt acts like a squat suit, it's adds some extra support to the muscles when moving a heavy weight. This allows the lifter to train with heavier weights, thus increasing their muscle growth. Bench press shirts come in a wide range of styles and fitting types. The two most popular types are the polyester and the denim bench press shirt.

Where did bench press shirts come from?
Bench press shirts begun their existence as a safety device. They were used to help protect the chest and shoulder muscles during heavy benching (like a comp, or a 1 rep max testing session). It was in the mid 80's that it was discovered that benchers could lift more weight using one.

bench press shirt 1 What's the difference between single ply and double ply?
To put it simply, a single ply bench press shirt has one layer of material, and a double ply has 2 layers. It's where the double ply has the extra support that makes the big difference. The double ply has the extra support where you're going to need it, like on the front of the shirt and front of the arms. A double ply bench press shirt will increase the weight a bencher can move by more because of this extra support. Most polyester shirts these days are double ply, and all denim shirts are double ply as standard.

What is a polyester bench press shirt?
Polyester bench press shirts were the first shirt to hit the market, and are by far the most popular type of shirt being used by benchers and world record holders today. They are a tight fitting bench press shirt, with 1 or 2 layers of polyester. The shirt is made in such a way, that the fabric of the shirt needs to be stretched when the bencher is holding the bar and moving it downwards. When the bencher pushes the bar back up, the fabric is relaxed.

These days, there are quite a few different types of polyester shirt. The three main types of polyester bench press shirts are:
  1. A shirt using the same (or similar) type of fabric throughout the whole shirt. These types of shirts are extremely tight and hard to get on. It usually requires 3 people to get one on!
  2. A shirt which has the back split open. Some shirts have the back split open permanently, others may fasten up with velcro. This gives the lifter a bit more flexibility when they're not lifting.
  3. And the third type of bench press shirt is the type which has a thin, "stretchy" material on the back. This type of bench press shirt was created to get around the USAPL's "no open back" rule.

All of the shirts mentioned above, are designed to fit the bencher as tight as possible. This makes them extremely uncomfortabe for the bencher. As a general rule though, "the tighter the better".

bench press shirt 3 The polyester bench press shirt works by making it harder for a bencher to get the bar down to their chest. So the thicker the shirt, the more resistence is given, and the more additional power the bencher has available. This is why you see really big benches being attempted with very thick polyester bench press shirts.

What is a denim bench press shirt?
Obviously, a denim bench press shirt is simply a bench press shirt made out of denim. But, a denim shirt is COMPLETELY different to using a polyester bench press shirt. Generally, a denim shirt will provide more support than it's polyester brother. Most demin bench press shirts are split back or open back, which makes them much easier to get on and off.

A denim bench press shirt is similar in shape to a polyester shirt, and works in the same principal. The denim must be stretched in order for the weight to be brought down to the chest. Because their is less flexibility in denim, a denim bench press shirt does not have to be worn as tight as a polyester. This means that most benchers can wear one for their entire bench workout.

Denim shirts do not work for everyone. Because of the type of material denim is, and the way the denim shirt is stitcted, the benchers body is under an enourous amount of pressure. Sometimes, the bencher won't even be able to get the bar down to their chest. For the denim bench press shirt to work effectively, the bencher must use perfect technique. If the technique is not 100% correct, the increase will be negligible.

bench press shirt 2 How do I know which shirt to buy?
The type of bench press shirt need will depend a lot on what style you bench. For example, do you bench high on the chest? Do you bench with your elbows out? Different shirts are suited to different benching styles. You really need to do some research. Phone around, get some info from the different manufacturers about the shirts they have on offer.

If you plan to compete in bench press competitions, make sure you read the regulations of the federation that you're going to compete in. Different federations have different rules about what types of shirt you are allowed to compete with.