Breaking In Your Bench Shirt
By Jamie Matta, Team FHF Powerlifting Coach, Fair Haven Fitness Co-Owner, and RPS VT, ME, NH Co-Chair
As a geared lifter, I have competed in bench shirts for over 20 years. I literally have used almost every shirt made, from Titan, Overkill, Inzer, Karin’s, Ginny’s, and Metal. The thing I have learned the most is when breaking in a bench shirt every single shirt is unique. Here are some simple tips on how to break in some of the current brand shirts.
I will start with Titan. When it comes to Titan shirts the material stretches quite a bit. It is very important to break in these shirts slowly! Start out with a lighter weight and use a 3 board for triples. In between each set use a spray bottle, with water, to spray both the chest plate and the seams where the chest plate is connected to the arms. Titan shirts with a competition fit are very tight, so each week drop down one board. Stay with triples. This will allow you to work the grove of the shirt and work with weights that are submaximal until the shirt feels ready.
How do you know when the shirt is ready? In any given shirt, you should be able to touch once the shirt is broken in and have plenty of rebound out of the bottom. Also, most of the cracking and popping noises should be gone, once the shirt is broken in. For Denim shirts, we never use boards to break them in. With Ginny’s shirts, I use water on the chest plate and I also use it on the seams behind the triceps. I like to break in denim shirts without boards because of the groove of the shirt. The collar is the key! Keep the collard high and each week gradually drop the collar down the chest. Every ½ inch you drop the collar is about 25 lbs more support from the shirt. Once the shirt is well broken in the collar should now stay fairly low. Benching in denim is like wearing your favorite jeans!! You have to take care of them! Do not use this shirt without first spraying water, even once it is broken in!
For Metal shirts, I always found the chest plate to break in fairly easily, but the arms can be extremely difficult. One trick I recommend is put a small ball in each arm and inflate the ball with a pump just enough to feel the ball against the sleeve and then soak the sleeves in water. Usually, I do this 2 to 3 weeks before each bench workout. Be very careful not to inflate the ball too much or you will blow the sleeve apart (yes I’ve done it, lesson learned!)
For the Inzer Phenom, Brian Carroll helped me a lot with this shirt and the break in process. I used a board break down and grip progression.
Inzer SDP Break In
Week 1: pinkies on the ring to a 3 board
Week 2: 1 finger wider to a 2 board
Week 3: 1 finger wider to a 1 board
Week 4: Competition grip to a 1 board
Week 5: You should be ready to touch
Again every single use I would spray the shirt with water. The Phenom chest plate is very thick, so it will take a bit to break through all that material, depending on how many layers of fabric it is.
Patience is key for breaking in any shirt. Do not rush the process! Always allow 3-5 weeks to break in any shirt properly. Use Sets of 3 repetitions and always spray with water. If at all possible, try to break in the shirt yourself, as long as you are near competition weight. Five to 10lbs of body weight is a dramatic difference in a shirt. If your weight is off a bit from competition weight, I recommend waiting until you are closer to your competition weight; otherwise, you will have to have the shirt taken in because it will be already stretched out on you.
For any questions about the break in process or about bench shirts in general contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Facebook @ Jamie Matta.