In this article, we catch up with all-time world record holding powerlifter Emily Hu. Since her start in powerlifting, she’s set multiple world records in the 123 lb weight class. We asked her for some bench press advice, and her thoughts on some of the misconceptions surrounding the bench press and female athletes.
Hu is coached by powerlifting legend Dan Green at Boss Barbell Club, so it’s safe to say that her strength and constant progression are not by chance.
Currently, Hu holds the all-time women’s world record for the bench in the 123 lb weight class. She set this record at the RPS US Open back in April 2016. To seal the record, Hu benched 275 lbs, which is well over 2x her bodyweight.
BarBend: What are your favorite accessory movements for getting stuck at the bottom of the bench?
Hu: Foor presses, pin presses, and dumbbell flies.
BarBend: What are your favorite accessory movements for getting stuck at the top of the bench near lockout?
Hu: I don’t often have trouble with my lockout, but for that I think close grip bench press has been pretty helpful.
BarBend: What are your all time favorite bench accessories?
Hu: In general, some absolute accessories I have to do to get good at the bench are buffalo bar bench presses. I think they’re great for focusing on and building a strong chest. Also, flies and the occasional close grip bench press.
BarBend: Going into a meet, how often do you bench week?
Hu: I bench 3x a week. I think that works pretty well for petite women because we can’t go do as big as jumps as men do. For men, I think some athletes do very well training bench 2x a week, but taking bigger jumps between workout one and two.
Again, for women, especially like myself, who don’t inherently have a ton of muscle, we can benefit by benching 3x a week with smaller jumps between workout one, two, and three.
BarBend: Outside of bench training, how often do you train shoulders [delt work specifically]?
Hu: Very seldom actually. The majority of the delt training I get would be from include bench press, or from a lot of the back work I do.
BarBend: Decline or incline, which do you like more and why?
Hu: Decline is more fun because it’s easier, but incline works best for me because it closely mimics the way I bench.
BarBend: What are a few common misconceptions you see with the bench press and women powerlifting athletes?
Hu: I think the most common misconception [besides the lifting will make me bulky], is how women train like men because in many instances women learn how to powerlift from their boyfriends.
So women will train the same style, same technique, same incremental jumps, a lot of it similar to their boyfriends, but that’s not going to work. Women will often need more volume than a man and will need to go up in smaller increments. Also, we’ll probably need different accessory movements and technique.
BarBend: Stemming from that point, why do you think some women who strength train shy away from the bench?
Hu: Some women tend to think that this movement will make them the bulkiest. They think that they’re going to get big pecs and shoulders. Most girls want nice legs and a squat booty, but not many girls want a big upper body. And I think we’re told by society that a bench will make us look like a linebacker.
BarBend: Who are your powerlifting idols?
Hu: Well, Dan Green is my coach, so he’s definitely one of them, but that’s probably a gimme. In terms of coaches, I really like Boris Sheiko, he’s old, wise, and his results are great. And in terms of my bench press idol, it’s probably going to be Kerill Sarychev.
BarBend: When’s your next meet?
Hu: March Madness, it’s an SPF meet, and funny enough it’s on April 1st, and not in March at all.
BarBend: Do you have ambitions on topping your current all-time world record?
Hu: Maybe not this meet, but possibly the US Open in May. If my body feels up for it, then I’d love to break 300 lbs.
Feature image from @ami_the_benchbrah Instagram page.