Incorporating the SlingShot Into Your Training

When I first read about the SlingShot (or SS, or Slanger, or Egoband, or MagicBenchThing), I was skeptical. I happened to be more than a little burned out on bench at the time, after one AC joint surgery and another in the impending future. I didn’t bench much for a couple years, which was bad news, considering I was already a shitty bencher. I jumped on the “Overhead Press is more manly!!” bandwagon for awhile, but eventually, realized I was only doing that to avoid benching because I sucked at it.

slingshot

I finally manned up, realizing that the only way to get better at things you suck at is to do them, regularly. So I started benching again, and making some progress when I could stay healthy (which wasn’t often). Then, about a year and a half ago, right about the same time Justin started talking about the slanger, I saw a “buy one get one half off” sale on Mark Bell’s site, and I ordered a red (Original) XXL for myself, and a small blue (Reactive) one for my lady friend.

Since then, I’ve done a lot of experimenting with incorporating the SS into both my own lifting, as well as that of other lifters that I coach. Fast forward to today, and…well, it’s no secret that me and the SlingShot get along real, real good-like. I’ve seen personal gains (especially in regards to reduced shoulder pain), and I’ve seen even better gains from my badass lifters. I now feel pretty confident suggesting the SS to other folks, not only because I’ve seen it work, but also because I like the company. Mark Bell is a breath of fresh air in the strength community – a real guy who offers up daily selfie-vids on youtube, answers people’s questions, and seems like a pretty dece guy in general. There are several other devices out there similar to the SS, but I’ll suggest that you go to howmuchyabench.net to get yours. And, in case you’re wondering – I don’t get any financial gains out of this, just the personal satisfaction that I’m helping people set new personal records on a lift that can be very difficult to improve.

If you’re not already familiar with the SS, let me describe it to you. It’s essentially a wide, stout rubber band that wraps around your arms and, once stretched over your ribcage at the bottom of a bench press, allows elastic energy to assist with the upward motion to an overloaded lockout. The greatest help is out of the hole, and the assistance curve approaches zero at the top of the movement. This means you get a lot more work holding and locking out your bench with heavy weight, with a nice help bouncing it out of the hole. This effect is similar to a bench shirt or a reverse-banded-bench, but much, much easier to setup and perform. Since most benchers are limited by tricep strength and confidence with heavy weights, this can be hugely beneficial. Better put: The SS allows you to throw around 10 pounds over your raw 1RM for sets of 5 or 6 like it’s nothing. Sound good? Yeah, I thought so.

So, unless you’re Paul Sousa and foreverslangerless, you probably already have one, or have it on order by now. However, the most oft-asked question after someone gets their SS is “AWESOME!….now what do I do with it?” Interestingly enough, there’s really not much out there on how to formally incorporate it into your training. Here are a few suggestions on how I would include it, based on my experiences the past year and a half.

As a quick note, always use a lift-off, a spotter, a thumbs-around grip, and wrist wraps with your SlingShot. If you don’t, you’ll die. Don’t die. Thanks.

Texas Method (TM): This is the base of most programs I coach. TM for bench typically consists of a Volume Day and an Intensity Day each week, followed by accessory work. Volume Day (typically Monday, aka National Bench Day) will often consist of an Over-Warmup (OWU), followed by 3×5 at an RPE of about 8, followed by tricep and bicep brobuilding work. (Do twice as much tri work as you do bi work, by the way. It is known.) I usually save the SS for Intensity Day (ID), since the OWU adds some heavy work on Monday. On ID (usually Fridays), after the final intensity set, I will have a lifter keep the same weight on the bar, but add the SS, and do their first “warmup” set of about 3-5 easy reps to get used to the SS groove. After that, I’ll add 20-30 pounds and prescribe two sets of max reps. This is usually around 6-10 reps per set, with about 2 minutes of rest between sets. This provides a good amount of extra tricep hypertrophy work and a lot of extra full-ROM volume performed at a very heavy weight for a lifter that might only be used to handling that weight for 1-3 reps. I’ll have a lifter do this for 4-8 weeks to get used to the effect and groove of the Slingshot. Like anything else, there’s a bit of a learning curve, but within a workout or two, you should be pretty efficient. The slanger is really easy to use.

After the lifter has gotten comfortable with the SS, and their structures are used to handling heavy-ass weights, I kick it up a notch. I typically alternate SS work between what I’ve described above (rep work) and what I call “heavy work.” This usually means working up to a 2-5RM PR attempt, with a heavy 1RM attempt every couple months or so just for funsies.

Example:

Intensity Day, Week 1 (reps):

Raw: 275×5 (P-R)

Slingshot: 275×5, 295×8,9

Intensity Day, Week 2 (heavy):

Raw: 280×5 (new P-ARGHHH)

Slingshot: 280×5, 295×5, 305×5, 315×5

I suggest taking several steps up to a new PR set – it usually ends up at around 3 work sets with the slanger. Stay conservative at first, and don’t get greedy – there’s no reason to fail a SS set for quite awhile. Eventually, you can start reaching a little further, and as you do that, your comfort zone will extend, and you’ll make bigger gains. But don’t go for broke right off the bat, or you’ll fuck something up. Like, in a bad way. Don’t do that.

Linear Progression: 90% of you kids doing a linear progression are doing it wrong. If you’re one of them, you’ll figure this out after a couple years, and we’ll have a good laugh. Don’t worry, it’s not the end of the world. And neither is adding in some overload every once in awhile. If someone is doing a 3×5/3×5+/4×6+/whatever bench linear progression, I’ll have them add the SS every third session for a couple sets of heavier work after their work sets (as described in the TM example above), but nothing crazy, and preferably with an extra day of rest afterwards.

A novice doesn’t need to perform a 1RM SS effort to make progress, nor should they be attempting one if their goal is long-term strength gains, as opposed to ego-pumping and high-fiving. The SlingShot can be an effective tool to help keep things from getting stagnant, or it can be a distraction that keeps you from making steady progress. It’s up to you to make it the former, not the latter.

Equipped Lifters: The SS is not a substitute for a bench shirt. It’s going to have a vastly different groove and feel than the shirt you’ll wear in a meet. It’s a great way to build tricep strength specific to the bench movement, and it’s going to work well to make you feel more confident in simply holding heavier weights. However, it is NOT going to fix any technical problems you have when benching with your shirt! Don’t substitute one for the other. Use the SS to get stronger and use the shirt to get technically proficient with your shirt. Add in heavy sets regularly, working up to the 2-3RM range (with a pause) towards a meet, using several ascending sets.

Westside: If you don’t have personal access to Louie Simmons, or train under a coach who has trained under Louie for a good amount of time, you simply aren’t “doing Westside.” Sorry, bro. And if you do happen to be training under such a coach, he likely has his own ideas on how to incorporate a SS into your training, so listen to him, not some idiot on the internet. With that being said, If I had a lifter who, for some reason or another, absolutely had to have a conjugate-based “Westside” training style, here’s how I would do it. I’d incorporate the SS into Max Effort rotation (basically taking the place of a reverse-band bench), along with Floor Press, 2-3 Board Press (depending on arm length), and with plain old Bench Press. I’d sometimes throw it in as accessory work for the tris, in the 3-5×6-12 range (think close-grip, maybe to a 1-2 board if that keeps your shoulders happier, sometimes with the Swiss/Football Bar). At least a couple times a year, I’d throw it on for a 3 week DE cycle, at an appropriately heavier than normal weight (about 20-25% over normal straight weight, maybe adding light chains/bands, but probably not).

5/3/1 and most other programs: Rotate the SS in the same as you would other tricep-building exercises, like Close-Grip Bench, Dips, and Skull Crushers. All of these are excellent and should be incorporated regularly – but they’re still considered accessory work, and need to be considered as such. Assuming the goal of your assistance work is tricep hypertrophy, 3 or so sets of 8-12 reps is going to be your money-maker. Throwing in some rest-pause sets every once in awhile will keep you uncomfortably swoll.

Injuries: The SS is great for lifters with AC joint issues. Stan Efferding and KK have famously advocated it for this purpose, and they both bench roughly a hundred times as much as you. The reason for this is simple: It allows you to be better about keeping your elbows tucked closer to your ribs (IE, external rotation of the AC joint). Now, you still have to make a concerted effort to keep from flaring your elbows, but wearing the SS will absolutely help in that regard. For lifters (such as myself) that have had AC injuries, surgeries, or whatever, this is huge. It means you can keep benching (heavy) without experiencing pain. Sweet. Keep the reps pretty, and do a lot of paused work. “Pretty reps” means that if you can hit an ugly 225×12 raw, you can hit a beautiful set of 225×16 with the SS.

An injured lifter can also use the SS on their “volume” days (or RE, or whatever terminology you want to use), but you have to be careful about introducing it slowly and ramping it up over time, so as not to hit a wall at 90mph.

 

For those of you who already haven’t ordered one, you might ask – What color should I get?

Blue: The Reactive. Best for light-weight benchers (<250lbs) and injury-rehab, or for using for things like high-rep push-ups. Will add about 10-15% to your bench, and has a very nice bounce to it without being difficult to control. The material is the nicest “feeling,” if you care about such things, and the blue matches my eyes pretty well.

Red: The Original. This is the most popular slanger, and typically considered the best all-around. Some people prefer the blue for all raw lifters, but I’m not one of them. The red adds about 20-25% to your bench, which is a fucking lot of percents. A 300lb bencher will be able to hit 365 with a red SS and some practice. A 365 bencher will easily hit 4 plates for the first time, and as a result, will feel like a porn star. You’re welcome.

Black: The MadDog. I haven’t used one of these yet, but I’m pining for one real bad. This should easily add 30% to your bench, but will make touching light weights very difficult. It will also have a more difficult learning curve. It will probably inflate your ego twice as much as a red. If you don’t bench 4 plates, this probably isn’t the right SS for you, but it could be a fun toy to play with on occasion. Plus black is the best color – it’s like, all the colors in one. Science.

Sizing: Get a looser one to make it easier to use (less drama), or a smaller one for bigger weights. My XXL takes about .18 seconds to slide on my teeny-tiny 17″ arms. A smaller size would certainly give me more carryover, at the expense of being slightly less convenient to use.

 

If you have any questions, ask away. And if you order one, tell ’em I sent you. Maybe I can get free shipping on that new MadDog I’ve been wanting.

 

 

58 thoughts on “Incorporating the SlingShot Into Your Training

    • I’m not a big fan of the BBB template, simply because I’ve never seen it do anything remarkable. Seen lots of boredom, never seen any bigdom. It’s just a lazy way to assign accessory work without giving any actual coaching or identifying weaknesses. The 5×10 scheme isn’t inherently bad, but it’s nothing great, either.

      • Hmm, I did the BBB 3 month challenge and noticed the best hypertrophy gains I have ever made. The third month was hard as hell though, I ended up dropping the deadlifts out at that point.

        As for the Slingshot, I bought a blue one because I had heard that it was best for raw lifters. In order to get used to it I started doing one set for max reps of my training max (I use 531) after my bench sets. I started noticing gains and have just kept on doing it this way. The main carryover I have noticed is helping my bench speed. I have had trouble making bench gains in the past because my bench is sloooow. The Slingshot seems to be helping with this.

  1. Actually, white is all the colors in one. Black is the lack of all colors.

    Anyway, I wanna try this if I ever start lifting in a gym with a spot again, nice article.

    • Only when you’re talking about light, with pigments it is all of the colors combined… ;)

      I’ve learned it is best to trust your spotter, so get a good one!

  2. I lift alone in my house inside the cage of my R-3 with the pin height set appropriately. Is it really a bad idea to not have a liftoff? Or doable? I guess the main concern is lifting off a weight by yourself that is higher than you’re used to.

    Thanks

        • This is my problem as well. I’ve got the wife spotting now and again, but she isn’t comfortable with heavy weights and I don’t think she could manage much beyond about 45 lb of assist anyway.

        • My lady friend is my favorite spotter. She is under 130 pounds, and strong for her size, but I mean…it’s not like she (or anyone else) could save me if I dumped tree-fiddy on my neckbone. Even with a spot, it’s still important to be smart about your attempts. I will tell her when to take it before it’s “too late.” And look, I’m still here.

  3. Hey i noticed you alluded to RPE, the concept by Mike Tushcereerckaherioasadk or however you spell it…. I’ve tried to read about the concept but its a little over my head.

    If you could do a write up discussing the RPE concept and breaking it down to be used with various programs like you did in this article I would be ETERNALLY GRATEFUL (said in creepy alien voice).

    Also thanks for this article, iv had a slingshot for over a year, i saw some benefits through single-uses but then it sat on the shelf collecting dust because i didnt’t know how to work it into a program

    • Glad you liked it. I can do something about RPE, I’ll get to work on it soon, in a much less technical manner than Mike T. I might even include something about one of my lifters who always reports back “THAT WAS RPE ZERO, COACH.”

        • I am on board with this dude. One of the best things about this site is that you explain why you like or dislike something and also how to use it instead of just “use this because I said its awesome” which is what you see a lot of on the interwebs. Also like what you said about westside. I have tried to tell so many people that its not something you can just look up the template on the internet and start doing it. You have to know that shit inside and out or you will absolutely do it wrong. But they never listen and then after 5 days they say it didn’t help their bench at all and westside sucks

  4. (Q+A day question repost)
    Dear 70′s big Big Dudes,

    I recently tore my ACL and MCL, and am about to start 8 weeks in a hinge, then ACL surgery then whatever the rehab is post ACL surgery.

    This means I can’t squat, dead, or bench (at least, not properly). So far I have thought of Seated presses, and Pull ups. Please do you have any other suggestions for things I can exercise (not train, etc) whith a knee fully out of action?

    Do any of y’all have any experience rehabbing guys with my injuries? The doc commented that my strong hamstrings are doing quite a good job of taking over the work for the MCL. Way to go hammies! Anything that will help tighten up my sloppy knee joint would be extra appreciated.

    Also, diet: Change to maintainence calories to avoid getting chub, or keep eating to supply fuel for repairs?

    Love and hugs, etc. Ow3n

    • Im not a coach,doctor, or physical therapist but I will tell you what I would do…get my fratboy swole on and do lots of upper body shit in any fashion that I could safely manage it as often as I could. I would do seated presses in every angle and grip known to man with barbells and dumbbells. I would come out of it looking totally ridiculous but I would be awesome at seated pressing and I would have a real reason why I haven’t trained legs in six months

    • I’m always rehabbing someone from some injury, especially my competitive lifters. Typical advice: Don’t do anything that HURTS (and know the difference between being uncomfortable and hurting something). Be very aggressive, but smart, about your rehab. And yeah, get your swoll on. During rehab, start squatting again as soon as you can. Squats fix knees – fact.

      As far as diet, I’d suggest a very high protein Paleo-style diet like Justin lays out in his book. Reduce inflammatories and jack up your fish oil to a hunge. Nobody got fat eating meat and protein. Add lots of veggies like kale, which is basically a superfood, and works really well as a bacon-fat-transport-device.

      After you’re all done, stop doing things that tear ACLs. No good for the gains.

  5. Hey Cloud, favorite elbow-friendly tricep work? Right now, my only real tri assistance is CG and dips. I’ve tried light LTEs and French press and my elbows were just like unnnghhgh dis hurts. No elbow pain normally with bench or push-ups.

    • Pullovers, if your gym has a machine like we do from the 70’s. One of my absolute favorite tricep builders. It targets the long head quite well, with little-to-no elbow pain. Plus, ours has a seat belt. Just saying.

      But get to work on rehabbing the elbows, too. Neoprene sleeves, an inner tube (or VooDoo band), and more curls will do wonders, along with a lax ball on the forearm, and ice. Lots of ice.

  6. Alright so you pointed out near the start of the article that this will especially help since the majority of people are tricep weak and have problems on the lockout….

    so what about me, where I’m the exact opposite? I have a bitch of a time getting the bar off my chest, but if I can get it about 2-3″ off my chest it’s going to be locked out 99% of the time. Pause benching has helped some, but I still get stuck around the same area every time. My chest just doesn’t get stronger, and as a result I can only bench about 40lbs more than I can strict press (5RM). So….thoughts/suggestions/anything? I’ve been on TM since christmas, SS before that.

    • Hate to say it, but it sounds like a form issue from here. Make sure you watch AC’s vid from last week about setting up and staying tight out of the hole. How often are you benching? What kind of grip are you using? You have a vid?

      My general approach in regards to paused bench work: Unless your bench is, say, 1.5x BW or higher (read: dece), I’d have you working you working touch-and-go almost exclusively. Nobody cares what you can pause if it’s less than, say, tree-fiddy, knowwhatimsaying?

      Now, if you are a good bencher and an amazing presser (or are about to compete in a meet), there’s room for paused work. Jenn Thompson’s “T-shirt pause” is excellent for this. Basically, you long-pause about a millimeter above your chest (like it’s resting on your shirt, forcing you to stay tight as opposed to sinking it into your chest meat) and explode out of the hole. I really only program these as part of a meet-prep program, though.

      • I started doing paused bench strictly on volume day (without reducing my volume weight). I’ve been getting much more sore the day after, but when I do touch and go on my intensity day I feel way more power coming out of the bottom.

        • What you’ve done is increase the intensity of your volume day, while also working on a form cue (that could be coached). Both are attainable while working touch-and-go vs. paused, it just depends on your method. As I said, my method is to get a lifter’s TNG bench to a respectable number before overly worrying about their paused max. This is similar to how I only really use box squats for coaching purposes, and never for volume work. To each his own.

      • I’ve been doing AC’s style for about 6 months, rotating benching and pressing each training session on TM. I’ve gotten up to 1.5x BW before for a single when I was much lighter, but haven’t maxed in a long time. I’m hitting around 1.2-1.3x BW for sets of 5 on TM.

        I’m still really tight in the hole, but the possible problem I can see is that I can’t keep my feet tight due to my gym having floors that are mopped seemingly ever 10 minutes. So if I dig in too hard at the bottom they’ll kick out and everything goes to shit. Thoughts on what I can use for that?

  7. Cloud, I’ve got “weightlifters shoulder”, had my second cortisone shot last week and it didn’t do shit. I’ve been thinking about a slingshot, but I can’t even get through a 95lb warm up without pain, and I haven’t seen 135 for over 6 weeks.(my max is 235×2, by the way). My thought process is, if I can’t get 95lbs up w/o pain, how will I be able to work 200-225 with a Slingshot? Do you think it will help?

    • No, I don’t think it will help on its own. Sounds like you need a proper rehab period and some work on mechanics. If the cortisone shot didn’t cool down the area within 24 hours, something’s up. Don’t get a third one, get a better ortho and PT.

      For what it’s worth, some folks exacerbate AC issues by pressing TOO much. So make sure you aren’t causing more harm than good.
      Good: Building balanced deltoids and improved posture.
      Bad: Inflaming the joint and forcing it to build scar tissue.

      Proper shoulder rehab can take months. It sucks, but it’s better than a lifetime of pain.

      • Hmmm, that was not the answer I was looking for. Thanks though. Did you have a similar AC problem (Distal Clavicular Osteolysis) and did your surgery work out ok?

        • It was a few years ago, and I’m still bitter enough to avoid looking at the paperwork. My surgery was OK, but I wasn’t aggressive enough on the rehab and learned a lot of lessons the hard way.

    • look up prolotherapy, I have had a ton of success with it and I know a lot of others (some lifters as well) who have too. I had it done on my shoulder.

  8. Well this post made me want a sling shot real bad.
    I like your writing style Cloud, it makes me laugh multiple times per paragraph and that’s all I really ask for out of the interwebz.

      • I use 5 singles on Intensity Day like 2.7% of the time, at the most. Not a big fan except for very specific situations.
        My typical TM ID progression is:
        1 Max Rep Set (4-8RM) for as long as possible, using 2.5-5lb jumps, then
        Descending triples (3RM, then a backoff triple) using small jumps as long as possible, then
        3 ascending doubles for a few weeks (hitting a new PR each week on the top set), then
        deload week ending with a new 1RM test or meet
        reset, repeat
        My SS strategy stays the same, unless it’s near a real meet, in which case I taper down it’s use a bit, along with all other accessory work. I am toying with some heavy holds with the SS, but can’t definitively say if I will keep it or not.

        My arms are like 17″ or so cold and flexed, last I checked (closer to 18″ pumped), and the XXL fits loosely enough to make it easy to put on, or a bit snug with my elbow sleeves. I have guys with arms as small as 15″ or so that have used it, and as large as 18.5 or so. My next one will likely be an XL MadDog to keep it from sliding around if I’m not wearing elbow sleeves.

        • Thanks for the extensive reply.

          Does that TM ID progression apply to deadlifts, too? And, do you still do an OWU for deadlifts, and also for the other lifts when ID shifts into 2 descending triples or 3 ascending doubles?

          I think if you did an article about deloading for the intermediate lifter, it’d be cool.

          • You’re welcome, no, no, no (OWU is on volume day, brah).
            Hmmmmmmm. Maybe. I’ll have to think about that one. Deloads, IME, are highly individual.
            As far as deads go, I don’t do an OWU (which I think I said in the article). Most of my people are running what I call the “KISS” program for deads (article or e-pamphlet coming soon), or the super-advanced-pull-3xBW-for-heavy-triples program.

            • I should have stated my question better. I meant, do you still do an OWU on volume day, even when ID shifts to triples and then doubles?

              My thought was the OWU and the weight on ID would be really close as ID shifts to triples and doubles. In your OWU article the OWU on VD is 275 and ID is 255, so a pretty big difference. But, eventually that difference will get smaller, so I didn’t know if that mattered.

              And, yes you did state you don’t do an OWU on deads. I need to like, read better.

  9. Your comment about doing LP wrong caught my eye. I’m not young but I am doing LP right now and am definitely curious abouthow I might be messing it up.

  10. Er, Cloud, the AC joint doesn’t externally rotate; that movement is performed at the glennohumeral joint (i.e. shoulder). Staying externally rotated in the bench keeps the scapula from protracting, which would load the AC ligaments, ah, unfavorably.

  11. If you are poor and also don’t bench that much (like sub 300), you can pull your t-shirt (or an extra t-shirt, preferably) over your head hockey-fight style (so it is just around your upper arms, and in front of you) and it essentially does the same thing. I was able to break the 300 barrier after just a few weeks of doing this when I was stuck around 275.