The Slingshot

Konstantinovs took a hiatus from posting videos on YouTube, yet he seems to be back with a couple of non deadlifting videos. I had read that he was going to go up a weight class and he certainly looks bigger. Check out this pretty simple 551 bench.

The curious thing isn’t that he’s speaking English, it’s that he’s using the slingshot. It’s curious because Konstantinovs is a raw lifter (and known for his deadlift if you’re a noob). I’ve seen Kelly Starrett talk about using the slingshot as well, and he even used it for an excellent “shoulder flexion with external rotation” mob.

Mark Bell’s slingshot was designed by Mark Bell to give geared powerlifters another tool to reduce joint stress and inflammation as a result of benching. It also allows them to handle an overload and teaches proper bench positioning — a great tool. He explains how it’s put on and used in this video.

Geared powerlifters will often use a wider grip, wider than you should use for general strength training and sometimes wider than raw powerlifting. This video of powerlifters using the slingshot shows some of those wide grips; the fore arms will be angled outside of vertical when at the bottom ROM (most raw lifters should have vertical forearms at the bottom, pretty much like Matt Kroc in this video of him trying the slingshot out. ). Once training regularly in this position, powerlifters can lift more weight due to the shorter ROM that the bar travels and the assistance of a bench shirt. More weight means victory, yet that bottom position has a lot of mechanical inefficiency that can place some funky stresses in the elbows, pecs, and shoulders.

Most powerlifters, raw or geared, don’t typically do any overhead movements in training (namely the press). I consider this to be an important lift that keeps the shoulder healthy and can help augment the bench by strengthening the triceps and anterior shoulder. I know many powerlifters, even as young as 21 years old, who have bad shoulders that they have to train around. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that anyone I’ve ever coached with (AC, Chris, Mike, etc.) don’t have current shoulder problems. I’ve even rehabbed Chris back from a severe shoulder injury that probably required surgery. All of my raw powerlifting friends will notice shoulder irritation and soreness when they reduce overhead pressing frequency when getting ready for a meet. I deem pressing important for powerlifters, but the point is that most powerlifters don’t press and this is why the slingshot really helps them.

It reduces the stress on the elbows, pecs, and shoulders by allowing the same or similar range of motion, yet helps those joints along their path. However, as Starrett points out in the link above, it helps force the shoulders into maintaining external rotation throughout the lift — something that you should be aiming for anyway. By maintaining external rotation, the structures keep a position that utilizes the triceps and distributes the load throughout the pecs while aiding the upward motion of the bar out of the bottom ROM. And this is why it will also help raw lifters.

I often see some nasty internal rotation on the bench and press, even among intermediate lifters who have been on a TM set up for more than a year (you know who you are). The bench can never flourish when performed with internal rotation, and the slingshot may be a good tool to learn that proper positioning. By chronically using proper externally rotated position — with the slingshot or not — the musculature will develop in a way that allows for proper positioning with heavier loads.

But the slingshot isn’t just something that could help a weak bencher that internally rotates; after all, Konstantinovs is a raw lifter using it for 500+ pound bench training. It’s a great tool for raw lifters too. Mark Bell says that it can allow about a 10% overload on bench. This would allow some overload whether for volume or intensity purposes. It could also help improve the bottom ROM of a bench, particularly with a pause. In higher intermediate or advanced levels of powerlifting, a lifter would identify which part of the ROM is his weak point: bottom, middle, or top. Technically the slingshot could help with all three, but I see even more utility to improve the bottom ROM strength due to the help it gives in that area. A trainee could use the slingshot on their intensity days to overload the musculature and develop the strength in that bottom positioning (this would be similar to using reverse band benches that increase the load at the top ROM to help with the lockout).

In any case, I find the slingshot interesting but I’ve never trained with it or coached anybody with it. Do any of you have experience with this tool? Have you used it? Played with it? Regularly use it? Let us know in the comments, because I’m interested to know more. And if you’re a powerlifter with internal rotation problems or have a few years of experience under your belt and need a training aid, I’d consider purchasing one.

Note: I don’t know Mark Bell and am not compensated in any way for this post (although I would advertise it), I just thought it was interesting and would open the discussion for those that have experience with it.

16 thoughts on “The Slingshot

  1. Not sure if it’s just me but can anyone tell what the difference between the Original Sling Shot and Reactive Sling shot is on the website? The website lists the Maddog as double ply but doesn’t really give a differentiating factor between the Original and Reactive one. Regardless a product condoned by Mark Bell, KStar, AND Justin has the trifecta of approval and must be worth it in my opinion.

    You wouldn’t need the double ply. Nobody here would, especially the raw lifters.

    Edit: I’m referring to the Mad Dog version — it’s for more experienced lifters.


  2. @bohdi – looks like the Reactive model is for general strength trainees while the Original is more for competitive folk. Just my guess after reading the description.

  3. I have the OG red slingshot. I got it when i bought a pair of wristwraps from the same site. It definately gives about a 10% overload. Though I got close to 15% my very first time using it. The reactive (blue one) is a little less supportive. So I think it would be better for raw guys. Mark bell on his two youtube channels talks about them all alot. He also mentions for raw guys they should work up WITHOUT the slingshot to something max effort THEN put on the slingshot for overload work. i havent ever really messed around with mine. Every now and then I will put it on and rep something out which it is VERY good for. Also it helps pushups a great deal. I can usually bust out 60-70 reps all out sets after benching. But if I put the slingshot on I can do an EASY 100.

  4. We have one at my gym. It’s too small for me but the lighted guys use it from time to time and enjoy it. It’s basically two heavy duty knee wraps sewn together. It gives you spring at the bottom and that gives away at the top. It also, like you said, forces you to externally rotate the shoulders. It’s very similar to a weak bench shirt in how it feels and works. It’s a pretty great idea and I think would really help most raw lifters whether they were competitive or not. It helps work the midrange and lockout portion of your bench without using boards or going off say pins in a rack and does so through a full range of motion. You could also use it on your own in pretty much any gym but it would make unracking the bench harder so I lift off would be needed. Hope this helps.

  5. Also Mark Bell did an interview with KK in his mag and also with Malanichev. Both have vids of them using one. He prob sent them a few. He promotes the SS very well. I met him one time at a meet. Very outgoing and nice guy.

  6. I own one. I love it. I’ve had beat shoulders my whole life and without this thing I wouldn’t currently be able to “bench” heavy. I dropped overhead work for a few weeks recently and hit the bench hard. My bench got a lot stronger but also developed a tremendous pain and feeling of instability in my left shoulder. That’s when I scooped this up.

    First time I used it I hit a 5, maybe 6RM weight for nearly ten reps and five-rep set felt like a joke. While the work is certainly not “real” benching it allows me to move some good weight and my shoulders feel 100%. In fact, they generally feel better after I finish. I think the claim that it provides a 10% boost is dead on.

    My sticking point with the band is maybe a half inch higher than normal, which surprised me. I assumed the launch you get out of the hole would carry higher then it does. The fact that the band is still contacting the chest around the parallel position also made me think it would help up top more then it did. It really doesn’t provide a substantial amount of assistance past the “floor press” arm position; especially with, and probably because of, the relatively heavy weights you’re able to use with it.

    The external rotation it encourages puts you at a bit of a mechanical disadvantage once you’ve harnessed most of the potential energy of the band. I use a relatively close-grip which minimizes the assistance a bit (and it’s just been my bench grip for ages on account of my shoulders). Your mileage may vary. You definitely have to lock that bitch out.

    I used it in its own LP for a while as a bench substitute but I think breaking the volume up and doing heavy doubles, with something like a 2-3RM raw weight, works best given the explosive nature of the thing. I feel that when I hit the sling shot hard my nervous system is beat down way more than it would be for a similar raw bench session. That’s completely subjective and might not have any substance to it but I think the explosiveness that the band encourages is for real. Whatever the case may be I never feel as fucking powerful in any other pressing movement (except occasionally the push press) as when I use this thing.

    I think it’s a great tool and that’s the key: it’s a tool. Potential haters should appreciate that.

    Sorry for the wall of text by the way.

  7. @PatrickStroup

    If it’s supposed to support the joints in external rotation, wouldn’t using it for CG Bench be counterproductive?

    This question doesn’t make sense. Close grip bench has even more external rotation than the regular bench, and the slingshot would help come out of the bottom due to the flap/strap thing that stretches over the chest.


  8. Hi Justin, off topic but I have (another) question. If I’m becoming a pain in the ass just say so!

    Regarding deadlift progress – I’m on TM and my DL has slowed to a crawl, but my squat is still increasing. I feel like my squat will soon overtake my DL.

    Last friday I got (all KG) 157.5×5 on squat and 170×2 on DL (failed 3rd rep). As you can see they are very close although they did not used to be.

    As well as the standard TM template as illustrated by yourself, I’m doing RDL’s on monday (3×10 at 60kg)and power snatch 6×2 (60kg) on tuesday – Have tried power cleans, just don’t like them, they feel awkward and wrong.

    Firstly, is this even a problem? My training goals are just for general strength and self-satisfaction. No sport or powerlifting goals, at least not yet.

    Secondly, if it is a problem, do you have any suggestions of what I can do to get my DL moving again? I’m 6’2, 98kg, 29 y/o, long arms and longish legs, gaining about 3kg per month in bodyweight at the moment.

    I don’t believe my deadlift form is an issue, I get regular coaching and form checking on it and all the lifts. Thanks heaps!

  9. While we’re on the topic of gear that might help raw lifters, any thoughts on using loose squat briefs occasionally? I know some raw lifters (including myself) that have been playing around with them lately, and think they may have some useful carry-over to raw lifting, as well as helping with injury prevention. They definitely allow for overloading, which for me has helped with confidence coming out of the rack and with the final portion of the squat (because I got the feeling of heavier weights on my back, while still doing full squats, as opposed to just walkouts or partials). But I have also read on various forums raw lifters stating that using briefs ended up hurting their raw lifts.

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