The advanced body transformation part five

It had all been going so well. My weight had gone up as planned, the weights had gone up as planned, my work capacity had gone up as planned. And I felt ready for the bench press one-rep max my coach Pieter Vodden wanted me to go for in this session.

In week four I’d benched 115kg and I was hell bent on getting to 117.5kg before the transformation programme was over. And it all started so promisingly. After mobilising my shoulders I felt strong working through my warm-up sets. Normally when these feel light, rather than like trying to bench press the Death Star, that means I’m going to be able to go heavy during my work sets. 

And when I got into them, 90kg for six reps went up like I was lifting a bag of feathers. I felt good with 100kg too – but when I got to 110kg, the extra 5kg on each side made the stack look as if it had doubled in size.

I lay down on the bench feeling small and weak. Even the air felt heavy. I did manage to press the barbell but it went up so slowly and shakily I knew 117.5kg was going to be beyond me. And that’s the power, or weakness, of the mind – convince yourself you’re not going to be able to achieve something and you have no hope. I’d let my doubt fester when I should have immediately shut it down. Nonetheless, I tried for 117.5kg, not once, not twice, but three times. Failing badly during each attempt.

It was hard to take then, and watching the video now, it hasn't become much easier. But in a funny way, it was probably one of the most useful sessions I did during the transformation. If I hit all my targets at the first attempt, I'd have lost motivation to train hard because nothing would really feel like a victory. When I do manage to press 117.5kg, and I will, it will really mean something because I'll have worked so hard to get there.


Nick Hutchings worked for Men’s Fitness UK, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Nick worked as digital editor from 2008 to 2011, head of content until 2014, and finally editor-in-chief until 2015.