How To Choose A Bench Press Shirt
One of the first decisions you must make as an athlete wishing to pursue the world of geared benching is, what shirt to use. There is a huge market for this, with several big companies making many different models and styles of bench press shirts. There are a few factors to consider when choosing a bench press shirt, including federation limitations, and your style of bench pressing. There are many different kinds of shirts, and they are all used to not only prevent injury, but lift more weight.
The first thing to look at is what does your federation allow in its meets? The USAPL only allows single ply poly with a completely closed back. The APF allows all shirts; poly, denim, or canvas, and in any number of layers, open or closed back. WABDL allows single ply and double ply poly with closed backs, but no denim. Make sure that whatever shirt you decide to go with, it is on your federations list of approved gear, and falls into their gear guideline.
There are also different brands to choose from. The largest and most popular companies include Titan Support Systems, Inzer, and Metal. Karen Klein was a small Ohio based company that specialized in making denim bench shirts. My first bench shirt I ever wore was an old double denim Karen Klein. Each company makes great products, and it is up to you which brand you choose. Talk to those around you who have experience in gear, which can make the decision easier. My own opinion says that the Titan Katana is the greatest shirt ever made, and it is the one that I used almost my entire career.
In general, most new athletes getting into gear would be best off starting in a single ply poly shirt. These are the most basic and the easiest to learn. Once the proper form has been established and the powerlifter is making good progress, I believe that once a successful competition has been made, they could decide to move on to something more extreme, or choose to stay with the same style of shirt. This general idea was not applied to me, as I mentioned before my first shirt was a double denim. After I had mastered the form and extreme pressures associated with denim shirts, I moved on to the polyester shirts, which I found to be the ones that worked better for my body type.
Every bench press shirt has what is called the “groove”. This is the specific path that the bar must be taken down in order to make a weight touch. Each shirt is different. And it all depends on what form you bench with, which shirt style would be best suited for you. Do you bench with a relatively flat back and bring the bar high on the chest? Or do you arch your back as much as possible and bring the bar low towards the belly? I was the latter of the two, and I found that denim shirts as well as the angled sleeve Titan Katana worked with my style of pressing. Titan Support Systems makes both straight and angled sleeves to accommodate different pressing styles for example.
Learning the groove of your bench press shirt is vital to being successful with it. It takes many training sessions to slowly work your way down to eventually touching with a weight. It took me 7 months to touch my first weight with that double denim shirt. I feel it is good to experiment with a vast amount of different shirts to figure out which one will work for you the best. But once you have made that choice, don’t get discouraged and change shirts too soon without giving yourself enough time to learn it. It won’t happen over night.
Other than the Karen Klein denim and Titan Katana, I have also used the Titan F6, the Titan BOSS, the Inzer Rage and RageX, and the Inzer Phenom. The RageX worked very similar to the Titan Katana, and I was able to use the same form for both shirts. The RageX material is more forgiving however, and it is easier to get weights to touch sooner. The Phenom was a very weird shirt, and I was never able to make it work. It only took two workouts for the thing to be stretched out and useless. I gave each one of these shirts and honest shot, and in the end, me and the Titan Katana became one solid bench pressing force of nature. It didn’t matter if it was single, double, or triple ply. Open or closed back. Stock or custom. That shirt was my baby.