Bench Shirt vs. Raw Bench – A Very Different Perspective and Experience

By Coach Ben, Strength Coach at Gaglione Strength in Long Island, NY, and Nationally-Ranked Powerlifter

Coach Ben

Lately, I’m seeing a trend that makes me really happy. More and more lifters jumping in bench shirts and taking some big weight for a ride! Being an equipped lifter myself and really understanding the difference in feeling between equipped and raw it’s exciting to see and it’s been a lot of fun for my training crew. Just the other day we had a lifter smoke 425 off a 2-board for a big PR! Mind you he hasn’t done 300 raw yet so the difference in lifts and ability to handle more weight is staggering.

When talking bench shirts a lot of people are puzzled by a few questions. What’s it feel like? How much weight can I add? Then they get intrigued. If I wear a shirt can I also add 100+ to my bench quickly?? I bet I can hit a 200 lb PR over my raw bench easy!

In short, I can assure you it isn’t easy and it sure doesn’t feel great. In fact, the whole time it sucks and it hurts. So why do it? Because taking your raw squat max over your face is fricken awesome and exhilarating! The whole rep is a huge adrenaline rush and having those big weights in your hand is real freedom. Some people like skydiving, I like having 700 in my hands ready to potentially crush my face

So I figured I’d delve a little into the feeling of both worlds. Hows the bench shirt feel in comparison with raw benching?

Read on…

Raw lifting I relate to a safety net. If you fail a raw lift you likely aren’t putting yourself at much risk. Usually, the spotters can react more quickly and you can always fight the descent of the bar a bit. I’ve never been nervous for my safety during a raw bench. Once you jump into a bench shirt all that changes very quickly!

It happens to all of us while learning the shirt. It’s a welcome to the club type of thing. You hit some pretty big weight to a 3-board and you start feeling all high and mighty about yourself. You go one board lower and all of a sudden the lift is taking longer. You’re finding it hard to touch the board. You’re running out of air so you start to panic. You don’t have much time left so in the last ditch effort you loosen up to get down. You hit the board all wobbly and start to press back. What happens? That bar comes screaming towards your neck ready to cut your head off. Welcome to the club…

Safety becomes the biggest thought on your mind before you lift in a shirt

Will you add 100 lbs instantly to your bench? Very unlikely… There is a learning curve and the shirt demands an entirely different bar stroke. It takes time to learn and if you fall out of the groove, let me refer you to the video above. The shirt is not like a slingshot. It does not feel like a slingshot and it’s not forgiving like a slingshot. You need to land your spots perfectly or you’re going down

Benching in the shirt doesn’t feel pretty. Single ply has a nasty bite and multi is no better. You will get cut up and it will feel like your bones are being mashed together. Doesn’t sound fun? It’s not for everyone. You have to be a little messed up to do this shit. Raw is like skipping in a flower patch compared to the demands of a shirt.

What’s cool about raw lifting? I like that it’s just you down at chest level. There’s this feeling of unsureness but excitement when you take a big raw lift. There’s no material to give you a nudge, it’s just your god given muscle. You don’t get that in a shirt. The hardest part isn’t coming up, it’s getting down. If you can just land that damn bar on your chest then you know you’re good. That’s probably the biggest shock for a raw lifter transitioning over, that bar doesn’t come down easy! You have to exercise some real patience and learn a completely different strength curve.

It’s actually a ton of fun to watch! I go to a lot of meets and raw lifting is boring to me. You’re just seeing how strong the lifter is. There are more master technicians in a shirt, there are more excitement and buzz around the lift. Probably because you know things can go wrong, very wrong. You know this person can’t do this weight raw so if he doesn’t nail his groove then he might cut his face off. It’s awesome seeing someone defy that bitch gravity in a big way. I love watching equipped lifting! So much fun surrounding those lifts. Nothing against raw lifting, it’s still impressive as hell to watch someone throw up 600+ raw, that’s just an impressive type of crazy

So let me sum this up before I get into a full-on rant…

Equipped lifting is for the adrenaline junkies of the sport. You’re throwing turbo engines on your race car. You’re moving fast and the danger is high. It doesn’t feel good while performing the lift but the payoff is huge. You’re gambling with your wellbeing. Raw is safe. Raw is secure. It’s still exciting and can be very rewarding but you aren’t moving a million miles per hour or bleeding into your eyes. Yes… bleeding into your eyes. See below

If you’re on the fence about whether or not you should try a shirt out, I hope this article amped you up and inspired you to grab a shirt TODAY! Like right after reading this. If not… then it’s probably not for you. If you don’t think bleeding into your eyes is cool as shit then stay raw. It’s safer

Are you an equipped lifter? A raw lifter with experience in both worlds? Interested to hear your opinion! Please share this article and let me know your thoughts!

Coach Ben

Meet me on the bench

Looking for guidance on where to begin?… What shirt to buy? How to train? I got you covered! Shoot me an email at!

* Originally posted at; reposted with permission.

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Nick Benerakis

Strength Coach and Nationally-Ranked Powerlifter at Gaglione Strength, Long Island NY
Nick Benerakis is a strength coach at Gaglione Strength in Long Island New York. Home to numerous nationally ranked powerlifters and some of New York’s top athletic talent. In addition Nick is certified in Fascial Stretch Therapy, helping athletes move and feel better while staying healthy and injury free. Nick is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a bachelors degree in exercise science. He is a nationally ranked powerlifter himself in the 198 lb weight class with a 1900 lb total which ranked 8th in the country. He also has a 705 lb Bench Press to his name. Nick specializes in coaching powerlifting but also takes pride in showing lifters how to take care of their bodies through routine stretching and myofascial release techniques. Coach Ben also offers online coaching where he also takes a hands-on approach.

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