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Gregory J. Wilson, Bruce C. Elliott, and Graham K. Kerr

The bar movement characteristics of 10 elite powerlifters were analyzed while bench pressing a maximum load and a submaximal load in a simulated competition using high-speed cinematography. Significant differences in bar path and alterations to the general force profile of movement were evident as the load was increased. These movement discrepancies resulted in the following conclusions being drawn with reference to the bench press movement: (a) The movement pattern adopted during the performance of an 81 % maximum load was not specific to that which was utilized during the maximal load. (b) Based upon the concepts of specificity of training and testing, the use of the popular one-repetition maximum test to quantify strength changes derived from submaximal training appeared invalid. This occurrence is further accentuated when the testing protocol is conducted on a bench press machine. (c) The design of “isotonic” bench press machines appeared to be load specific. Further, the development of bench press machines that would allow a number of bar paths to be pursued appear to represent a significant improvement over existing models.