The Thomson Fat Pad is like a good set of boobs. It has the right amount of firmness without being too stiff and uncomfortable. The right amount of size to keep big boys happy. And just the right feel so when things get wet, there aren’t any issues. It might not solve your particular performance issues, but you’ll look great laying on top of it.
I have a need for uniformity in my gym. I will seriously avoid the perfect addition to my gym if it doesn’t match my color scheme, or be forced to paint it. My bench was grey with a white base. It had to change.
I’m also paranoid about avoiding injury, especially in the major areas like shoulders, hips, back, and knees. Too many old-time lifters I’ve seen that can’t lift their arm above their nipple line because they benched for years on end. I have friends that wobble, crack, and hobble around as their various parts hold them back from doing things in life. As much as I love to lift and train heavy, getting injured for the rest of my life is something I’m not willing to endure for some short term gains. I use a computer for upwards of 8 hours a day, and even with a standing desk, you end up lopsided with a forward posture, and all around compensating in your lifts. Not a good thing for long term progress and health of the joints.
As I was looking to replace my bench, I came across the Thompson Fat Pad, by means of Donnie Thompson’s Instagram as well as Rogue’s website. There were multiple people making claims about cranky shoulders and elbows being fixed with this simple change. I had been dealing with a pissed off right elbow for a few months, so I figured it was time to make my gym match again, while potentially solving my elbow issues and bullet proofing my shoulders for years to come.
HOT DAMN. Fat pad is right. A normal bench pad looks perfectly normal until you slam a fat-pad next to it. All of a sudden you realize that your 240 pound frame was never meant for that soft inch of foam. The width, thickness, firmness, and the material are all different. Comparing this to a normal bench pad is like comparing a Civic to an F-350. We are just talking about two very different things. They both get you from A to B, but let’s look at the reasons why the Fat Pad might need to enter your gym sooner rather than later.
Thickness & Firmness
The Fat Pad’s number one selling point is its oversized frame. For guys, bigger guys, this is a huge plus. For me, I can actually get my shoulder blades ON the bench, retracted, and tight. This allows me to do what every bench coach asks you to do, which is bench OFF of your back and not collapse the chest. The first couple of times you bench with it, it’s going to feel weird. It’s just such a change. But after you get accustomed to what is likely the correct set-up for a bench, you’ll never want to go back.
See the non-fat pad completely disappear in the right photo?
The bench material itself, i.e. – the cover, is a lot like the material you lay down in a toolbox to keep tools from sliding around. Just a lot more dense, and without the holes in it. It functions the same way though, by keeping you in place. Whether you are starting your warm-ups, or drenched in sweat, expect your set-up position to hold tight. No more slipping and sliding on the bench as you get into your sets. You’ll be able to set-up, get loaded, bench, rack, and remain where you started the entire time.
Quality & Durability
I’ve had my Fat Pad for over a year, and outside of a few dust marks from being stored on its side near my chalk bowl, the thing doesn’t even look like I’ve used it despite being used multiple times a week for various bench and accessory work. I had one loose staple on the underside that I hit with a rubber mallet and haven’t seen any other issues since. No scuffs, no tears, no rips, no color fading, no dents, no dings, not even some wearing down of the grippy material or sweat stains. This pad is meant to last a long time.
Did it Work?
Yes and no. I use the BowTie from Donnie as well, pair that with a decent amount of shoulder mobility work, and some targeted SMR on my forearms, upper back, etc. and I’m getting away from elbow pain entirely. The FatPad isn’t a wonder cure for me for the shoulder/elbow issues I had (mine are more soft tissue related, than overuse or overstrain issues from benching). That said, I’m not afraid of the fact that I spent some cash on something that I trust is a better solution for benching long term without issues. So while it might not have fixed my particular issue, and I’ll never be able to run an experiment to see if it prevented issues in the future, I’m ok with knowing that I’m taking precautions in the right areas.
If you have direct shoulder or elbow issues FROM BENCHING, this might be your solution. If you have the extra cash and the room, take the plunge.
Ok, it can’t be 100% perfect. First, if you have an adjustable bench, incline or decline, the pad likely won’t fit. This is a flat bench pad only. (Side note: I use my flat bench, with a slight incline from hiking the head up on some mats, with zero issues.). If this is your primary bench, and you use the bench for other accessory work, especially prone work (face into the bench), the pad might be too big. When I do DB Rear Delt work on it, or Prone DB Rows, it’s a little uncomfortable. The pad is just too wide.
Also, this thing is damn heavy. If you have a partner that uses the equipment with you, highly consider if they’ll be able to lug this dude around the gym to use or get out of the way. My wife can, but it’s certainly part of her warm-up to do so. I’ve also heard that women don’t use the fat-pad as well as men. It makes sense, my shoulders are a good 6 inches on either side of my wife’s, so the need for a wider and firmer bench for me, compared to her, is likely a huge difference. So women, this one might not be for you.
Cost and Other Options
If you are buying a branch new bench from Rogue, I highly recommend just grabbing this (they offer it as an option straight out the gate). If you like floor press, I’ve seen Donnie recommend using this for full ROM, with no legs needed. If you are like me, looking to try something new, to keep any potential shoulder issues at bay for the long term, it’s a great option. It certainly doesn’t cost much more than a replacement pad from anywhere else, and is certainly better than buying a completely brand new bench (or new shoulder joint for that matter). If you are considering the Titan knock-off, I’d recommend you check out this review.
Do You Compete?
One big thing to note with the Thompson Fat pad, is that while it is arguably designed for the competing powerlifter (and designed by one for that matter), it doesn’t actually meet powerlifting specs (height, width, etc.). I would liken this to using specialty bars in your training. If you are a competing powerlifter, you likely need to spend a few weeks prior to your meet using your competition spec bar and bench to get the technique dialed in and make sure your opening and target numbers are realistic (that means either owning two benches or traveling to a local gym for the few weeks prior). If you don’t compete in powerlifting, no worries, do what drives the best results for your goals and keeps you healthy and happy in your training.
- Side Note: Rogue just launched their Competition Fat Pad. The goal was to provide similar function of the Fat pad, but in a more competition spec set-up. Personally, through the research I’ve done on the intensions of the Fat Pad, reading Donnie’s notes, my experience with it, etc. Cutting the size and width seems to almost entirely remove the primary function of the bench in providing a bigger base. Sure, you still get the rock solid quality and grip, but I’m not sure the grip would work as well if you are back to having half your upper body off the bench. So we might have just attempted to solve for an issue, by creating another. This might, however, be the ideal solution for female athletes. Being a bit narrower and smaller in general, it is likely to give you the benefits of the Fat Pad but in a form that fits the typical female frame better AND resembles competition specs (I guess the women get the better draw of the straws here).
It looks, functions, and performs great for a decent price from a solid company and an awesome guy. If for nothing else, the price to support Donnie who gives away a ton of free information is likely a valid upgrade reason. I’m not going to say that it’s a 100% cure all piece of equipment, but it certainly does what it is supposed to do.