Bench press? You just lie on the bench and push the bar right??
If you want to get stronger in the bench press the key is to iron out your technique – it’s a lot more complex than most people think. Something I see a lot in the gym is people failing to complete a repetition because of a technical fault, rather than just failing through fatigue. Anyone may have their own ‘style’ of bench pressing, but there are a few key points that everybody should employ if they wish to get stronger.
Step 1 – Elbows!
Some will prefer a wider grip, others narrower. In either case, the position of your wrists and elbows will change accordingly – and this is where you should focus your attention. The bar wants to be resting on the ‘heel’ of your wrists, directly above the forearm rather than on your hands. This will be the more comfortable on the wrists and allow you to apply force directly into the bar. Ultimately, you want to produce force upwards so pay attention to wrist, elbow, and forearm position. Taking a wider grip typically causes the elbows to flare out, and a narrower grip can cause the forearms to cave in and be at an angle
Step 2 – Pinch my finger!
I’m referring to a cue I often use with clients to pin those shoulder blades back! Whatever variation of bench pressing you may be doing, the scapula must be ‘retracted’ at all times. This will tighten the upper back and stop the shoulder from internally rotating which could otherwise cause some issues.
Step 3 – The arch de Triomf!
If you want to be triumphant in getting a new bench press personal best, getting an arch in your back is definitely one of the most important factors. Despite how this looks, the mechanics of the bench press means that the forces exerted on the spine pale in comparison to even a light squat. If you’re still concerned, this article goes into more depth: http://www.jtsstrength.com/articles/2015/09/13/arching-in-the-bench-press-please-stfu/
Arching will reduce the demands on the shoulders and can improve the lifters leverage.
Step 4 – Feet close!
The purpose for planting your feet back is to make it easier to arch, to keep the entire body rigid, and to give a platform to drive through. During a bench press if I were to try and nudge your knees around then they shouldn’t move; they should be solid and your feet glued firmly to the ground underneath you. I’m sure anyone familiar to the gym is guilty of or have at least witnessed the rogue flailing leg that loves to kick out during the last few repetitions of a bench press for no apparent reason. This is a sign of a floppy setup.
Step 5 – Bringing it all together!
-Hands on the bar
-First point of contact – shoulders (pinch)
-Second point of contact – feet (push back)
-Arch the back
-Slowly lower your bum down to the bench
-Squeeze the glutes
Step 1 – Start as you intend to go on!
When executing warm-up sets – pretend it is heavy! Just going through the motions without setting up just to get the muscles warm and joints lubricated is sub-par. Strength training isn’t just about challenging the muscles, it’s about practising the movement pattern too. Warm-ups are about both physical and mental preparation, so set up for a light bench press the same as you would a heavy one!
Step 2 – Get tight!
Take a deep breath and hold that until the rep is complete. This is going to raise your intra-abdominal pressure and keep your core ‘tight’. This will prevent any force being ‘leaked’ so we can transfer more into the bar.
Step 3 – Newtons third law!
YEAH! PHYSICS! My A-level physics teacher would be proud.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. With our feet and shoulders being the main bases of support – our body acts like a lever. If we push into the ground with our feet, we can transfer some force through our body and DOWN into the shoulders, creating an opposite reaction: UPWARDS force into the bar. My clients tend to notice the effect leg drive has on the bench press more than anything else!
Step 4 – Control!
Unless you’ve executed more than 10,000 good reps on a bench press, a fast descent is going to do nothing but butcher your technique. Lower the bar under control and focus on bar position in relation to your chest.
Step 5 – Towards your face!
Push into the floor with your feet, squeeze the glutes, and press! When pressing the weight, the bar needs to start arching ever so slightly towards your face rather than a straight up motion; it is biomechanically more efficient and 9 times out of ten when you’re struggling to grind out that last rep pushing towards your face will give you the edge.
And there you have it! Go test this out and thank me later when you’ve got yourself a new PB. A short video of what you should be doing below.
If you would like to learn more about bench press or any other compound movement, then feel free to book in for a personal training session with us and we will happily make sure that you are on track for hitting your goals. To book, contact us by clicking here.
Head of Young Athlete Development
Personal Training Sevenoaks
The Better Body Group