Who Else Wants to Bench More
Guest post by Lee Hayward
Everyone love to bench, it’s one of the most popular exercises in gyms around the world. Along with its popularity comes a lot of misunderstanding. Too often ego drive the weight, not proper mechanics. All to often guys end up training too heavy and using poor technique in effort to lift more weight.
The average gym member will usually try to increase their bench press by doing more reps, sets, or weight. When in reality they will gain more strength and make better progress over the long term if they focused their effort on improving their pressing technique rather then trying to lift more.
The best way to make big strength gains, in your bench, in the shortest time…
is to improve your form.
You are about to discover the techniques used by the best bench pressers in the world. It works for them and will work for you too. But keep in mind, changing your bench press technique will take a bit of getting used to. And don’t worry if the weight drops a little, this may happen initially, but will improve as you get use to the new technique.
Proper Bench Press Technique
Many people do not realize how much strength they lose by making the bar travel further than necessary. The less distance you have to move the bar the stronger you’ll be. To shorten the distance of your press,
- expand your rib cage
- stick your chest out
- squeeze your shoulder blades back and together
Give it a try now as you sit reading this. Sit up tall, take a deep breath, expand your rib cage, and stick your chest out as far as you can. At the same time squeeze your shoulder blades back as far as you can. Now do it again, but this time hold your arms out in front of you as if you were doing a bench press.
By expanding your chest you can shave an inch or two off your bench press stroke. And by pulling you shoulder blades back together you’ll reduce the distance by another inch or two. Look at the picture below and you’ll see the difference. See how far the elbows are in front of the torso in the first pic compared to the second pic. Yet, the arms are straight and locked out in both pictures.
In addition to proper upper body positioning, you also need to drive through your legs to be a good bencher. When you set up on the bench your feet need to be firmly planted on the floor that way you can push with your legs as if you were trying to slide your back up the bench, without actually letting your back slide up the bench. A lot of powerlifters will put lifting chalk along their upper back to prevent them from slipping when they drive with their legs. This will help stabilize and support the entire body, plus help you hold the chest out and shoulders back position, even better.
When you position yourself on the bench, set up so that your eyes are in direct line with the bar. This is the ideal spot to unrack the bar and maintain proper body position.
To bench press maximum weight you need to keep your entire body tight. Once you are set up on the bench, grasp the barbell and squeeze it hard and try to pull outwards while keeping that tight grip on the bar. This will instantly tense and activate the muscles in the upper back and create a more solid base.
Once you un-rack the bar, hold it at arms length for a couple seconds, let the weights settle. Focus on keeping your proper set up by
- sticking your chest out
- pulling your shoulders back
- driving with your feet
Once you have that set, take a deep breath and hold it. Holding your air will allow you to stabilize your torso and keep more tension in your body. You can breath normally in between reps, but when it comes time to do another rep hold your air in.
Bench Press The Lowering Phase
Lower the bar somewhere between your nipples and where your chest and upper abdominals meet. Where you actually touch the bar varies from person to person, as it depends on individual body structure.
As you lower the bar keep your elbows tucked. Your upper arms are to be at a 45 degree angle in relation to your your torso. Keeping your elbows tucked like this, and not letting them flare straight out to the sides will do two things…
- keep more strength in the bottom of the bench
- reduces the stress on your shoulder joints
The Press Phase
When you press the bar back up your chest muscles initiate the movement. When you reach the halfway point your triceps kick in to finish the movement. To help get more out of your triceps and lockout the press, visualize straightening your arms out underneath the bar. Avoid thinking about pushing the bar up. Another way to think of it is to visualize shoving yourself away from the bar, and into the bench, rather than pressing the bar.
To get a better understanding, try this.
Stand up against a wall and assume a push up position. Lean in and push hard against the wall, almost like you are trying to push a stuck car. In this position you are pushing hard, but your elbows are still bent. Try it again, but this time stand up against the wall, and instead of pushing hard against the wall, just focus on straightening your arms out and shove yourself away from the wall.
As a quick recap.
To your bench press more start of by benching less. Work on your technique. The weight will come when your ready.
Start of the press with a tight grip on the bar. Your elbows are to be tucked. Chest up, full of air, and the shoulder blades are pulled back. Keep your body tight, and your feet firmly planted on the floor.
Drive whit your chest, then to lockout think of extending your arms out straight.
Start making these changes in your next bench press workout. Be patient with the new techniques but with a little practice and you get good at them, the results will be amazing. Not only will you feel stronger, lift more weight, but you will do so with less risk of injury.
If you are hungry for more be sure to pick up the Blast Your Bench Program.