On the surface, bench press may seem like a simple movement. Just lay down on a bench and push a bar up, right? While in it’s most primitive form, this is right, there are a number of details and nuances about the lift that can make us more efficient and safer while performing the lift! Below are 5 tips for performing bench press
1) Set your Shoulders
Our shoulders are complex joints with a wide range of motion in many domains. When benching we want to set up our shoulders in a position that will allow us to produce the most force while maintaining maximal safety of the joint. To do this, we want to think about squeezing our shoulder blades together and pulling them down. This position should be set before unracking the bar and maintained throughout the entire lift.
2) Plant your Feet
When lifting maximal loads, or moderate loads with maximum intensity, stability is key. The less reacting to instability we do the more efficient we can be. Locking our shoulders in place will help with this, but what about our lower body? We want to plant our feet, drive our knees out, and squeeze our glutes, just like in a squat. Save the dancing for the club! With our feet planted and our lower half tight, we want to think about driving our heels into the ground to push out upper back into the bench. More of this will be discussed in tip 5.
3) Strong Wrists
Obviously, we want to be able to transfer as much force from our muscles to the bar to lift maximal load. To do this, we need to stack our joints and create a strong connection with the bar. We are connected to the bar through our grip and our grip and wrist position can have a big effect on our lift. We want to have a full grip on the bar, meaning thumbs wrapped around, and have a strong wrist so the bar is stacked right over our wrist and not hanging back behind it. This is our strongest position and can make or break a good lift!
4) Break the Bar
Like squatting where we create torque by screwing our feet into the ground, when benching we also want to create torque. To do this, we can think about breaking the bar. We want to break the bar in the direction as if we were breaking a stick over out knee. This will help with setting the shoulders a create a proper bar bath while helping to maintain stacked joints.
5) Drive your back in to the bench!
This last one is more of a shift in thinking rather than a physical tip but it has a significant effect on the execution of the lift and keeping us in good positions. Instead of thinking about pushing on the bar to move it up, try thinking about pushing on the bar to drive your upper back into the bench as hard as you can. Of course, in both cases the bar will be the object that moves, but this change in thought will help us keep tight shoulders, focus on planting our feet and driving with them and increase our stability. These are all positives!
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