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Bench Press

At this point, there isn?t any problem with the bench press. Actually, the reason for pressing heavy metal upwards while lying on a bench is totally unimportant right now. What?s more important is bench pressing without messing up your shoulders in the process. That?s a problem. Unfortunately, it?s what we tend to do.

Now, I?m personally not a bench expert, nor a powerlifter. Far from it. There is a good chance you bench a lot more than me and most of you guys probably do. However, I personally used to bench a lot less than I do now with pain. Now I can do more without. I also have a keen eye for correct movement or should I say compensative movements after a good amount of watching and coaching athletes and clients.

Let?s get to the point. I?m writing this article for those of you who have trouble really ?getting? the bench press and therefore press with pain. If you know your stuff, that?s fine and you shouldn?t bother reading this article. But I bet you can find a couple of good pointers setup either way, so let?s get it on!

  • Your shoulder blades must be pushed back, and your chest must be spread throughout the bench press. If you?re benching without the aid of a bench shirt, most of the bar weight (and your bodyweight) should be supported by your upper back. This will help keep the bar from touching too low. It will ensure that you don?t lose your tightness, and that you?ll be pressing from a strong bottom position.
  • Your lower back should be arched and kept that way. This does not mean you lift your butt off the bench.
  • Again, do NOT lift your butt off the bench. This bears repeating.
  • Foot placement is up to you, but make sure they?re in a solid and strong position. I like to place my feet back slightly toward the head of the bench, and I assume a stance that?s narrow enough to allow my legs to squeeze the bench. As I press up, I drive my heels into the ground and squeeze my legs, picturing all the energy from my legs and hips driving into the bar. This is ?leg drive.? Think about squatting the weight up.
  • Grip width is also up to you. Over the years, I?ve found that a narrow grip is a little healthier in the long run than a wider grip. My grip is around 18? between index fingers. This may limit my weights in the short term, but it?ll ensure that I won?t have any pec or shoulder problems in the long run. It?s better to press today and tomorrow than just to press today.
  • As soon as the bar is in your hands, make sure your lower and upper back are arched, your feet are firmly on the floor, and your hands are wrapped tightly around the bar.
  • I like to take a large breath and force it into my diaphragm before lifting the bar off. This helps me feel stronger and more stable when I get the bar. A strong and easy lift-off is a great way to improve your lift and your mental state. Again, don?t ?wimp? the bar off the rack.
  • Don?t use a lift-off partner when you train. Use this only for maximal attempts.
  • I usually hold my breath for the first 2-3 reps of every set. This is hard to do, but it ensures good technique and you won?t lose tightness.
  • If you?re using a closer grip like I do, the bar will touch higher on the body than it will with a wider grip ? usually hitting just below my nipples. If you use a wider grip, the bar will hit slightly lower.
  • Because you?ll be hitting higher on the chest with a closer grip, the bar will travel only slightly back toward your face. This is because you?ve already started the press closer to your head than you would have with a wider grip.
  • With a wider grip, this path will be more pronounced because you?re hitting your chest lower. This will trace a ?C? motion.
  • Keep your elbows tucked on the way down. This doesn?t mean they should be tucked into your sides. A slight tuck will suffice. If you tuck too hard, you?ll lose power off the bottom of the lift. This is where most people get stuck.
  • Once you touch your chest, keep your elbows tucked and drive the bar back slightly. About halfway up, allow your elbows to flare out, and keep pushing up and back.
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