“We were just joking around…and I moved it for reps and it just blew my mind,” Maddox says. The weight on the bar: 525 pounds.
Since then, Maddox has hired a coach and, with proper programming, has broken the world record raw bench press (meaning only wearing a belt and wrist wraps) not once, but twice. He first benched 739.6 pounds in August, breaking the old record of 738.5 pounds, and followed that up with a 744.1-pound lift in November. Check out the record-breaking lift here:
Along the way, Maddox—who you can follow on Instagram at @irregular_strength—has become a bench press technician.
We asked the world’s baddest bench presser to walk us through the right way to set up on the bench, and to provide a few tips for hitting your best numbers. Whether you’re a newbie trying to crack 225 or a vet looking to add another 5 pounds to your already impressive max, you’ll benefit from Maddox’s advice.
A big bench, according to Maddox, starts with proper foot placement.
“A lot of people I see are bouncing on their toes as they bench,” he says. “They’re not stable.” The first step is to plant your toes firmly on the ground behind your knees. “You’ll get leverage, you’ll get leg drive, and you’ll be more stable,” Maddox says. “Your legs should be so tight that your quads are flexed.”
While pressing, it’s also important to drive through your heels, even if they don’t touch the floor. “The concept is that you’re going to drive your heels through the floor, Maddox says. “That’s going to help generate leg drive.”
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Lock and Load
Once your feet are in position, the next step is to situate your torso onto the bench in the correct spot. To do this, Maddox grabs either the bar or the sides of the bench press rack and arches his back. He then places his back onto the middle of the bench with his feet still planted firmly on the ground and behind his knees. From there, he slides his torso toward the bar until his eyes are underneath it.
“I call this locking in,” Maddox says. Once you’re in place, stay there.
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At this point, your feet are on the ground behind your knees, your lower back is arched, and your eyes are underneath the bar.
“From there, you find your hand placement,” Maddox says. “Personally, I like to go shoulder-width apart, where my pinkie is on the ring of the knurling, but everyone is different.”
To find what’s comfortable for you, Maddox suggests starting with your hands at shoulder-width and then moving your hands an inch in or out until it feels right. Though it’s mostly a feel thing, Maddox says you’ll know you’ve hit your grip sweet spot when, “The weight feels evenly distributed and it feels like I’m utilizing all of my muscle groups.”
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Squeeze Your Shoulder Blades
Most guys think of just their chest as the main driver in a bench—and it is—but your back plays an equally important role. For one, Maddox says that retracting your shoulder blades helps to keep your shoulders stable and activates your lats.
“Your lats store elasticity when the bar descends,” says Maddox.” Your muscles are like a rubber band. That’s why I’m so explosive, I do 10 back variations a week.”
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Use the Proper Bar Path
When pressing a bar loaded with weight over your chest, it’s important to not let it jerk out of place. This can lead to shoulder impingements, or, worse, you dropping it on your face. Maddox likes to press the bar in what he refers to as an “exaggerated J” motion.
With the bar starting over his eyes, Maddox lowers the bar to right beneath his chest, pauses for a beat, and then drives the bar up and back so it’s back over his eyes. This down and in and up and back motion creates a J and, according to Maddox, is a comfortable way to bench press weight.
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Focus On Your Elbows
While pressing, Maddox says to think of your elbows as a corkscrew.
“They should stay tucked in at 45 degrees and flare out a little bit as you lock out,” he says. “Think of football players when they fire off, they’re pushing with their hands and elbows tucked. That’s how they generate more power.”