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The most revered strength training exercise and one of the big “3″, the bench press is rarely performed correctly. It seems in every gym across America, every Monday is national bench day. But unfortunately, we should label every Monday national “wreck your shoulders” day.
There are very important key points to remember when performing the bench press to ensure healthy shoulders and longevity. In fact, these key points apply to the majority of all horizontal pressing movements.
1. Keep a tight grip on the bar at all times, a tighter grip equates to more tension in the lower arms, upper back and chest.
2. Keep your chest up (thoracic extension) throughout the movement.
3. Elbows should be tucked and end up at approximately 45 degrees from your side.
4. Unrack the weight and take a deep breath and hold it.
5. Row the weight down to your chest by pulling the bar apart like a bent over row. Do not relax and let the weight drop.
6. Back, hips, glutes and legs are tight and isometrically contracted.
7. When you touch your chest, drive your feet downward and reverse the movement.
8. Lock out the elbows WITHOUT losing your arch and thoracic extension.
In this “How To Bench” video, you’ll learn the perfect elbow correction, why leg drive is important for a big bench, how to setup your arch and upper back, plus a whole lot more. This video teaches you that the bench is a full body lift, not just an upper body exercise.
1. Elbows Flaring Out – What should I do?
Technique – technique, technique, technique, ensure you are actively pulling the bar downward as your tuck your elbows toward your sides. Initially, with this technique, you will not be able to do as much weight. As you learn the technique and build up your tricep and back strength, you will be able to do MORE weight and keep your shoulders healthy and strong.
Strength – pull-ups, heavy tricep work.
2. I’m Missing Off My Chest – What should I do?
Technique– keep back tight and don’t relax! Keep your air that you took before the movement started and drive your feet downward. Also, by pulling the bar apart you maintain the tension in your lats which helps you stay tight.
Strength – mini-band resisted bench press, pin press at and around sticking point (isometrically pressing against the power cage pins), floor press (dumbbells, barbell or football / swiss / log bar) more back work including seated rows, face pulls, pull-ups.
3. I’m Collapsing When the Weight Gets to My Chest – What should I do?
Technique – create tension in your back, drive your feet down and as the bar lowers, concentrate on driving your chest upward to meet the bar. If you coordinate a big breath with driving your chest up and locking it in place, the downward bar path will be stable, controlled and have a greater potential to be reversed for a powerful concentric (upward) drive phase.
Strength – board presses, high rep dumbbell bench (with proper form), wide grip seated rows, face pulls, foam rolling the upper back for more thoracic mobility.
4. My Shoulders Feel Like Sh*t When I Bench – What should I do?
Technique – You’re probably flaring your elbows in the bottom of the lift (see above). This puts a ton of stress on the shoulder and rotator cuff (dynamic stabilizers with the scapula) complex. Work on keeping the “tucked elbows”, about 45 degrees out from your torso, position throughout the full range of motion of the movement – do NOT let your elbows flare outward, i.e., your elbows end up in line with your ears.
Strength – work on the strength of your triceps with board presses, move back to push-ups and perform them for high volumes. Also, don’t forget a good warm-up and recovery component in your workout which should include rotator cuff rehab exercises, rows, external rotations and retraction exercises.
5. I’m Missing at Lockout – What should I do?
Technique – drive feet down, squeeze bar as hard as you can.
Strength – heavy rack lockouts (also helps to strength connective tissues), pin press at and around sticking point (isometrically pressing against the power cage pins), various height board presses (2, 3, 4 board), heavy tricep work, pull-ups, band assisted bench press, plate pinch, rolling thunder deadlifts.