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People love and hate the bench press. The love it because they want a big chest and they think the bench is the end-all-be-all for helping them achieve it. And they hate the bench, because their shoulders are typically wrecked for days after a heavy benching session.
Straining your shoulders and putting them in a bad position with bad form – while under heavy weights – can be doing damage that you can’t imagine. Yes, the ‘flared arm’ bench technique that most people use will allow you to use more weight when benching – at least initially – but the strain and stress on your shoulders adds up over time.
A better bench setup and tucked elbow position is a much safer technique and will be the answer to benching without pain and it will save your shoulders in the process.
The foundation for benching is all about strengthening the chest, shoulders, triceps and upper back. The problem is, when you bring the arms in closer to your sides – as in a ‘tucked arm’ position around 45 degrees out from your sides – your weights drop big time. That’s because your triceps are crazy weak.
But, after you bring up your triceps, your weights will be right back on track. And, yes, this tucked position also works when benching with a barbell.
As a side note, don’t forget your push-ups when you’re trying to build your chest up! There are a TON of push-ups variations that will challenge you and build a more massive chest. Also, push-ups are a more natural movement. They will develop your core and allow your shoulder blades to move freely, instead of being locked down on the bench. Push-ups are a fundamental movement in our program. All of our athletes must master the push-up before they ever touch a barbell.
Try this new technique when you bench and post in the comments how your shoulders feel the next day. I’d love to hear your feedback.
Jim Smith is a highly respected, world-renowned strength and conditioning coach. A member of the LIVESTRONG.com Fitness Advisory Board, Jim has been called one of the most “innovative strength coaches” in the fitness industry. Training athletes, fitness enthusiasts and weekend warriors, Jim has dedicated himself to helping them reach “beyond their potential.” He is also the owner of Diesel Strength & Conditioning in Elmira, NY.