The Problem

The strongest benchers get the most out of their upper back and triceps by actively trying to pull the bar apart during the lift. However, it’s an easy technique to forget when you’ve got a couple of hundred pounds looming over your face. Teach yourself to keep tension in these muscles by using a band.

The Procedure

Hook the end of an elastic exercise band (use a continuous loop band, such as those found at, not the tube kind) around one wrist and twist it so it forms a figure eight. Loop the other end over the other wrist. The band will make an “X” shape between your arms. When you grab the bar, the band should be just tight enough that you have to work to keep your arms apart. Squeeze the bar tightly—your back and triceps must be contracted—and perform your set.

Use the band for a few weeks to ingrain the habit of making these muscles active and tight. You’ll press much stronger from now on. Another device that helps reinforce this concept is the Sling Shot, invented by powerlifter Mark Bell of Super Training Gym in Sacramento, CA. The Sling Shot wraps around your elbows and requires you to pull the bar to get it to your chest. It is available at