Bench Press like a Pro!!
The Bench Press is one of the most important compound exercises you can do. Not only is it crucial for upper-body muscular development, but it's an exceptional strength builder. Many people think the bench press is just a chest exercise, but I'm here to tell you that your triceps, shoulders, back, and even your glutes are involved. It's a complex movement that can be disastrous if you get it wrong.
How To Bench Press
Set Your Feet
Although your foot placement isn't as crucial on the bench as it is for the deadlift or squat, it's still important. Your feet are the start of a strong base and are where you'll draw your power from.
Try to keep your feet back toward your butt as far as you can while still keeping them flat on the ground. Depending on your height and body type, this is going to look a little different for everyone. The point, though, is to plant your feet firmly so you can generate power from the ground through your entire body.
Position Yourself Under The Bar
Like your foot placement, your back position is going to look unique to you based on your build and mechanics. Essentially, though, you should set up far enough under the bar that it's easy to unrack, but not so far under it that you hit the pegs on the way up. Squeeze your shoulder blades together to stay tight and protect your shoulders. Imagine trying to crush a grape between your shoulder blades, and push your upper back into the bench.
Arch Your Back
This is a little bit of a controversial topic, especially among bodybuilders. Many bodybuilders think that arching your back is just a powerlifting move, but arching your lower back will actually help you maintain a neutral spine and keep your back tight and protected as you press.
Brace And Unrack
Take in a deep breath, unrack the bar, then let the breath out. Don't waste energy lifting the bar off the rack, especially if it's loaded with a lot of weight. If you don't have a partner to help you, drive your back into the bench so hard the bar just pops off.
Touch Your Chest
Where you touch the bar on your body will depend on how long your arms are and where you grip the bar. Whatever the case, your forearms should be at 90 degrees from the ground in this bottom position. If it's more or less, you may lose force.
If you have long arms and a narrow grip, you'll touch farther down on your body. If you have short arms and a wide grip, the bar will touch higher on your chest. Most people will hit anywhere between their top ab and their nipple line. Wherever the bar hits you, try to hit the same spot every rep.
Push With Leg Drive
Once the bar has made contact with your torso, initiate the upward movement by tightening your glutes and driving your legs into the ground. No, that's not cheating. Using leg drive will allow you to stay tight and bench more weight.
Remember, breathe out forcefully through the sticking point. As you press up, think about throwing the bar back. The bar should move in a slight arch or "reverse J" pattern.
Where Most Bench Presses Go Wrong
As you can see, the bench is actually more complex than most people initially think. The most common problem I see is people bouncing the bar off their chests. This is problematic not only because it puts a lot of pressure on the sternum, but also because it's impossible to keep your body tight if you're bouncing the bar. Besides, if you're bouncing the weight off your chest, how can you say you actually lifted it?
Most people don't breathe or brace properly, either, so make that a priority—both when you un rack, and before you lower the bar. You'll be amazed by how much more weight you'll be able to move if you brace your abs with a big breath.
I also see many people flaring their elbows because they believe it will lead to more pec-muscle recruitment. Even if it does, flaring your elbows is not worth the danger.
It's also common to see people roll their shoulders forward at the top of the movement, unlocking their shoulder blades as they push up, and moving their feet. Anything that veers away from a tight body and pinched shoulder blades leads to weak, dangerous lifts. Keep stable and stay tight.
Go Forth And Bench!
Now you have the tools to bench safely and effectively. The bench press is a skill, just like the squat or any other major lift. The more you practice your bench press, the better you'll be at it. Start light and work up in weight as you begin to understand the movement and feel more comfortable doing it.