The bench press is one of the most iconic gym exercises and a great developer of your upper body strength. Synonymous with sweaty body builders it is an exercise that should be completed by everyone…….yes even for the ladies! Struggling with your push ups? Improving your bench press can help!
Setup & Un-racking the bar
1. Lying down on the bench, under the bar. Pull your shoulders down and bring your shoulder blades together. You need to keep this position.
2. Grip the bar hard. You will want to attempt to break the bar in half to great external rotation. There are a million different grip variations, from wide to narrow grip. I usually start with just outside shoulder width. This is to ensure we keep a nice vertical forearm.
3. Tighten your torso and keep you butt on the bench.
4. Lift the bar off the rack and bring it out to the starting position – arms fully locked out and vertical. It is very important to keep you setup when tacking the bar off the rack. If you have a spotter (you should generally have one especially at heavier loads!) get them to help you.
Img 1. Setup – Shoulders Down and Back / Butt on Bench / Straight Line with the arms!
1. Pull the bar down until it touches your chest. This is an important part of the bench to keep active on the way down. It will help engage your lats and improve your drive out of the bottom. It is important to note that you need to keep your forearms vertical and elbows tucked at 45 degrees at the bottom of the bench. This will help keep your shoulders safe.
2. Drive back out of the bottom until the arms are fully locked out. Complete the required number of reps!
Img 2 and 3. Bottom Position – Nice Vertical Forearms / Elbows Tucked in
1. Hitting the chest too high – If you get too high up the chest it causes your elbows to get out in front of the bar and your will struggle to press the weight up in a straight line.
2. Hitting the chest too low – The same fault as above except in reverse! The bar will get out in front of the elbows.
3. Elbows flaring out – Another common fault I see is the elbows flaring outwards. This can cause internal rotation and great stress on the shoulder. Tuck them in at 45 degrees. This is another reason why you need to focus on breaking the bar in half so your shoulders are externally rotated.
Variations to improve your bench
1. Use Dumbbells – A great way to iron out any imbalances you might have – dumbbells are great tools that require you to stabilise both arms.
2. Tempo & Pause Bench – These variations are great for helping eliminate sticking points. The toughest point is at the bottom, so using slower tempos or pausing at the bottom will help improve your strength in those positions.
3. Floor Press – This a variation where you take the bar from lying on the floor. It will reduce the stress on the shoulder due the reduced range of motion. It will improve your lock out and also your upper body strength as you won’t be able to use your lower body to drive the bar.
4. Push ups – Knees, normal, it doesn’t matter! They are a great compound body weight exercise. They will work your chest, shoulders and triceps and improve your pressing strength!