11 WAYS WAYS TO BUILD A WICKED BENCH PRESS
by THE WICKED
1.LEARN PROPER TECHNIQUE! Even if youâ€™ve already got decent form, everyone can afford to polish it up a little. Thereâ€™s always room and always time to improve on something in your technique. You might be good but, you could always be better. Working on your speed, your arch off the bench, planting your feet and generating leg drive, etc. will pay HUGE dividends not only in a short period of time but way down the road in your future. Iâ€™ve found that perfecting ones technique and setup in the bench press can add anywhere from 20-50lbs and possibly even more in a matter of a workout or two. Do I have your attention now? Thereâ€™s no magic potion. No special gadget or other type of closely guarded secret. The more efficient you become in a lift, the easier it will be to perform and the stronger youâ€™ll become in the end of doing so.
2.KEEP AN OPEN MIND! Try new training ideas, tips, and techniques when it comes to your bench press. Bar path, grip position, amount of arch, your bench setup, everything you can possibly think of thatâ€™s apart of your bench can be tinkered with. You never know. The slightest change in this or that could lead to a breakthrough in your training efforts.
3.GRIP THE BAR! I see way to many people just holding onto the bar. Donâ€™t just hold onto it. GRIP THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF IT! Imagine yourself trying to put impressions of your fingers into the bar when you grab a hold of it. Doing so not only helps you maintain better control of the bar but, it also stabilizes everything from your wrists down through your elbows and into your shoulders. The more stabile the bar is and the better control you have of the weight being used and the easier the lift will become!
4.GRIP POSITION! Play with it! Yes weâ€™re still talking about grip position here. Stay with me fellas. Everyone one of us is built differently, which would mean that each one of us has our own unique grip width. Just because Mr. Big Time Bencher places his index finger on the rings of the bar to blow away his massive poundages doesnâ€™t mean thatâ€™s the proper grip position for you. So play with it! Youâ€™re not looking for a grip thatâ€™s so wide that you either end up with flexibility issues at the bottom of the lift and canâ€™t touch your chest, or have a grip so narrow that you end up putting your wrists at an odd angle putting unnecessary stress on your joints making benching uncomfortable. I feel the proper bench press grip position is one that keeps your wrists, forearms, and elbows all inline throughout the entire pressing movement. This allows for pain free benching due to the dramatic decrease in joint stress. This will also increase joint health and longevity to allow you to press heavier and longer into your lifting carrier without injuries or other poor form related issues. Again, too wide can lead to flexibility issues. It can also lead to a greater chance of soft tissue injuries and tears. Benching with a wide grip opens up your shoulders and allows for rotation inside them during the entire motion of the bench press. Rotator cuff injuries, muscle tears, etc. all have a greater chance of occurring when benching this way. Too narrow a grip can lead to joint problems and premature fatigue. When you attain the right grip, not only will benching become very comfortable even at heavier weights but it will also give you a mechanical advantage, channeling your power more efficiently through your body into the bar throughout the exercise.
5.KEEP YOUR ELBOWS INTO YOUR BODY! This is something everyone should pay attention to especially if youâ€™re benching raw. Why you ask? Keeping your elbows tucked against your body prevents your shoulders from opening up and helps prevent rotation from occurring in the shoulder joints while pressing which, again, can lead to nasty little injuries that could hold you back or prevent you from ever benching again all together. This falls in line with finding your proper grip position. Notice how all these things are beginning to tie into each other? Too wide of a grip and youâ€™ll have a hard time tucking them in. Too narrow a grip and theyâ€™ll want to flare out away from your body. Anytime thereâ€™s a misdirection of power, itâ€™s nothing but wasted energy. Weâ€™re trying to make the lift easier and more efficient, not more difficult. You should not have to FORCE your elbows into your sides. If you do, thatâ€™s just another sign that something isnâ€™t quite right with your setup. Again, with the right grip, your elbows should naturally be close to the sides of your body during the entire exercise without forcing it to happen. For you mathematically inclined lifters, a good idea of about how far out your elbows should be away from your body would be anywhere from 15-30 degrees and no more. The best way Iâ€™ve found to describe to people how to keep your elbows tucked and moving in the right path is to imagine them moving down and staying pointed towards your feet. When youâ€™re performing the bench press, during the decent and even during the accent, think to yourself â€œkeep my elbows pointed at my feetâ€ and it will 9 times out of 10 make it happen and keep you tucked in nice and tight during the exercise until it becomes engrained in your system and you no longer have to think about anything BUT pressing as hard and as fast as you can while still maintaining control of the weight.
6.LEARN WHAT YOUR BAR PATH IS! Your bar path is exactly that. The path the bar makes from the top of the movement towards your chest and back up again. The optimum and recommended place for the bar to touch your chest at the bottom of the lift is right below your nipple like at the base of your sternum/xyphoid process. When you have the right grip position for your anatomical structure and your elbows are tucked in without much physical effort, this it typically where the bar should stop. Before I ever add any weight to the bar when I start my bench press workout, I always do a couple warm up sets of 20 reps with only the bar to â€œget the feelâ€ of my barâ€™s natural path. In doing so, over time this becomes so engrained in your technique that youâ€™ll start to notice slight difference in feel during your press or when something is a bit off. Again, notice how all things are tied together here in a good bench press setup.
7.FIND YOUR GROOVE! What is your groove? Basically, your groove is the barâ€™s natural plane of movement during both the eccentric and concentric phases of the lift. Learning what your groove feels like over time will help you make minor adjustments in the barâ€™s path while performing the bench press. This can prevent you from coming down too high on your chest and jamming you up at the bottom of the press. Or, doing the exact opposite by bringing the bar too low and losing the lift by going too far down on your chest causing you to be unable to stay under the bar properly and control the weight. The key to finding your groove is by first learning how to properly setup yourself for the bench press for your body type and then learning what exactly the barâ€™s path feels like when youâ€™ve set up correctly. Lots of practice with an empty barbell can do wonders getting the â€œfeelâ€ of YOUR press.
8.ARCH UP! Why is arching up so effective in helping boost your bench press numbers? The answer is very simple. The act of arching your chest and midsection up and elevating them off the bench while still maintaining contact with your ass and shoulders/upper back DRAMATICALLY reduces the overall distance between the bar and your chest. Less distance=less work=an easier press. This is exactly what weâ€™re all striving for. Who doesnâ€™t want to make any lift easier? Arching reduces your range of motion during the bench press anywhere from 2â€ to 6â€ and sometimes even 10â€ or more in extreme cases. Holding onesâ€™ arch during the bench press takes great core strength and lower back strength as to prevent you from collapsing your arch while under heavy weight.
9.LEARN TO USE LEG DRIVE! Donâ€™t believe your legs have anything to do with your bench press? Do a little experiment with yourself the next time youâ€™re at the gym. First, lay back and perform the bench press as you normally would with your feet on the floor. Then, elevate your feet off the floor or the bench and see how much more difficult the bench press becomes. Legs and the power drive the can generate can greatly increase your overall power when learned how to use properly and set yourself up for optimum performance. What the term â€œleg driveâ€ means is that youâ€™re able to produce additional power from your legs to aide you in the bench press. The whole idea behind leg drive is to set yourself up to use the muscles in your legs to help you power through heavier weight without using so much leg drive that you elevate your ass up off the bench. Now if youâ€™re not a competitive lifter itâ€™s really not something worth worrying about. If you are however, this can be a problem in some lifting federations. Most will red light you or give you a â€œno liftâ€ anytime your lower body leaves the surface of the bench. This might be something to keep in mind when youâ€™re planning your lift attempts at a meet when you know you donâ€™t lift up off the bench until you hit x-amount of weight.
Setting yourself up to better use leg drive is very easy. When pressing your feet or in some cases your toes into the ground, you being to generate power through your body on whatâ€™s known as a horizontal plane. The more you learn to tuck your feet beneath you under the bench, the more efficiently you transfer this power through your body. This is why you see a lot of experienced power lifters with their feet so far under them that their feet are almost up near their shoulders. Now at first, flexibility can be an issue. Stretching your hams and your quads out during your pre stretch and warm up session before benching will greatly benefit you when youâ€™re practicing tucking your feet under you. Practice, practice, practice! A good idea as to what your feet should look like would be similar to this. Your heels should be pointed up skyward with you pressing your toes hard into the ground. You should do this without much thought by just pressing your toes into the floor. DO NOT hook your heels into the floor! I donâ€™t know what brilliant jackass came up with that idea as to the right way to generate leg drive but itâ€™s completely wrong. You go from forcing your power into your bench to wanting to pull yourself away from the press. I donâ€™t know where this came from but Iâ€™ve both heard it brought up in conversations about proper bench press setup and SEEN it everywhere. Hooking with your heels PULLS you with your hamstrings down and away from the bench by tightening your hamstrings up. Now the hamstrings are a muscle group predominately used for pulling. Weâ€™re working on pushing when it comes to generating leg drive. Why? Well the bench press is a pushing exercise. So it would seem a little counter productive. This is why your quads are used, not your hams. Quadriceps are made for pushing, hamstrings are not. So the muscle group in your legs best designed to help you with your pressing would obviously be the quads. Now, the best way to prep your quads to generate leg drive for you, depending on how deep you tucked your feet up under you, is by pressing your toes hard into the floor just enough that your lower body begins to elevate off the bench but still remains in contact with the bench surface. This takes practice to master but just like everything else in lifting, it will become second nature over time. You should immediately start to see an increase in your overall benching numbers. If not by the first workout then usually only a few workouts later. You should start to notice too that when you have difficulty putting up heavy poundages that your ass and lower body will start to leave the bench and shoot up into the air. This is a perfect example of you using leg drive.
10.FASTER! FASTER! FASTER! Speed is everything in lifting. Letâ€™s take a step back to high school physics class for a moment and discuss the matter of force. What is force? Well force or power is what we use to move the weights we use but, how is speed important to our situation? Well if we look back for a moment, the equation to determine the force exerted on an object is force=mass x acceleration. So power (force) = weight weâ€™re working with (mass) times how fast we move it from point A to point B (acceleration). This is why speed is so important in the bench press and lifting in general. The FASTER we move a given weight the more POWER we generate to move it with and the easier the lift becomes! The easier a lift becomes the more weight we can move. The more weight we can move, the stronger we become and the bigger we grow! This is something we all want. But what good is speed if you canâ€™t control it? What good is a fast car that can reach speeds over 200 miles an hour if you canâ€™t drive it? Not good at all. It becomes an out of control mass of metal which is exactly what your bench press becomes when you move the bar as fast as you can with complete disregard of controlling it in your bar path, etc. Doing this can lead to things like bouncing the bar off your chest and a whole list of no noâ€™s that can not only be detrimental to your bench press training but can be harmful to you as well. Itâ€™s called the bench press not the bench bounce. Weâ€™re talking about controlled speed during your movement, not using momentum. Using momentum like bouncing the bar off your chest to help you complete the lift can lead to all sorts of problems. Problems like possible broken ribs, soft tissue injuries and other impact injuries like a cracked sternum. Also, bouncing the bar off your chest might seem like the lift is getting easier at first but, this does the completely opposite. Initially yes youâ€™ll feel as if the lift is getting easier but the bar is bouncing through the lower portion of the lift instead of forcing you to press through the bottom of the lift in effect making you weaker instead of stronger. This is the exactly what we arenâ€™t after here. As you develop this nasty habit, youâ€™ll begin to have to bounce the bar even HARDER off your chest to get more weight up since youâ€™ve neglected the lower portion of them movement. In doing so, youâ€™ve weakened that section of your muscle strength because youâ€™ve made it that your muscles do zero if any work in that section of the press. Bouncing in no way develops any sort of functional strength or muscle size what so ever because youâ€™re not making your targeted muscles work. This is the whole purpose of performing the exercise to begin with. What weâ€™re working towards here is speed with control. You want fast bar movement as you come down towards your chest just as much as you want that same quickness on the way back up. Coming down too fast, again, can lead to bouncing and the use of momentum. We donâ€™tâ€™ want that. Too slow on the way down however makes the descent become more of a â€œnegativeâ€, forcing you to do more work than is necessary. Try not to fight the bar on the way down. Control it just enough to keep it in its groove during this phase of the press but not so slow that you do more work than is necessary.
11.CHOOSE THEM WISELY! This should apply to all aspects of lifting and your life in general. What Iâ€™m mainly hinting at is the weights you pick when you perform a max attempt. When choosing proper jumps up in weight, make sure theyâ€™re enough to warm up you up for the next heavy set and prep your system to handle progressively heavier weights. You donâ€™t want the weight to be so big of a jump up that you shock your system and miss and attempt but you donâ€™t want so little of a jump(s) that you end up doing more work than necessary and end up gassing out before you give a good attempt at a max. For example, going from 135 to 185 and maxing at 225 is a good jump. Going from 135,150,170,190,205, then 225 might have worked you more than expected and youâ€™ll end up missing the 225 attempt where if you did less work leading up to it, you may have made it. Choose wisely.
I read it today before my chest work out. I did change my grip a bit closer so that my elbows would stay close to my side and point towards my feet. That didn't seem to change much on my flat bench but when doing incline I could tell big time.