Bench Press Techniques May 11, 2011 7:47:44 GMT
Post by Coach Campbell on May 11, 2011 7:47:44 GMT
Bench Press Techniques
The bench press is the king of all weight lifting exercises. The extreme upper body exercise packs mass and muscle onto the upper body, and is a key test in human strength.
Proper bench press technique is crucial, not only to ensure the fastest gains, but also to prevent injuries that could take you out of the gym for a while. Proper bench press technique is vital to achieving a high bench press max.
Bench Press Tips & Techniques
1. Keep Your Shoulders Back
When performing the bench press exercise, your shoulder girdle should be kept in a RETRACTED position.
Here is how to get your shoulders into the retracted position:
1. Hold your arms out straight out in front of you.
2. Keeeping your arms as straight as possible, move your shoulders backward as if you are trying to touch something behind you.
3. Still keeping your arms straight, squeeze your shoulder blades inward toward your chest. This is the retracted position.
Practice this position for 5 minutes a day for a few days or until you have mastered it. The retracted position is the position that your shoulders should be in for the safest and most powerful bench press.
2. Keep Your Feet Planted
Make sure that your feet are planted firmly on the floor and that they do not leave the floor during your bench attempts. They should also not be moving around. This creates a stable base and foundation, which makes your bench more powerful. The whole body must be stable during a bench press and the feet are a HUGE part of that.
As you get used to bench pressing heavy weight, you will learn to "push" off with your feet for additional power (while keeping your feet planted). Try this during your normal bench press workouts, then use it to help increase your bench press max!
3. Imagine The Big Lift
The bench press exercise may be mostly physical but it is a great deal mental as well. Before a bench press max attempt it is important that you visualize yourself successfully completing the lift. Imagine that you are feeling the heaviness of the bar on your chest as well as the strain in your arms and chest as you move the weight. Picture the bench press bar in your hands; and complete the mental image of you lifting that bar. Literally go through the motions without the weight while you do this. All of these things will help prepare your body for what is to come so that it won't be such a huge shock. Again, you can do it!
4. Make Yourself Believe that the Lift is Easy
You may notice me yelling "Easy, easy!" in the bench press video below. This is my way of telling my mind and body that the weight I am about to lift is no big deal.
Do your best to convince yourseld that the bench press attempt is easy and you will be far more likely to conquer the lift. Pretend that that 250 on the bench press bar is only 200 You can do it!
5. Squeeze Your Glutes
Tighten up your glutes (butt muscles) as you are performing the bench press. This will stabilize your body and will produce more power from your whole body to help with that big lift. This is not a well known technique but it definitely has helped me in my big lifts. See? It works!
6. Find the Right Grip
The "perfect grip" is the grip that has your forearms exactly perpendicular (90 degree angle) in relation to the bench press bar. If you have strong triceps, you may try using a close grip by moving your hands closer together when gripping the bar. If your triceps aren't strong enough, try using a wider than perfect grip by sliding your hands away from each other a little bit.
Keep in mind that it will likely take a few workouts for you to get used to a new grip. Personally, I always use the perfect grip when performing the flat bench exercise. I leave the close grip for my tricep workouts.
7. Work on Weak Areas
There are two phases of the bench press exercise, the upward motion and the downward (or negative) motion. If you notice that you are having difficulty with one phase of the bench press exercise, you should focus on that particular phase. Add sets of halfway-up presses into your workout cycles just as you would devote sets to other exercises.
Keep in mind that your shoulders take much of the stress at the bottom of the movement and that your triceps are working hardest at the top of the movement. I recommend using the power rack to perform full sets of halfway-ups and halfways-downs.
8. Warm Up Properly & Stay Warm
Jumping right into an one rep max attempt on the bench press is NOT a good idea. When you max out, your muscles need to be thoroughly warmed up. First, ride the stationary bike for 5 minutes at a very slight pace. Your heartbeat should not go over 130 beats per minute (Use the monitor on the bike or treadmill). Next, perform two light bench press sets of 10 reps each. In other words you don't want your muscles to be tired when you start your maxing session but you also need to make sure they are adequately warmed up. This will help prevent devastating injuries as well. You should warm up before performing any heavy lift that is more than 100% of your bodyweight. So, if you weigh 150 pounds, warm up before you attempt anything over 150! Perform two warmup sets of 10 at 60% of your one-rep max at the beginning of a bench press workout. Then, be sure to stretch properly. After warming up and stretching, you will be ready to start lift/set number one.
9. Build Up to Your High Bench Press Max Attempt
Although it is not shown in the video, that 270-pound lift was my third lift attempt that day in that bench press compeition. My 2 previous lifts were 240 and 255.
Starting out, it is wrong to attempt a max at the highest weight you are looking get up. Let's say you want to max out on 350 pounds for one rep. To start out at 350 pounds is wrong and puts you at high risk for injury. Instead, you should start with a warm-up weight and then pyramid up in large increments.
First, you want to warm your body up with 5 minutes on the stationary bike. Then, I like to do 2 light sets of 10-15 reps before I go into my one-rep attempts. These warm up sets should be at about 50% of your one rep max. After the warm up sets, you want to stretch your upper body and also your lower body because those muscles need to be properly warmed up for any minor assistance they may give in the bench press. Then you want to go for the 1st attempt and increase the weight 15-30 pounds, then the 2nd attempt and increase the weight some more, then attempt the bench press max. Be sure to rest properly between the sets as covered in the next rule, Rule 11.
10. Rest for 3-5 Minutes Between Sets
Any good power lifter knows this to be true. When you "max out," you are using a different energy system in the body than when you are performing a bodybuilder's routine. For that system to fully recover between heavy sets so that you can move the most weigh the next set you need to rest between three and five minutes.
Don't rest for much more than 5 minutes, however. You want to keep Rule 9 in mind — Stay warm! If you rest for too long, your muscles will lose the increased blood flow and your bench press performance will suffer. Proper bench press technique means always resting 3-5 minutes between heavy sets (sets of 6 reps or lower).
11. Power Through All the Way to the Top
Momentum is key to the bench press exercise. You want to keep the bench press bar moving upward in a fluid motion — don't let the bar stop moving up when you are pressing! Just like a track runner, you defintely do not want to slow down as you approach the finish line.
Because you want the weight to be moving continuously, it is important to always have a spotter when you are attempting heavy lifts (or any lift just for safety). The spotter's job is to keep the weight moving upward in a continuous motion. If your spotter is letting you flounder with the bench press bar halfway up and not assisting as minimally as needed with your upward progress, get a new spotter! A good spotter should first use his fingers to assist the upward motion and should gradually provide more help with the whole hands if needed. Remember, the key is to keep the bar moving in a fluid, continuous motion. Blast through that lift!
12. Pump Up Your Chest
By keeping your chest up, you put yourself in immensely better position to bench a huge amount of weight. Also, by increasing the height of your chest, you decrease the distance the bar must travel in turn decreasing the amount of force that is needed to move the same amount of weight. Powerlifters use this technique at their meets and also in their training. Make it a regular part of every single bench press lift.
13. Keep Your Butt Planted on the Bench
Never lift your butt from the bench while bench pressing!!! Never!! This is very dangerous as it puts immense pressure on your spinal cord and stresses your body in a way that can truly lead to injury. It also weakens your bench press power greatly. Push with your planted feet but DO NOT LIFT THAT BUTT FROM THE BENCH!
14. Deep Breath Down, Exhale on the Way Up
Before you lower the bench press bar, inhale deeply and hold it. This creates a more solid torso from which you can generate power. Breathing in deeply on the way down helps to stabilize the muscles of the thorax and keeps the body in a much better condition to perform well on the bench press exercise.
15. Flex Your Lats During the Bench Press
The lateral muscles, or lattisimus dorsi, play a large role in a strong bench press. Strengthening your lats will add more power your bench press. Also by squeezing the lats out and "pushing" with them you will be able to move more weight. Your lats should be flexed throughout the entire bench press exercise.
16. Build Your Helper Muscles
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Accordingly, your bench press is as strong as the sum of your chest AND your triceps, shoulders, and lats. Work on body parts that you feel to be weak. Also, don't ignore pain in specific areas, like the shoulders, as it could mean that you are causing them undue stress. If this is the case, be sure that you are warming up and stretching properly, and give that pained part some special workout attention to build its strength. You may also need to take a few days of rest for those parts.
17 Always use a spotter for heavy lifts!
Because you want the weight to be moving continuously during a lift, it is important to always have a spotter when you are attempting heavy lifts (or any lift just for safety). The spotter's job is to keep the weight moving upward in a continuous motion. If your spotter is letting you flounder with the bench press bar halfway up and not assisting as minimally as needed with your upward progress, get a new spotter! A good spotter should first use his fingers to assist the upward motion and should gradually provide more help with the whole hands if needed. Remember, the key is to keep the bar moving in a fluid, continuous motion. Proper bench press technique means always using a spotter for heavy lifts.
18. Don't Overtrain!
General Rules to Prevent Overtraining:
Work a body part no more than once a week. This means one chest workout per week. Advanced lifters can do this twice a week.
Rest for 2-4 days per week. My bodytype is hardgainer so workout 3 days a week.
You only grow in your sleep. Try to get at least 6 hours a night and ideally 8 hours a night.
Pay attention to pains and tweaks. Listen to your body!
Use a spotter! You definitely want someone there to help you if you lose your grip on that 315 lb bench press bar.
EAT WELL. After breaking down your muscles, your diet needs to build them back up. You can only do this with a good diet based on the right amounts of protein, carbs, fats, and vitamins. Consult the bench press diet for more information.