Not too many years ago, I used to think the bench was just a chest exercise, & I avoided it in most instances. But, since learning how to perform it correctly I have fallen in love with this compound lift. Triceps, shoulders, back, core & my glutes get heavily involved!
I was worried that the ladies in my workshops wouldn’t want to do this one of the lifts as much, if at all, as the other compounds that we work on, but they definitively appreciate it as much as I do. And for many of them, it’s unexpectedly become their favourite.
Before hitting the bench I make sure I open up my shoulders for several minutes with a resistance band. I also spend time doing external rotation exercises with a band & small light plates to warm up my rotator cuff muscles. These play a major role in stabilizing shoulders throughout workouts & maintaining proper positioning throughout lifts.
So, how do I set up for a bench press?
· Sit on the end of the bench so that when you lean back you will completely avoid hitting your head on the bar
· Slide yourself under the bar to roughly eye level – close enough to easily unrack, but not too close so that you hit it during your bench
· Then begin with your feet! These create a strong base & are where you’ll draw power from
· Bring your feet as far back as you comfortably can while keeping them flat on the ground – this is how you’ll generate power from the ground & flex your quads
· You are looking to create total-body tightness so that your muscles fire at their maximum potential
· Squeeze your glutes to ensure a slight arch in your lower back & embrace your core
· Pinch your shoulder blades together
· A straight wrist provides optimal force
· Grip width depends on your body type
· Breath in & use that to engage your abs
· Lower the bar anywhere between your top ab & nipple line
· Try not to let your elbows flare outwards
· Tucking your elbows in slightly (but not so much that they touch your torso) will help to protect your shoulders & utilize your lats accordingly
· Forearms should remain vertical at every angle
· As you push upwards tighten your glutes, drive you feet into the ground & breath out.
While some people may bounce the bar off their chests, I personally worry this may place extra pressure on the sternum.
Wearing wrist straps can also help keep your wrists remain vertical & thus creating maximum force.
Exercises, which I include for my clients to strengthen key supporting muscles include: close grip bench press, incline/decline bench press, dumbbell bench press & the deadlift.
If you’ve never benched before, please get a spotter to support you & checklist all the points above. Don’t bench thumbless & seek professional help if you are unsure how to apply correct form. But most of all, enjoy!