Everyone likes a big bench, at least every guy likes a big bench. But are there three big mistakes in your bench pressing technique that are holding you back? Take at look at the list below and see if you are missing one or all three.
- Foot drive
- Grip position
Foot drive is key to accessing not just more control and support when you press the bar, but you recruit much more force and drive to assist your press. Foot drive is one thing that a lot of people are totally ignoring in their technique, mainly because most trainers and fitness coaches are not taught this in their basic courses. So the importance gets lost in between everything else.
So what does this mean. Basically it means you need to push into your feet and drive with your legs and glutes as you press the barbell up and away from your chest. An easy way to assess if you are driving with your feet or not is to watch and see if you shimmy around on the bench like you have ants or some other creepy crawly in your pants during the reps, and the second is to see if you lift your feet mid rep.
The set is is important to help with this technique also. Plant both of your feet firmly on the ground either side of the bench. Then lie back and get into your normal pressing position. Secondly you want to begin to push into the legs and feet, as if you are trying to push the floor away from your body. Some people will want to lift their heels here and push more with the ball of their feet, and that’s okay as long as you keep the drive and connection with the floor. Thirdly you want to be squeezing and driving up with your glutes, just like you would when squatting or dead lifting. However make sure to keep your hips and glutes touching the bench, and keep your shoulder driving into the bench as well. People can confuse the needed arch in their back with lifting their ass of the bench. And those people are clearly just asking or a good spanking, why else are they shimmying their ass around in the air. Keep it tight and keep it driving the barbell up, not your ass.
I have touched on this in a previous post but it is a useful reminder here, you need to breathe with each rep. Not in the way you are taught in your gym induction either, although if you are holding your breath that technique is a good place to start.
For the bench press when the barbell is held vertically above the chest you need to keep pressure in the lungs and chest in order to stay secure in the shoulders and serratus but also to reduce the crushing weight of pressure caused by the heavy barbell. The technique I prefer is a mixture of both previously mentioned. Take a deep breath at the top of the lift, when the bar is furthest away from your chest. Hold the breath as you lower the barbell to the chest and then press away, breathing out only after you begin to reverse the bar path back up. Why? Well firstly taking a breath as you lower the bar reduces its affect on stability and usually reduces the amount of air you can suck into the lungs as the pressure of the weight increases. Secondly it distracts from the lift, you just want to think lower and press. Nothing else matters in that moment.
Final point but one that makes all the difference for maximum loading. For starters most of you will be aware that by moving your hands closer to the mid point of the bar you switch the focus of the press onto the triceps muscles and away from the chest. Moving the grip wider does the opposite. So you need to find the sweet spot, the point where all three main muscles, the pectorals, triceps and deltoids can fire at maximum capacity and efficiency. Finding this point can take a few tries. But the main thing to focus on is that your pinky finger is inside the smooth rings on the bar and your forearms are perfectly vertical at the bottom of the lift, with your fist directly above your elbow. Don’t just randomly grab the bar at the same point as your coach or friend, they may have totally different body mechanics to you and therefore this grip may not be your strongest position. And please don’t let me catch you using a thumb-less grip, wrap your first around the bar, thumb and all and punch it up. Also be aware that going super narrow will limit your ability to balance the barbell and to wide will put your shoulders and rotator cuffs in a poor position and risk injury.
Hope this helps and make sure to check out the bench press assistance lifts here to help boost your bench press even further.