This is a touchy subject, however not as touchy as the deadlift. But we will get to that.
The Bench Press is the second main powerlifting movement.
What is The Bench Press?
The Bench Press is an institution. Especially is you are a testosterone ridden young male in need of dominance establishment. “How much ya bench bro?”.
The Bench Press is a flexion of the arms to descend a barbell to touch your chest, and an extension of the arms. If you can do that you have bench pressed. You can also imagine it as an inverted pushup against a barbell.
The Bench Press can be executed “raw”, or with equipment such as wrist bands, a belt, a bench pressing shirt, and even the Slingshot
to help with bench pressing technique.
Why should I Bench Press?
The Bench Press is the prime movement for arm pressing strength. It hits the triceps, pecs and front deltoids hard, while the side, rear deltoids, lats, and traps stabilise the movement. Some legs are involved in stabilisation, but you can have a very strong bench press with little leg drive as we can see in paralympics powerlifting meets.
Depending on your goals, bench pressing can serve a wide variety of purposes :
For pushing strength :
The Bench press is an excellent assessor and builder of upper body strength. Anything that involves pushing, striking, will be needing bench pressing. Anything speed related should involve extra bands or chains to accommodate for deceleration at the end of the movement.
For body mass :
Upper body mass will be increased by sets of 8 to 15 reps on the bench press. By changing angles, and hand widths you can hit all muscles in the front part of the upper body, and increase their size. So don’t get stuck to just bench pressing if you want extra mass, work on incline, decline, wide grip, close grip, over-head press, neck press, with barbells and dumbbells.
How to find your Bench Press?
In the same manner as for the Squat, the Bench Press can be very different from one person to another. Depending on your torso (length, width, girth), arm or forearm length, and your strengths and weaknesses in muscle groups, your bench press will not be the same as your neighbours.
You must learn to use a very wide variety of bench pressing techniques, such as close grip, incline, decline, ultra wide, with and without leg drive, to understand and assess your strengths and weaknesses, and work on them with assistance exercices.
The Setup :
Benches in most gyms are shit. They have no adjustable safeties in case the bar slips, and no raised platform to allow a spotter to correctly, and therefore safely, give the bar to the bench presser. If you are going for reps you may use them, but if you are alone and are unsure about being able to execute the weights ou are about to do then use the squat rack.
I know I know… the squat rack should be used for the squat. But I would rather try my best in a safe bench than do a half ass job or injure myself in a less than average set up.
Get yourself a padded bench with a very firm pad. If the pad is too soft you will lose stability, and sink into it when the bar is loaded into your hands. Set it up so the head of the bench is set up behind the railings. Lie down and set the safeties at chest height. That way if the bar slips from your hand, or you can’t lift it it won’t crush your neck and face.
Set the Rack holds so that your arms are more than slightly bent when you hold the bar, you will be needing some slack
The Sequence :
Lie on your back and slide up the bench so your head goes far past the bar :
To execute a bench press we will want all your back muscles to be tight. So we are going to make you arch slightly, like a bow ready to fire an arrow.
Grab the bar tight slightly outside of shoulder width :
You must grab it as hard as you can so that your wrist and forearm become one solid block. When the bar gets heavy, it will shake and risk bending your wrist either forwards or backwards. We don’t want that… because that means the barbell will fall on you and kill you.
Set your feet on the floor in the front part of the bench, and slide forward without moving your feet. Your back should arch a little.
Once you have gone as far as you can and can feel your back is tight, sink your shoulders down deep into the bench, then your ass down and keep that arch in your back. Now that it is set, never let it slacken. bring your feet back and until you feel a slight stretch in your quads. You now have a solid arch.
Look at the bar, it should be just over your eyes or slightly in front.
Break The Bar by twisting your left hand anti clockwise, and your right and clockwise. This will put your elbows in the correct position, establish torque, and set your shoulder blades tightly into the bench.
Now pull the bar slowly towards you while keeping your elbow as close to you as possible. As the bar goes down, lift your head up and follow it with your eyes.
Once it has touched your chest, slam your head back into the bench and press up and out while keeping the bar tight in your hands, you should also be pushing “out”, as if you were trying to stretch the bar lengthwise, and pushing down and back with your legs to send the strength of your poster chain into the bar.
Once you have locked out your elbows, you have executed a bench press.
This is an extremely technical lift. I have probably left out a few more elements as I have never lifted with gear. Work on one single aspect and master it. Then add something new each each time until the whole movement feels tight and natural.
Take it easy.