Bench Press

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One of the great joys in life is telling other people what you bench. Make sure you stay injury free with this article on perfecting your bench, and ensure your bench press boasts continue to make others green with envy.

The main thing to appreciate with this lift is that it's not just a pushing exercise, but also has significant pulling and leg driving components. Getting the most out of this lift involves looking at all of these different parts of the movement, to make sure each part is working well. This will result in more weight being pressed, safely.

Speaking of safety.....

Usually injuries stm from benching too often, and muscle imbalance or restriction.

The first issue can be solved by not benching all the time. See the below alternative exercises to continue your benching progress without actually benching. The last issue can be solved with suitable mobility work. Muscular imbalance is a very common cause of injury issues around the shoulders.

To be in balance did you know?

You should be able to military press (overhead) 2/3rds of your bench press weight for the same number of reps.

You should be able to Dumbbell press 3/4's of your total bench press weight (eg 100kg bench press = 37.5kg DB Press).

You should be able to perform 'chest to floor' press ups with perfect bench press form for at least 10 reps.

You should be able to bent over barbell row the same weight that you can bench press.

db chest

Common mistakes:

  • Poor grip and/or hand position.
  • Arm position.
  • Path of the bar.
  • Lack of range of motion.
  • Head up off the bench.
  • Legs and/or core inactive.

Any of these mistakes will lead to an inefficient use of the energy applied to the movement. By ensuring each part of the set up is just right, you can be confident that all of your effort is going towards the same goal - shifting the most weight.

Good set up should include:

  • Grip width should be the athletic position - just outside of shoulder width.
  • The grip should crush and 'break' the bar apart.
  • The bar, wrist, and elbow are in line - bar should feel weightless above the chest.
  • Feet flat to the floor and cocked back; feet pushing into the ground and driving back towards the shoulders.
  • Glutes and hamstrings actively engaged to drive.
  • Lats active as they pull the bar down to the chest.

The 3 best exercises to boost your bench!

Don't bench the same way too often. Benching at most once per week would be our recommendation, but once per fortnight would be even better. If you must bench press frequently, mix up your angles and grip widths to help avoid injury.

Make sure you include these exercises in your overall programme.

  1. Weighted Press Up
    • This exercise has a very similar movment to the bench press, but has the advantage of allowing the shoulder blades to move in a more natural range (as they're not held in place on the bench). This is great for recruiting the pulling function of the lats and rhomboids which are needed with strong benching.
  2. Dumbbell chest press
    • Increase your strength in this move and see your bench plateau crumble. This builds strong shoulder stabilisers (helpful for controlling the bar path while benching), tricep strength (helps with locking out the bar while benching), and overall strength (having to pick up and put down the weights - unlike the bench where the weight is racked for you).
  3. Military press
    • Increasing your overhead pressing will develop the shoulder girdle and add kf's to your bench press. As a rule of thumb you should be able to military press 2/3rds of what you can bench press.

Get a session with a coach to improve your bench press.