This week I break down the proper step-by-step form and cues to help you perform a safe and much more effective bench-press. One of the biggest pieces of advice I can give is to not focus on or coach more than 2-3 cues at once. This will be overwhelming and hinder the actual bench press. Instead, find the biggest areas and flaws that need work, and aim to be more attentive to them. Lastly, this is a breakdown of a more conventional bench-press. One I would teach to athletes and general clientele. I do not consider myself an expert on powerlifting bench press style (while I also do not admonish this style in anyway whatsoever), and prefer to teach my athlete’s and clients a more standard technique that does not over emphasize an unnatural arch.
Firstly, the most important thing I want to emphasize is that your feet must remain planted throughout the lift. The biggest mistake I see with the bench-press is the tendency to have “dancing feet,” especially once there is any sort of struggle to complete a repetition.
Feet Slightly Behind Knees
This is one of the key proponents of creating a tight and natural arch in your lower back. Keeping your feet behind your knees will create a tightness and rigidity and help create a power source for your bench from your lower body.
Heel Planted/Driving Into The Ground
As I have mentioned in previous articles regarding deadlift form, creating torque is essential for all major barbell lifts. Keeping your heels planted can allow you to properly drive your knees out and “screw” your feet into the ground and create torque throughout your lower body.
Unless there are major discrepancies between someone’s grip and more “conventional” positioning I will let an athlete grip the bar in a manner in which they are comfortable.
Eyes Slightly Behind Bar
To ensure a proper bar path and a lack of disturbances from hitting the hooks on the power rack, it is imperative to make sure your eyes are slightly behind the bar when you lie down on the bench.
Bend The Bar
Much like proper positioning of the feet can help create torque throughout the lower body, cuing the hands to “break the bar” can lead to proper external rotation of the shoulders and essential torque creation in the upper body. Much like how screwing your feet into the floor calls on a clockwise rotation of the right foot and counter clockwise rotation of the left foot (which will lead to external hip rotation and torque), breaking the bar will lead to this same essential movement in the arms and shoulders.
Glutes and Lats
This will help create the natural arch I mentioned earlier.
Pinch and Bring Down Shoulder Blades
Again, this will help create external shoulder rotation and the necessary stability provided by proper torque generation.
Perform a Lat Pull Down With The Bar
Essentially this is a way to cue proper lat engagement. If you have ever done a lat pull down before you know that your lats lead the movement and are the primary mover. Pulling the bar in the same manner you would during a pull down will help drive your lats into the bench and provide much needed added stability.
Drive Chest Up To Meet The Bar
This can slightly shorten the range of motion and also aide in creating torque
Triceps To Lats/Elbows Straight Forward
Cuing to keep the triceps close to the lats or driving the elbows forward will ensure that the shoulders remain in a position that will not hurt or damage them.
Feet Through Floor
As I mentioned before, maintaining your foot positioning and contact with the floor is essential. This is also a good way to ensure you continue to drive and finish throughout the latter portions of the lift.
Drive Head and Back Through Bench
This will also help preach unconscious (basically these final cues will help finish off the lift and reach the point where the final drive is second nature) drive throughout the last stages of the bench. This will also help maintain stability.
Gerry DeFilippo: ISSA CPT- CPPS, AAPS. Founder/Owner: Challenger Strength.