Let elite powerlifter Rob Hall school you on what you should be doing to improve your bench press. Incorporate some of his bench press tips to help improve your max.
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| How to Bench Press |
Set Your Feet
Although your foot placement isn't as crucial on the bench as it is for the deadlift or squat, it's still important. Your feet are the start of a strong base and are where you'll draw your power from.
Try to keep your feet back toward your butt as far as you can while still keeping them flat on the ground. Depending on your height and body type, this is going to look a little different for everyone. The point, though, is to plant your feet firmly so you can generate power from the ground through your entire body.
Position Yourself Under The Bar
Like your foot placement, your back position is going to look unique to you based on your build and mechanics. Essentially, though, you should set up far enough under the bar that it's easy to unrack, but not so far under it that you hit the pegs on the way up. Squeeze your shoulder blades together to stay tight and protect your shoulders. Imagine trying to crush a grape between your shoulder blades, and push your upper back into the bench.
Arch Your Back
This is a little bit of a controversial topic, especially among bodybuilders. Many bodybuilders think that arching your back is just a powerlifting move, but arching your lower back will actually help you maintain a neutral spine and keep your back tight and protected as you press.
If you're not into powerlifting, your back arch doesn't need to be that exaggerated. However, always keep a slight arch in your lower back. If you're a powerlifter, arch your back as much as you can to minimize the distance the bar has to travel.
Set Your Grip
Grab the bar tightly and with authority. Grip the heck out of it! Hold the bar as far down your palm as possible. If the bar is too high in your hand, or even in your fingers, your wrist will bend backward. A straight wrist provides optimal force.
Your grip width will depend on your body type and goals. People with longer arms will need to grip wider, as will those who are looking to push maximum weight, such as in competitive powerlifting. Those with shorter arms will need a narrower grip, and if you're lifting primarily in hypertrophy rep ranges, this may be a better position for the majority of your lifting.
However, I don't like exaggerated grips in either direction. Most people will grip around the barbell rings or just inside them. I don't recommend a false grip because it can be dangerous. Wrap your thumb.
Brace And Unrack
Take in a deep breath, unrack the bar, then let the breath out. Don't waste energy lifting the bar off the rack, especially if it's loaded with a lot of weight. If you don't have a partner to help you, drive your back into the bench so hard the bar just pops off.
Breathe In And Lower The Bar
Before you move the bar downward, take another deep breath. Hold that breath and use it to brace your abdominal wall. As you do this, think about bending the bar into a U-shape with your hands. Bending the bar will allow you to tuck your elbows naturally to engage your lats and protect your shoulders.
Hold your breath until you get past the concentric sticking point of your press, then breathe out forcefully as you push.
Touch Your Chest
Where you touch the bar on your body will depend on how long your arms are and where you grip the bar. Whatever the case, your forearms should be at 90 degrees from the ground in this bottom position. If it's more or less, you may lose force.
If you have long arms and a narrow grip, you'll touch farther down on your body. If you have short arms and a wide grip, the bar will touch higher on your chest. Most people will hit anywhere between their top ab and their nipple line. Wherever the bar hits you, try to hit the same spot every rep.
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