Bench press technique tips
Fine-tune your benching and watch your pressing improve in minutes
Benching seems simple - just grab the bar and start pressing, aiming not to crush your own rib-cage. But in reality, a few simple tweaks can make all the difference between a pigeon chest and blown rotator cuffs and an impressive bench. Here's some technique tips for correct form along with a few variations for you to try
'Bodybuilders aiming to recruit the pectoralis major often flare the elbows,' says trainer Will Purdue (willpurdue.co.uk), 'But that can strain the rotator cuffs. For athleticism and power, keeping your elbows bent at a 45˚ angle recruits more of the lats and triceps.'
Grip it good
'A wide grip targets the pecs,' says trainer Robert Kane, (davidlloyd.co.uk), 'A closer grip focuses on the triceps. For heavy weights, keep your hands in line with your elbows to recruit optimum power from both. On a heavy set, squeeze the bar as hard as possible for a second or two before taking it out of the rack - according to the principle of 'irradiation', this'll fire up the surrounding muscles and allow you to lift heavier. Oh, and don't forget the rule of thumb: wrap them around the bar. Some lifters use a thumbless grip, but it's nicknamed the 'suicide' grip for a reason.
Get in line
The bar should be in line with your nipples for optimal pressing. And yes, it should touch your chest on every rep, but it shouldn't bounce. Think about touching the bar to your t-shirt but not your chest, and you'll get the requisite soft touch. And experiment with using a 'pause' at the bottom occasionally - as well as improving your explosive strength from the bottom, it's essential if you ever want to compete in powerlifting.
Keep them straight. Letting them bend back might feel more natural, but it takes the bar out of line with your forearms, making it hard to lift big weights.
Some people keep them up in an effort to 'work the core', but it just ruins your balance, increases your risk of injury, and forces you to lift less. Keep your feet on the floor - when you're pressing as heavy as possible, you'll be able to drive through them (without arching up off the bench, thanks) to generate more force.
Back in action
Squeezing your lats together will give you a solid platform to press from, and so having a solid upper back is just as essential to a big bench as strong triceps and pecs. Add bent-over rows to your upper body day to strengthen up this vital area.