Breaking Down the Bench
Let’s break down the bench!
Let’s start with the warm up. When warming up, we want to think of what muscle groups will be used during the exercises. In this case: Chest, shoulders, upper back, biceps, traps, lower back, core, quads, and calves. Yes, basically every muscle will be used when benching correctly.
The chest, triceps, upper back/lats, a little bit of shoulders, and legs are all used to press the weight. We also utilize the legs, lats, core, and lower back to stabilize and support the load of the bar. To bench to your full potential, you must utilize every muscle group possible. 2 muscles are always stronger than 1, just as 4 are to 3!
Now that we know that we will be using most of our body during the bench press, let’s talk about a few key warm ups:
Air Squats- Getting the blood flowing
DB Overhead Press- Light weight, 2 sets of 10 to 12 reps to warm up shoulders
Push Ups - 2 sets 10 to 20 reps
Seated rows- This is the staple to my warm up. I’ll hit roughly 4 to 5 sets of 10 to 12 reps. Seated rows get the blood flowing through the shoulders and lats. Getting a light pump in your lats is going to help teach you how to both load and utilize the muscles during the movement.
Warm up sets leading into working sets.
- Keep rep range low
- Avoid building up lactic acid prior to WORKING SETS
- Allow yourself time to recover for the next set
- Take a warm up weight for two sets if you believe it is needed
- I keep my warm up reps under 5 and average 3 reps for warm up sets. On occasion, I will take the same weight 2 or 3 times for 3 reps or less. This helps me find my groove, and get my muscles firing the way they should be.
Breaking down the bench!
Below are step by step cues to work on throughout the set up and execution of your bench press. If you find yourself having an issue getting into proper position or maintaining correct form throughout the lift, I wrote a note in BOLD beside each of the most common reasons why, and how to correct yourself.
- The arch (Poor hip, upper and lower back mobility)
- Traps tucked into bench
- Shoulders back (Tuck shoulders back into the bench)
- Shoulder blades pinched together (hence, getting TIGHT)
- Heels on ground (poor lower/upper back and hip flexor mobility if not able)
- Hips are to be higher than your knee! (again, poor mobility in hips, quads, upper and lower back will prevent this)
- Chest up (Do not let the weight break your arch)
- Getting your air (Take a deep breath prior to unracking the weight. Hold air in throughout the movement)
- Act as if you’re trying to stand up off the bench. (This will raise your sternum during the eccentric portion of the lift and transfer the load of the weight from your chest to your legs! Once bar touches chest, legs are loaded and ready to transfer the energy back into the bar)
- Hold air throughout the movement (breathing throughout movement gets you loose, causes you to have no brace, core is not loaded, abdominal wall will crash. This is a good way to injure your back)
Tips while the bar is descending
- Heels stay planted on ground (Don’t get happy feet. Moving feet too much, feet not planted= no base)
- Keep head on the bench (if head raises you will slightly loose arch, & more importantly risk losing TIGHTNESS)
- Elbows slightly tucked to your side (elbows flare, all pressure goes to shoulders. Why does this happen? You need more lat strength.)
- Act as is you are trying to get your Triceps to fight against your lats (Seated rows as a warm will help here!)
- Slightly sink bar into chest (bouncing the bar off chest is not power)
- Shifting weight BACK (Leg Drive) (most people don’t understand how to create leg drive. Use the steps above to practice!)
- Pushing weight back towards rack In a slight angle to carry the momentum from your leg drive. (Most try to push bar straight, pushing the bar at a slight angle will allow you to carry out the momentum from the leg drive)
There’s a lot to think about when you are benching, especially if you are benching correctly. Take note of the steps provided above and start putting them to use. Let’s get to work!