How To Bench Press

Apr 28, 2023

The bench press is a classic strength training exercise that focuses on building upper body strength and muscle. It's a compound exercise that targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps, and is a staple in powerlifting competitions. However, in order to perform the bench press effectively, there are three big rocks to focus on: setup, tension, and bar path.

Big Rock 1: Setup

The setup is critical in ensuring that you can perform the lift safely and effectively. There are two main components of the setup: hand position and foot position. Hand position refers to where you place your hands on the bar, which greatly affects muscle recruitment. For lifting the most weight possible, you want to place your hands in the position on the bar that allows you to do so. However, for a competition standard bench press, your index finger must be on the ring at a minimum. Any wider than that is not allowed. For foot position, the goal is to maximize leg drive, which creates a stable and rigid body and allows for greater force transfer. The main cue to focus on when it comes to leg drive is trying to spread your legs into the floor, creating a knee extension moment like on a leg extension. You should feel lots of quad tension the whole time that you're bench pressing. It's important to note that the specific foot position is dependent on the lifter and may vary.

Big Rock 2: Tension in the legs and upper back

Tension is important in creating a stable and rigid body, which allows for greater force transfer and ultimately, lifting more weight. Leg drive is a key component of tension, and you can opt for a constant leg drive or a dynamic leg drive. We prefer a constant leg drive simply because it's one less variable to manage when lifting heavy weights. Upper back tension is also critical in building a strong bench press. By squeezing your shoulder blades together, you can improve your arch, minimise range of motion and maximise whole body tension. This also puts your shoulders in a better and safer position to lift heavy loads. One of the cues to focus on when building upper back tension is to feel like you are "squeezing a pencil between your shoulders blades".

Big Rock 3: Bar path

Bar path refers to the path the bar travels during the lift, and is critical in maximising force output and minimising unnecessary shoulder and arm movements. The ideal bar path is a 'J Curve'. With the bar starting directly above your shoulders and at the chest, the bar takes the path of a 'J' to return to the start position. To achieve this, you should focus on keeping your elbows underneath the bar and lowering the bar to your sternum or nipple line. From there, press the bar back to the start position. This motion will create a 'J' shape, the most efficient way to bench press.

The bench press is a classic strength training exercise that focuses on building upper body strength and muscle. To perform the lift effectively, you need to focus on setup, tension, and bar path. Hand position and foot position are critical in the setup, and leg drive and upper back tension are key components of building tension. Bar path is important in maximising force output and minimising unnecessary movements. By focusing on these three big rocks, you can build a strong bench press and improve your overall upper body strength.

Are you looking to take your training to the next level?

Do have a specific goal you would love to achieve?

We can help build an actionable plan for you to succeed! 

Click Here To Learn More About Our Coaching