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Tips for a Stronger Bench Press
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Tips for a Stronger Bench Press

The Barbell Bench Press is one of the best upper body exercises for increased strength, muscle and power! It is a big compound movement that comes with a range of benefits, but to ensure you are getting the most out of this exercise you want to make sure you are performing it correctly.

Benefits of the bench press

The bench press is a great exercise to help strengthen the muscles of the upper body, including the pectorals, arms and shoulders. Incorporating the bench press is a great way to increase strength, improve endurance, strengthen the joints & ligaments of the shoulder & elbow and tone the muscles of the upper body. It is one of the stronger upper body movements meaning you can get a lot out of performing this exercise compared to other upper body movements.

The major benefits of this movement include:

  • Strengthening the upper body (primarily pecs, shoulders and arms)

  • Increase core strength

  • Reduced risk of injury

  • High calorie burn exercise due to the amount of muscles worked

How to best perform this exercise?

When performing the BB bench press proper technique is crucial to ensure you get the most out of the exercise and you complete it safely.

Usually, you will be performing this movement with a standard olympic barbell which weighs 20kg. This can be heavy enough on its own for many beginners so it is important to start off slow and easy when first performing this exercise. Asking someone to spot you is always beneficial, however this movement can also be performed with dumbbells at a lighter weight to help build strength and confidence.

Let’s go through the basics, before we talk about tweaking and improving the movement.

  1. Lie down on the bench and bring your eyes roughly in line with the barbell.

  2. Grip the bar with hands just wider than shoulder-width apart, so when you’re at the bottom of your move your hands are directly above your elbows. This allows for maximum force generation.

  3. Ensure your feet are slightly pulled back towards you and your heels are pressing into the ground, this is known as leg drive and is a common step many people skip.

  4. Un-rack the bar and bring the bar slowly down to your chest, roughly inline with the nipples.

  5. Push up as you breathe out, gripping the bar hard and watching a spot on the ceiling rather than the bar, so you can ensure it travels the same path every time.

  6. You want to aim on hitting the full range of motion of the movement which means brining the bar to roughly 1-2cm off of your chest, it is okay to touch your chest however you want to ensure you are not ‘bouncing’ it off your body as this could lead to injury.

Our favourite cues to focus on for this exercise??

  1. LEG DRIVE: Ensure your heels are driving into the floor, creating tension through your legs and entire body before the lift. Giving you a more stable base to perform the exercise.

  2. SHOULDERS BACK AND DOWN: Pull your shoulder blades back and down as if you are trying to push them into your back pockets. Again this helps with stability.

  3. CONTROL: Slowly lower the barbell towards your chest with control, don’t rush the movement too much.

What are the most common mistakes we see?

**If you are unsure about what the mistakes are or if you are performing this movement correctly, speak to a 3PC coach next time you are in class and they will help go over it with you.

  1. Going too heavy right away. Focus on correct technique before loading up the weight! Quality reps > the quantity of the weight/reps will results in greater results and progress.

  2. Not setting your shoulder blades. You want to aim on keeping your shoulder blades still during the bench press to help stabilise the barbell.

  3. Moving your feet during the set. Many people make the mistake of thinking this is purely an upper body exercise. Whilst the upper body is the primary focus, your legs still play a big role in the bench press in creating leg drive and helping you to keep a tight position throughout the movement. Push through your legs for the entire set pressing your feet/heels into the floor - avoid moving your legs and feet around or in the air at any point during the movement.

  4. Not getting the bar low enough. Ensure you aim to take the movement through the entire range of motion. Failing to do so means you are missing out on a lot of muscle activation and you won’t be getting the most out of this exercise!

How to progress this exercise?

There are a number of ways to make progress your bench press! The most simple yet often most overlooked is by actually stripping back the weight (leave the ego at the door) and focusing on nailing proper technique.

The best way to get a stronger bench press is to do so with proper technique, once you have the technique down pat you can start to look at other progression methods such as:

  • Slowly adding more weight

  • Do more reps or sets with the same weight

  • Add in pauses and slower eccentrics (slower lowering phase)

These are all suitable methods of progressive overload - which is important for getting better at any exercise or movement!

Variations

There are a great number of variations to the BB bench press. Some of our favourites include: Incline bench press, close grip bench press, DB chest press, Deadball floor press, push ups, single arm DB chest press…just to name a few!

Including variations into a common movement is a great way to mix up the exercise but also target and improve weak points.

Try incorporating some of these tips into your next upper body workout to help improve the overall performance of your bench press!

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