Ahhh barbell bench press, the ultimate glory lift for everyone.
It’s the first question(for some reason) you’ll get from someone to measure your strength: “What’s your bench bro?”
It’s most people’s favorite lift and the PR they are always wanting to shatter. But most people are not performing their bench press with proper form.
Bench Press More With Proper Form
I’m here to tell you, bench press with proper form takes way more than a strong chest, strong upper body & good form. It takes your whole body working together as a unit! Not only to keep you safe, but also be at the peak performance your body is capable of.
Incorporating Bench Press and Leg Drive
This is probably the aspect of form that I will see get neglected the most. Most people are just worried about pushing the weight hard as hell and breathing so they don’t pass out. Meanwhile their feet/legs are not active at all during their lift. But what can really take your bench to the next level immediately and in the long term is driving your feet into the ground.
“What does this do and how is this going to help my bench”
It’s physics 101, you are trying to win the battle against the force of the bar(and gravity) going downwards by creating more upwards force with your body. The majority of this force will come from you pushing the bar away from you, but we can draw more force from our legs by not just allowing them to rest on the ground, and actively pressing them into the ground(while keeping glutes on the bench), this is not only creating more upwards force in your favor to battle the bar, but also anchoring your body more so you are more stable and can focus on producing the power necessary to complete the lift.
A good way to make sure you can get an effective leg drive is by making sure you are setting up properly, make sure your heels are directly underneath your knees in your set up. By stacking your joints, you are again more stable, and therefore going to produce more power. Check out this picture from Pheasyque demonstrating.
Bench Press with Core Activation
Now that we have you actively driving your feet into the ground, how else can we produce force in your favor?
Your core, yes really! Another very underutilized weapon at your disposal. Your core is not just your abs, it’s everything stabilizing from your glutes, all the way up to your armpits.
Your glutes and lats are going to be our main focus. By engaging your glutes, this is further reinforcing your leg drive and anchoring you down more. This will also help keep your butt from wanting to pop off the bench, which is a great way to seriously injure your lower back if you let that happen.
Now, beyond it reinforcing what we’ve already covered, squeezing your butt is also going to help stabilize your shoulders. This happens because our glutes and our lats actually attach in a diagonal manner on our back. Our lats are a huge factor in helping keep our shoulder joint stable and letting the surrounding muscles do the work, and not the joint itself. Shoulder stability is worthy of an entire blog itself which is coming next week! In short, This is usually why so many people injure their shoulder while benching, they are not taking the steps to stabilize their shoulder. So by engaging the lats, we are pulling our shoulders back and down into an ideal position. Add us firing our glutes, and we are getting double the reinforcement of stability for our shoulders!
The easiest way to start implementing these techniques is to think about which will be the easiest for you to start doing right away. Then, lower the weight you usually work at, and focus on that technique, ideally twice a week with 3 days rest in between. Master that technique, and then add the next.
“Strength doesn’t come from what you can do. It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t.” – Rikki Rogers
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