Building the Bench Press:
When two guys who workout meet, a question that's bound to come up in conversation is the ever popular "how much ya bench"? Everyone I meet seems to have a super strong uncle or cousin that benched well over 500 pounds "back in the day" when in reality that 500 was 300 and the bar was about 8 inches above his chest! Don't be one of these people! Leave the ego in the locker room and make sure you are doing the right things to build a bigger bench!!!
I'll discuss the very important technique flaws that are limiting the pounds on the bench!
Aside from actually being strong, technique is the biggest factor keeping you from adding precious pounds to your bench. Typical bodybuilding style bench press is back flat, elbows out wide and bar touching the upper chest area. This not only is inefficient, it also wrecks your shoulders! When competitive powerlifters bench (without the use of supportive gear), they have a visible arch, elbows closer to the body, and touch the bar lower on the chest. While you may not want to look like a contortionist getting set up on the bench, even a small arch in the low back is needed. This helps keep you tight. Tightness is key when pressing big weight. Once your feet are set, don't move them until the set is completed! Squeeze the barbell as tight at possible! Once the bar is un-racked, keep the shoulder blades tucked in.
Check out the photos below for a visual!
This increases tightness, stabilizes the shoulder joint, and slightly reduces the range of motion: all things that help move the weight more efficiently! Lastly, don't forget breathing. On maximal or near maximal attempts, inhale before the bar descends and don't exhale until it is being pressed to lockout. Foot placement is based on preference. Some with a large arch have feet tucked on the toes, others with better hip mobility can arch and keep the feet flat helping with the leg drive. Play around with this to see what works for you! I'll discuss some accessory lifts for the bench soon. Happy benching!
About George- George has a BS in Sport and Exercise Science from DeSales University and obtained his CSCS from the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He has over 10 years experience working with a wide range of clientele from top-level athletes to older adults and special populations. He also is a competitive powerlifter and enjoys coaching the sport.