Critical Technique Elements – Part 4: The Bench Press

Many lifters bench press incorrectly despite its wide popularity and
relative technical ease. There are many ways to bench press, but
there is only one model that incorporates the most muscle mass over a
long effective range of motion which facilitates lifting the heaviest
weight to get stronger. The four critical elements of this model are
the touch point on the chest, the top position which includes the
grip width and internal rotation of the hands, the non-vertical bar
path, and the active use of the stabilizing muscles.

Position: Grip and Shoulder Blades

The grip starts about
one hand wider than the press grip. This is a good starting place but
can be modified if does not produce the correct forearm position when
the bar touches the chest. The thumbs must be around the bar. The
hands must be internally rotated to load the forearms more
effectively without excessively bending and stressing the wrists: see Figure 5-11. The lift starts by unracking the bar and holding it
directly over the shoulder joint.

The shoulder blades
should be retracted (pinched back) – do not shrug forward with
protracted scapulas. The contact with the bench will pin the scapulas
inhibiting free movement, so as soon as the bar is picked up, the
shoulder blades will ideally be in their final lifting position for
the remainder of the set. If the muscles responsible for this
rigidity relax during the set, they must be actively contracted
again. At the top of each new rep, take a new breath, re-pinch the
shoulder blades together, then start the next rep.

Point at the Chest

The touch point is in
the middle of the sternum, inferior (toward the feet) to the shoulder
joint: see Figure 5-14. This should produce vertical forearms at the
bottom. If not, the grip width must be adjusted.

Touching mid-sternum
prevents shoulder impingement – the trapping of soft tissues
between the scapula and humerus. Trapping and pinching the soft
tissues can damage them, so it’s better to deliberately bench press
with a non-vertical bar path which is less efficient, but safer. As
an unintended consequence, this reduces the range of motion of the
lift, because a lifted chest will produce a higher touch point than
touching directly over the shoulder joint. At the bottom, the chest
will be angled upward (think “chest up”) with an arched back and
the lifter’s butt in contact with the bench. The butt must stay on
the bench for the sake of consistency and control. The arch puts the
shoulders closer to the touch point while still preventing
impingement – this returns some verticality to the bar path.

The most common problem
with the bottom position is getting the touch point right. Lifters
will accidentally touch too high and then too low, or don’t even
know where they are touching. Tactile cue yourself if you are
inconsistent with your touch point. Poke your chest at the correct
contact point before you begin your set. You may have to poke hard or
grind your finger into your skin a little. The sensation should
persist at least until you finish your first rep giving you a tactile
target for the bar to touch.


Although the bar path
is not vertical, it will still be straight. The bar will touch
mid-sternum and then travel upwards and superiorly (toward the
shoulders) until the elbows are locked out with the bar directly over
the shoulders. There are two most-typical errors regarding bar path:
1) getting the bar past the shoulder joint at any point or superior
too early and 2) pushing the bar inferior (toward the belly) of the
touch point.

If either happens,
first check the grip, shoulder blade position, and feet position. All
the basics need to be correct first. If the bar is getting back too
early, think about pushing the bar straight up in a vertical line off
the touch point on the chest. This won’t actually happen, but it
can be helpful to think about it this way. The bar will go up in a
diagonal, straight, and correct path to the top. “Scooping” the
bar toward the belly after touching the chest is usually the result
of the chest not being lifted correctly with a rigid arch of the
back. Make sure this is correct, and if the problem persists, think
about getting the bar back to the shoulders early. Visualize this as
a diagonal line to get back to the shoulders and then a vertical line
up. In reality, the result will be a correct bar path.

Look up at the ceiling
at a single point before unracking the bar, and stare at it for the
whole set. Eye gaze is a critical part of bar path. The bar can be
seen in the peripheral vision referencing the stationary ceiling
instead of watching the moving bar.


Prime movers are the
muscles responsible for direct movement of the load. The prime movers
in the bench press are the elbow and shoulder muscles which includes
the pecs. These muscles will shorten and lengthen under tension
throughout the lift. The stabilizing muscles do not change length and
support the prime movers by transmitting force effectively. The
stabilizing muscles are essentially everything inferior to the
shoulder joint: the rhomboids which retract the scapulas, the legs
and hips which force a strong arch and rigid back, and the abs which
stabilize the spine and also produce a rigid torso.

Any loss of contraction
in these muscles will destabilize the lift reducing the force
production against the bar. Focus on body position when setting up
before unracking. The lifter’s shoulder blades should be pinched
back. The chest should be elevated with the back arched, and the feet
should be pressed against the ground driving the torso back and
supporting the arch.

Another aspect of
stability that frequently produces problems is the control of the
elbow position. The elbows must be in a position at all times to
produce vertical forearms in the side view. The elbows cannot cave
inward or flare outward. The bar should be over top of the elbow
joints at all times.

The bench press has
many technical components, but in terms of the big picture, make sure
the grip, touch point, bar path, and stability are correct, and
you’ll be very close to the model of an ideal way to bench. The
grip should be internally rotated with a width about a hand wider
than your shoulders. This standard width will typically produce
vertical forearms at the bottom position when you touch your chest
mid-sternum. You may have to adjust the width to ensure vertical
forearms. The chest should be pointed upward with an arched back and
feet pressed into the ground, and the shoulder blades should be
pinched back to maximize stability. Keep the elbows directly under
the bar as it travels, and get your bench heavy. A heavy bench makes
a big difference in upper body strength.

Credit : Source Post

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply
Shopping cart