T Nation

Bench help


My bench form is awful. All criticism is appreciated. I’m really struggling to improve at all and want to make a break through.

I am far from an expert but the main thing that stood out to me was how loose you were.
I set up on the bench with the bar in the same plane as my chin. I then loosely grab the bar, put my feet on the bench and plant my upper back into the bench while pinching my traps together. I then put my feet on the floor and walk them toward my head as far as my lack of flexibility will allow. This usually gives me a decent arch.

Next I set my grip width, grip the bar tightly, press my head into the bench, tense my glutes then take several deep gulps of air, trying to pack them beyond their normal capacity. I hold that breath while I unrack the weight, bring it down, touch, pause then explode up. I exhale when the bar passes my sticking point.
The bar seemed to sink into you at the bottom. 315 for a paused double is no joke, much better than the average gym rat, better than me at this point. If you stayed tight I’ll bet your numbers would increase pretty quickly from “better than average” to “holy $#!T”.

Some observations. Decide how you are going to set up and then get tight. While you were benching you were on your toes your feet were dancing around. You also appeared to be just lying there. You don’t have to arch like a cat taking a shit but you should at least be tight. If I were to come push on your knee while benching you should not move and you should be planted onto your upper back. A mental cue I use is to set up, then try to touch my ass and upper back together, then try to push your feet into the floor and slide off the back of the bench.

I also noticed that while the bar was decending your head comes off the bench as if to watch the bar. All this does is make any arch you did have collapse. You’ll notice that this collapse makes you have to press the bar another few inches. While on that after you take the bar, let the bar “settle” this should be your shoulders getting retracted and ‘back’. This will take a few inches off your stroke too and get the shoulders in a better pressing position. So, to recap, set up, big air into the chest / belly, take the bar out. Let it settle, while lowering the bar keep your chest up. If you can do that and take your head off the bench then fine, but if lifting your head causes an arch collapse then keep it on the bench.

Are you familiar with the EFS “so you think you can bench” videos on you tube? if not, check them out. if you are, watch them again and apply the things you feel are applicable to your style of benching.

Hope this helps and good luck on benching better.

I have watched the EFS series, but I’m going to re watch it. I’m debating putting it on my ipod. I don’t know why, but bench is my biggest technical issue. I’ll get better and then fall back into bad habits.

I def. Agree with getting into a nice tight setup before each and every lift off. I have an exact setup I do myself each set. I focus on getting tighter and tighter each set. A good bencher will tell you it should be un comfortable in a way. My last sets are uncomfortable in a way… but I am def. At my strongest. Last bench session I hit 320 for 5 for what its worth. I.e .yes Im somewhat knowledgeable about it.

Another thing to keep in mind is your goals. You didn’t say, but what your goals are is going to determine to a large degree how you train. While bench form is pretty much the same, there are differences on HOW you bench. for example if your goal is to use the BP as a muscle gain exercise, you’ll probably be hard pressed to beat the dumbell press. If your goal is to showcase your 1rm skills at the bench, such as in a meet or for bragging rights with your brother in law, you’d do well to become a “student of the game” so to speak and first get technically proficient as possible. If this mean putting that 3 wheels on the back burner for awhile then that’s what it takes. Form first, weight second.

Now, I’m certainly no form nazi or a perfectionist. With heavy weights comes form breakdown. BUT, if you press like a champ with 225 and look like a new years resolutionist gym rat on the bench with 3 wheels, it’s time to put the ego aside and get better. My form threshold is around 90%, meaning I have a few things I absolutely must do while benching. Shoulder position is a must because I have a rebuilt shoulder. Where I touch my chest is a standard. These are the things I do regardless of bar weight. Variables are the arch and leg drive. Sometimes I arch hard, other times I just lay there like a gym rat. Sometimes I’ll use 1/2 a foam roller in my tee shirt so I don’t have to arch, whatever…

I would recommend that you work to get YOUR form spot on . I say your form because as an individual with individual strengths / weaknesses only you know where your groove is to press the most- if that is your goal. This form will change slightly as you get stronger and the mechanics change. Also keep in mind that the weight will seek the strongest muscles. This is likely a sign that you have a weakness. For example my buddy looks great with 225 on the bar. then he works up to 275 and the weight goes up over his face. He’s got strong front delts and weak ass tris for 275. So what we do is keep benching until he starts doing barbell flyes then switch to a supplemental exercise to hammer the tris. This allows him to work his form with a weight he can handle, then beat his tris up with a movement thats similar to benching but where form is a non issue to a large degree such as a close grip floor press.