Bench press technique

I’m relatively new to heavy lifting but have been hitting the weights hard for the last two years.
When I first benched, I had my elbows out to the sides (towards the plates) and could never touch my chest with anything ‘heavy’.
After a lot of reading (John Tate, Louie Simmons, articles here, etc.) I’ve come to learn that the elbows should be more along the ribs than flaired out to the sides.
Now I can touch my chest, I use my lats, triceps, front delts, etc. a lot more and my pecs less.

Is this a better way to bench? I’ve had several non-lifters (PT guy, etc.) talk about benching and show it done with elbows out.
Are there two kinds of benches, or is the elbows out just bad form?

Like a lot of things, I think it depends on your goals. If you want to build a massive bench press, then you’re probably better off benching like a powerlifter. If you want to build a massive chest, you’re probably better off benching like a bodybuilder.

Dan “You’re better off benching like a Powerlifter” McVicker

Like with your squatting question, what are your goals with benching? To move lots of weight or to get a big chest?

I agree with Dan. However, I also like to think that variety is probably a greater stimulus for growth than repeated bouts of the same movement. When you design your program you might want to divide it into phases that emphasize the goals you are trying to achieve at that point.

I also like to think that variety is probably a greater stimulus for growth than repeated bouts of the same movement. [/quote]

I don’t completely agree with this statement. Loading parameters are more important variables to change, than exercise selection. I have been using the same basic movements for a long time, only changing the loading parameters (i.e. sets, reps, rest, even tempo sometimes). I’m still growing just fine.

Anyone would have a hard time convincing me to remove squats, deads, chins, benches and overhead pressing just for the sake of variety.

My personal goal is to build strength/power. I’m not trying to blow up my pecs for the sake of size.
Seems to me that the powerlifting bench has had a lot of profound and varied benefits over the ‘other’ bench. I feel a ‘girdle’ of muscle all around my upper body.
I’m a tennis player and work with some baseball players. Lots of controvery about benching for pitchers. However the pros and cons there all start to center on problems with elbows out - hurting the shoulder if the upper arm goes too far back while the scapulae are trapped under the body.
But I think I got my answer - bodybuilder’s bench vs powerlifters bench. I’ll head towards the powerlifters variation, personally.

Sorry Thunder,

I didn’t mean to say change the movement itself. My intent was to say altering grip spacing and/or elbow positioning along with set and rep schemes may provide additional benefits. I didn’t mean to tell anyone to drift from the basic movements.

When i read elbows underneath the bar i thought that meant parralell with the bar. They are supposed to be in line with the plate for power?

Actaully, the answer is both, or, neither. Too far out-too much shoulder involvement., rotator issues. Too far in to your sides, triceps cant do their job-even though their role is limited.

I have competed in raw contests, both rep and max-juiced and natural-and found that my elbows start out close to sides and worktheir way outward as the wieght is driven as my most successful range of motion.

When if first started, I lifted with a very wide grip for a long time. Once I got serious and actually did some reading I realized that I should have my hands closer together. My BP stregth went down a bit when I started lifting like that, but once I got used to it they went up and have continued to increase. I guess the best advice would be to evaluate your longterm goals and lift accordingly, whatever is right for you.

I can’t say it enough: Everyone is different and there is rarely a right answer in what we do.


For clarity’s sake: I’d say that while you would always want to change the reps and sets on a program to program basis, the variation on the basic movements is also necessary to elicit maximum progress and maintain stimulus of different muscles.

So you may do front squats, neutral chins and incline presses for six weeks on a particular set/rep/rest scheme, but the next program should change to something like Overhead squats, pronated chins and narrow, flat bench.

Are we agreed on that?