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Best Way to Set and Maintain Upper Back in Bench Press?


Always losing tension in my back during the Bench press? Maybe I am setting it wrong or unracking it wrong.


I try to get a decent arch, squeeze shoulder blades together and down and make sure to not have rack height too high. Should be able to use your lats to pull the bar off the racks, when you press it off you lose upper back tightness. Also I find chaulk on the upper back helps stay tight and in position.

You probably already know all that but if not hopefully it helps lol


I have to press it a little because my J hooks are not slide type.I set my shoulder blades back and down before getting on the bench and when I straighten my arms to press the bar a little and pull it from the rack I feel like I lose the tightness.Is there any way to tighten after you get on the bench?


Don’t lose tightness in the first place.

Ideally, you would have a spotter to help you unrack on heavy sets. Personally, I train alone and have no problem unracking the bar for myself, even with weights above my max (slingshot work). There isn’t a trick to it, just stay tight. And I do press it out of the rack too, but only a couple inches, if you have hooks that allow you to pull it out of the rack (which I have never seen anywhere) they wouldn’t be safe because the bar could easily fall off after you rack it.


Not really qualified to post here compared to others but this is something I’ve just had a big breakthrough with. I found that taking a second and pulling my shoulder blades back together between each rep really helps me.


Your shoulder blades shouldn’t be coming apart between reps in the first place.


I’m trying my best to stop them but I’m struggling. Pulling them back between every rep though last week had me stopping the set because my back was fatigued rather than my chest.


Pull your shoulder blades down and together while driving your butt towards them, trying to shorten distance between your shoulder blades and coccyx. Imagine where the bar is descending to to be attached to the ceiling by string and being pulled up by that.

Do those two things and focus on them while unracking/holding the weight at all times.

Then row the bar down to you with your back so you don’t lose tightness on decent at all.


After the starting position is steady I’ve found that sometimes I slide off position just because there’s not enough friction between me and the bench. Technical shirts are a big no-no for bench days and I suppose I could get some help from chalking up my back.


I will try this and get back to you.Rowing the bar feels like a good cue.Thanks man.


Pulling them back with heavy load every rep will create a lot of instability I think.


I saw a guy in the gym who does a inverted row kind of thing with the bar on the rack before bench to keep his back tight.Anyone does that? Is it effective?


It sounds like your upper back muscles are weak and lack endurance. Do lots of rows and chin ups if you aren’t already, plus high rep (20+) band pull aparts or rear delt flys.


Seconding Chris’s suggestion. In your bench video from a while ago your arch was pretty poor and shoulders weren’t secure down. Obviously you’ve changed technique since then but still. I’d recommend Kroc Rows then some Barbell row variation. Also 50-100 total reps on facepulls will help. I do a stupid amount of back work on rows mainly and I just put 7 kilos on my bench. It helps.


Yes I do that to squeeze my lats together. I had issues with upper-back tightness as well, and here is the exact advice given to me by a very accomplished bench presser.

Another thing that has helped me is getting good friction between my upper back and the bench surface. I would sometimes have an undershirt on, and the extra fabric made my back slide up. Going to one layer of cotton fabric fixed that. Even if I’m sweaty, I can still dig my traps right into the bench. Once I got my traps dug in I’d get my whole body tight by creating tension with my legs.

Applying these cues and really working on tightness took me from being a pretty crappy bencher to a mediocre bencher.

Head-to-toe tightness is what you’re going for here.


@loco I put orange or white bands around the bench (lengthwise) to create grip so I don’t slide around.


@chris_ottawa thank you for your suggestions, I already do about 50-100 band pull aparts a day and some pulling every session but I can always do more so I’ll give it a try. I have nothing to lose.

@hugh_gilly I’ve never really bothered with anymore of an arch than I naturally have but it’s a good point for me to consider. I’ve recently been thinking of adding some more rows so I’ll give that a try. As always, thanks for your advice.


If that’s the case then there is no point in adding more, just fix your bench technique.


Nice info there.Thanks man.Do you have your legs on the bench when you dig your traps in?


I have doing elbows out dumbell rows pulling straight up.It’s helping me in activating the upper back area during bench presses and squats.You can try that.