T Nation

Proper Bench Press Technique for Hypertrophy

To work on my chest, how low should the bar go?

This regular at my gym told me recently that I should not bring the bar all the way down to touch my chest.

His reasoning was that if you go too low your shoulders get involved.

Any thoughts?

Note that shoulders have always been my strongest bodypart.

[quote]hit the gym wrote:
To work on my chest, how low should the bar go?

This regular at my gym told me recently that I should not bring the bar all the way down to touch my chest.

His reasoning was that if you go too low your shoulders get involved.

Any thoughts?

Note that shoulders have always been my strongest bodypart.[/quote]

He was wrong. The part of the bench that most recruits the chest is from where the bar is touching the chest to about half way up. Many people actually don’t use a full range of motion (only the bottom 1/2 to 2/3) to ensure that their chest does the majority of the work.

The proper form should be:

  1. Shoulder blades pinched/chest big throughout the whole movement

  2. Tight arch (but don’t let your butt come off the bench)

  3. Elbows semi tucked (“iron cross” style/traditional style bench isn’t too kind to most people’s shoulders)

  4. Bring bar all the way down to touch chest and then press up (probably want to start using a full ROM) until your arms are straight, but never lock your elbows as this takes the stress off the muscles and places it on the joints.

If you find that your shoulders are doing too much of the work you may need to rely more on fly variations. I’m shoulder dominant when I press but different kinds of chest flies seem to be working well. Doesn’t really answer your question though.

[quote]BONEZ217 wrote:
If you find that your shoulders are doing too much of the work you may need to rely more on fly variations. I’m shoulder dominant when I press but different kinds of chest flies seem to be working well. Doesn’t really answer your question though. [/quote]

Do you think it’s possible to add size using flies though?

Always seemed to me more of a “cutting” or “definition” exercise. But I should start doing them again.

[quote]Sentoguy wrote:
He was wrong. The part of the bench that most recruits the chest is from where the bar is touching the chest to about half way up. Many people actually don’t use a full range of motion (only the bottom 1/2 to 2/3) to ensure that their chest does the majority of the work.
[/quote]

Thanks. But just that 1 or 2 inches before you touch the chest works the shoulders more no?

In any case, ive been doing like you said since forever (lowering the bar till i touch the chest, without any bounce of course).

[quote]hit the gym wrote:
BONEZ217 wrote:
If you find that your shoulders are doing too much of the work you may need to rely more on fly variations. I’m shoulder dominant when I press but different kinds of chest flies seem to be working well. Doesn’t really answer your question though.

Do you think it’s possible to add size using flies though?

Always seemed to me more of a “cutting” or “definition” exercise. But I should start doing them again.
[/quote]

Cutting or definition exercise? Watch out dude, you’re about to get flamed, lol.

I don’t think barbell bench press is a great chest builder. When you do a proper bench with your elbows tucked and back tucked, you’ll be recruiting a host of other muscles besides your chest. If you’re looking to build your chest and you can handle a good amount of weight, I’d suggest doing DB Bench Press and lots of flies.

PS - Just cuz someone is a regular at the gym, doesn’t mean he knows anything.

for purely mass development of the pecs i would go with movement that get the most stretch of the pecs. really heavy flyes and dumbell presses where you allow the dumbells to stretch dowm to the sides of your chest are going to build the most mass in the pecs.

when i was a bodybuilder, my entire chest routine revolved around flyes, dumbell presses, dips, pec dec, and cable crossovers. i never benched with a barbell. now i’m a powerlifter with a mid 500lb raw bench and my pecs were bigger back in my bodybuilding days.

[quote]hit the gym wrote:
Sentoguy wrote:
He was wrong. The part of the bench that most recruits the chest is from where the bar is touching the chest to about half way up. Many people actually don’t use a full range of motion (only the bottom 1/2 to 2/3) to ensure that their chest does the majority of the work.

Thanks. But just that 1 or 2 inches before you touch the chest works the shoulders more no?
[/quote]

If you keep your chest big, generally it works the chest more than the shoulders. Shoulders and triceps generally start to take over towards the top of the movement. But, of course individual cases may vary.

[quote]
In any case, ive been doing like you said since forever (lowering the bar till i touch the chest, without any bounce of course).[/quote]

How are you at recruiting your chest? Can you voluntarily contract your pecs (both in unison and individually)?

DB’s do offer a greater stretch as MM mentioned, and can allow you to bring the bells together at the top (similar to a bent arm fly) which can help you to recruit the pecs.

You could also try something like pre-exhaust where you’d do a set of say flies (really any pec isolation movement would work though) and then immediately do your bench presses. This should help you to feel your chest working during bench.

Could you possibly post a video of you benching so we could check your form?

[quote]Sentoguy wrote:
hit the gym wrote:
Sentoguy wrote:
He was wrong. The part of the bench that most recruits the chest is from where the bar is touching the chest to about half way up. Many people actually don’t use a full range of motion (only the bottom 1/2 to 2/3) to ensure that their chest does the majority of the work.

Thanks. But just that 1 or 2 inches before you touch the chest works the shoulders more no?

If you keep your chest big, generally it works the chest more than the shoulders. Shoulders and triceps generally start to take over towards the top of the movement. But, of course individual cases may vary.

In any case, ive been doing like you said since forever (lowering the bar till i touch the chest, without any bounce of course).

How are you at recruiting your chest? Can you voluntarily contract your pecs (both in unison and individually)?

DB’s do offer a greater stretch as MM mentioned, and can allow you to bring the bells together at the top (similar to a bent arm fly) which can help you to recruit the pecs.

You could also try something like pre-exhaust where you’d do a set of say flies (really any pec isolation movement would work though) and then immediately do your bench presses. This should help you to feel your chest working during bench.

Could you possibly post a video of you benching so we could check your form?[/quote]

So is that a good thing if you can contract individual pecs?

i guess i underestimated the flies.

yeah i’ve been doing alot of chest dips and db presses also.

so conclusion touch the bar to your chest. that last inch before touching does not recruit the shoulders more. right?

The only time you shouldn’t go all the way down is when you have shoulder problems. I’ve had multiple dislocations and only do floor presses or bench press w/ pins set.

[quote]Sentoguy wrote:
hit the gym wrote:
Sentoguy wrote:
He was wrong. The part of the bench that most recruits the chest is from where the bar is touching the chest to about half way up. Many people actually don’t use a full range of motion (only the bottom 1/2 to 2/3) to ensure that their chest does the majority of the work.

Thanks. But just that 1 or 2 inches before you touch the chest works the shoulders more no?

If you keep your chest big, generally it works the chest more than the shoulders. Shoulders and triceps generally start to take over towards the top of the movement. But, of course individual cases may vary.

In any case, ive been doing like you said since forever (lowering the bar till i touch the chest, without any bounce of course).

How are you at recruiting your chest? Can you voluntarily contract your pecs (both in unison and individually)?

DB’s do offer a greater stretch as MM mentioned, and can allow you to bring the bells together at the top (similar to a bent arm fly) which can help you to recruit the pecs.

You could also try something like pre-exhaust where you’d do a set of say flies (really any pec isolation movement would work though) and then immediately do your bench presses. This should help you to feel your chest working during bench.

Could you possibly post a video of you benching so we could check your form?[/quote]

keeping the chest big makes alot of sense!

i think you hit the nail on the head and i definitely see now what you mean.

yes i am doing DB presses, turning the weights at the top of the movement, they are great for recruiting the pecs like you said. ill try the pre-exhaust sometime.

thanks

ok one last question to make sure i am doing things right.

for the grip. normally a barbell has grip marks. according to wikipedia, they are spaced 910 mm or 35" apart which sounds exactly like the barbbell i have.

normally i align my pinkie fingers on that mark. is this good or should i align my middle finger?

if it helps, i am 5’9", dont know my exact arm length though. i’m guessing it has to do with that.

Stick to dumbbells/flies if you want your chest to grow.

if your looking to bench a lot of weight(this is what it sounds like), then follow a powerlifter setup. elbows tucked, arched back, feet planted, shoulder blades together etc. etc.

[quote]hit the gym wrote:
ok one last question to make sure i am doing things right.

for the grip. normally a barbell has grip marks. according to wikipedia, they are spaced 910 mm or 35" apart which sounds exactly like the barbbell i have.

normally i align my pinkie fingers on that mark. is this good or should i align my middle finger?

if it helps, i am 5’9", dont know my exact arm length though. i’m guessing it has to do with that.[/quote]

There is usually a gap in the knarling on the bar, I usually get my pinkies close to that(with the hand on the inside of the ring). I’m 5’8/5’9 as well if you want an indication. That’s a wide grip though.

[quote]tw0scoops2 wrote:
hit the gym wrote:
ok one last question to make sure i am doing things right.

for the grip. normally a barbell has grip marks. according to wikipedia, they are spaced 910 mm or 35" apart which sounds exactly like the barbbell i have.

normally i align my pinkie fingers on that mark. is this good or should i align my middle finger?

if it helps, i am 5’9", dont know my exact arm length though. i’m guessing it has to do with that.

There is usually a gap in the knarling on the bar, I usually get my pinkies close to that(with the hand on the inside of the ring). I’m 5’8/5’9 as well if you want an indication. That’s a wide grip though.[/quote]

I don’t think that is wide at all. I keep my middle fingers on the rings and I’m 5’7". I have longish arms for my height though (5’10" wingspan). I wont go much wider than that though because I don’t get a good contraction in my chest if I go wider.

Training at home with my Crossbow is nice due to the fact that benching is done as if using dumbells. Nice in the fact I can go lower than my chest, and as said before press up and in to meet hands at the top.

Guess the only drawback is limited to 340#. but will be a little bit still till I need to do that for reps lol.

hi guys just a point on shoulder pain when doing db presses, i always use to have shoulder pain when doing db presses and then i started pinching my shoulder blades back once i got the bar off the rack so that my shoulder blades were touching the bench and now that i pinch my shoulder blades back i have no pain in my shoulders anymore. i dont know if this is the best way to do db presses but i find that i can handle more weight this way also.