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Question on Bench Technique

I have a couple of beginner type questions, I know perhaps this maybe better suited to the beginner section but as it has to do with powerlifting technique I thought it would get more views by knowledgeable powerlifters if I posted it here.

I was watching a bench demo by Dave Tate where he showed keeping his elbow from going below the bench by tucking his elbows, he made it clear that it was important to try and keep your elbows from going below the bench could someone explain why please ?

He also showed how he was able to reduce the distance the bar had to travel however either due to the camera angle or more likely my stupidity I still couldn’t see how he did this as it was nothing to do with arching his back so once again if someone could explain this I would be grateful ?

Tucking your elbows under the bar the way he showed in that video helps keep a lot of stress off the shoulders. It also allows for a lot of drive out of the bottom. Also if I am thinking of the correct video this is the one where he shows to put you feet up on the bench and drive your traps into the bench while keeping your ass on the bench. Once you actually use that technique and have a flexible enough back you will notice that it helps a lot. I used to just get my feet really behind my back and push my body forward and I was getting tight.

Once I really started forcing my traps into the bench and really thinking about making myself into a spring I was getting so tight and the drive I would get from my triceps and front delts off the bottom was really good. I can’t really say the amount of weight I could do was tremendously more, but ever press I would do is so much more controlled and stronger, and it looks hella good.

I knew tucking the elbows protected the shoulders but wasn’t sure why he says to keep your elbows from going lower than the bench though or is it just that to protect the shoulders ?

If you’re arms are longer, then your elbows will end up lower than the bench even with a lot of elbow tuck and a high arch.

I’m sure you’re talking about the “bench westside” video, which is Tate at his finest (“Be a magic trick if the guy could bench 300 himself”).

He reduces the ROM in a few ways (I thought the video explained this). The most important is getting your upper back really tight, pulling the shoulder blades together and getting the weight on your traps. Get in this position just sitting in your chair and extend your arms. Now release the tightness in your upper back and let the shoulder blades separate/relax again. See how much further your arms now extend from your chest?

Getting the upper back really tight has a 2nd important benefit. In addition to shortening the ROM, it makes your shoulders much more stable during the bench. Google “setting up the bench louie simmons” and watch the video in the first link (crossfit blog, but it’s still great advice from Louie, the man just needs to make a buck). Travis Bell does a great job of demonstrating this stability, and the shortened ROM I mention above.

He also reduces the ROM by both benching lower – really almost below the chest and at the top of the abdomen – and tucking the elbows (which you’ll need to do going lower, and also gives you better drive out of the hole). Again, you can visualize this yourself just sitting in a chair, getting tight, and seeing the difference in ROM if you were to bench up over your upper chest v. just going straight up from a much lower point.

Definitely check out the Louie Simmons video I mention above. Also check out the “So You Think You Can Bench” video series from Tate. He made that a few years after the “bench westside” video and spends much more time teaching the bench and explaining some of the stuff he touched on in the video you most likely watched.

Rock978 thanks for the tips they definitely helped me understand better what he was teaching and I will check out “so you think you can bench” series plus the Louie Simmons stuff :slight_smile:

There are a few other reasons to tuck too.
1- It is easier to keep the elbows and forearms directly UNDER the bar - vip for keeping power transfer directly into the bar from the forearms and grip. See 4.

2- Benching to your stomach while it’s pushed out with air shortens stroke tremendously and combined with pinching the blades you can take serious inches off the press. This requires a major tuck.

3- Tuck allows the lats to catch the weight at the touch and thus begin the ascent. The more of a flair there is, the more the smaller and weaker front delts try to take the load. Trust me you want the lats to catch the weight.

4 - This has made the biggest difference for me and is a personal feeling - the more big “body parts” I can get behind the lift, (in this case under the lift to push) the better and stronger I am. This is why we try not to bend too far in front of the toes in the squat, or let the bar get too far out in front of the deadlift. We want everything under the bar so all of it can push with synergy in the squat. We want to pull the bar into our groin in the deadlift while simultaneously shooting our hips through.

Same with the bench. With a major tuck in both our elbows and feet, along with putting “the shoulders in our pants pockets,” everything gets under the bar as much as possible and there is a line of power transfer from the feet and through the lats, abs, stomach, arms and finally the bar. This is how and why leg drive rules the roost for the bench - it all begins there and shoots through and moves the bar.

[quote]Rave2.0 wrote:
There are a few other reasons to tuck too.
1- It is easier to keep the elbows and forearms directly UNDER the bar - vip for keeping power transfer directly into the bar from the forearms and grip. See 4.

2- Benching to your stomach while it’s pushed out with air shortens stroke tremendously and combined with pinching the blades you can take serious inches off the press. This requires a major tuck.

3- Tuck allows the lats to catch the weight at the touch and thus begin the ascent. The more of a flair there is, the more the smaller and weaker front delts try to take the load. Trust me you want the lats to catch the weight.

4 - This has made the biggest difference for me and is a personal feeling - the more big “body parts” I can get behind the lift, (in this case under the lift to push) the better and stronger I am. This is why we try not to bend too far in front of the toes in the squat, or let the bar get too far out in front of the deadlift. We want everything under the bar so all of it can push with synergy in the squat. We want to pull the bar into our groin in the deadlift while simultaneously shooting our hips through.

Same with the bench. With a major tuck in both our elbows and feet, along with putting “the shoulders in our pants pockets,” everything gets under the bar as much as possible and there is a line of power transfer from the feet and through the lats, abs, stomach, arms and finally the bar. This is how and why leg drive rules the roost for the bench - it all begins there and shoots through and moves the bar.[/quote]

Good stuff. To point 4, in that Louie Simmons vid I mentioned above AJ Roberts says he’s seen someone benching properly blow out their quad because they are driving so hard, but he’s never seen someone who benches properly injure their shoulder.

OP, I think one last big thing Dave Tate has mentioned a couple times (and probably in one of these videos) is that you can really only fix one thing at a time if the motor pattern is already engrained (as is the case for almost everyone by the time they start trying to fix technique on the bench).

I try to go into each bench session with one thing to really focus on – be it keeping the weight on my traps, tucking my elbows, pulling the bar apart, whatever I think could definitely need improvement. We want to build towards having everything moving properly, but it really has to be one step at a time.

Rave2.0 wow it sounds as though I have got loads to learn !! Rock978 I like your idea of trying to fix one thing at a time, at the moment I do try to keep my wrists & elbows inline and directly under the bar, also I do try and tuck my elbows but maybe I don’t tuck enough.

If you had to pick just one thing to focus on what woud you prioritise on ?