T Nation

Questions about Bench Press

  1. I know that you're supposed to retract you shoulder blades for bench. Are they retracted and also depressed? (what confused me is that Thibs said in the livespill that you bench with with your shoulders shrugged?)

  2. Also, I've heard that you use your lats to assist in the press. To do this, do your shoulder blades remain retracted?? because I can't see how you could use your lats or chest if they remain pinched back...

  3. How wide of a grip is recommended?

  4. Lastly, I get that your legs should be walked back so you can arch and drive through your legs, but do your heels have to be able to touch the floor?....I find that i'm up on my toes.

thanks guys. Any help provided will be very greatly appreciated.


I'm not an expert on form, but I'll do my best to answer 3 and 4.

3.) Grip width is completely up to you based on what you feel is your strongest grip and the one that feels most comfortable for you. A lot of times (not always), raw benchers will usually have a somewhat "close" grip. Watch some videos of raw lifters benching like Jim Wendler. Most shirted lifters will go for a grip that is as wide as allowed during meets, both because of the nature of a shirt/path of a shirted bench, and the fact that it cuts down your bench stroke.

4.) Basically whenever people are talking about tucking your feet and arching to bench, they will say "drive your heels into the floor"...what they mean is get your toes into the ground and push forcefully to use your legs to drive the bench and stay tight, but aren't actually saying that you need to get your heels onto the ground.

  1. grip width; what Ty said + a lot of people say that at most your upper arms should be at 45degrees to your body this is to reduce shoulder stress.

  2. this will also depend on your fed's rules, IPF says your feet must be flat on the floor:

"2. The lifter must lie on his back with head, shoulders and buttocks in contact with the bench surface. The feet must be flat on the floor (as flat as the shape of the shoe will allow). His hands and fingers must grip the bar positioned in the rack stands with a thumbs around grip. This position shall be maintained throughout the lift."


I'm by no means an expert. I've gotten some good tips from folks over the years that seem to have worked for me---

  1. I don't know if you've ever seen anyone do this, but quite a few people used to finish the deadlift by shurring and rolling the shoulders back...it's actually a bad idea but a good idea on the bench.
  2. I was with you on this...I always thought the lats were a PULLING muscle, like the biceps, so I never put much effort into my lats to begin with. But the lats will give you stability bringing the weight down and they also seem to give a little "umph" out of the hole.
  3. I'm not sure if this varies for raw / equipped lifters, I used to always bench with my ring finger on the rings, but Vincent Dizenzo and Matt Rhodes told me to take my grip out to pointer around the rings, it is the widest legal grip and it shortens your throw. The more narrow the grip, the longer the throw.
  4. I used to setup like metal militia, up on my tippy-toes, but I was told that it doesn't offer alot of stability and it's very difficult to get leg drive when you're on your toes...Again Dizenzo said to spread out the feet, big toe up on the inside of the shoe, this forces you on your heels.

As far as grip and foot placement goes, there are guys who have been successful doing it differently. If you look at Mendy, I think he was on his toes because of his ankle problem. Kara Bohigian looks like she squeezes the bench between her legs and gets a high arch, again on her toes. There have been some guys who have benched more weight than I can handle using a close grip, so grip isn't everything.

  1. Scapula retracted and depressed. For me anyway. Shrugging / elevating the scapula moves the humeral head too high up in the socket, which in my case has led to some inflammation issues.

  2. The lats help with unracking the bar and pulling the elbows in. Extension and adduction of the humerus. And yes, you keep your scapula retracted.

  3. Co signing Ty on this.

  4. Depends on the fed, like Dax said.


Here you go. Some of the best instruction you can get.


Thanks guys


You do not keep your shoulder blades retracted. The purpose of retracting the shoulder blades at the beginning. The purpose of this is to help you get that momentum you need to get the weight off of your chest. Also you most likely need to move the bar lower on your chest, most lifters lift with the bar to high up and close to their shoulders so that they are putting more shoulder muscle into the lift then pecs. Also you need to conentrate on keeping your body tight as you lower the bar so you will be able to get it off your chest.

As for how wide to grip the bar that depends on you and your body. Generally you go wider so that you get an advantage in not having to push the bar as far. That is also why you use an arch. If your back is arched you don't have to push the bar so far. I on the otherhand as a 5'3" female powerlifter with very short arms and legs do not do a wide grip or an arch. I don't need the advantage and I actually loose momentum with a wider grip. I find I get a better leg drive with me feet flat on the floor and not so far back. I have very strong legs so it is advantagious for me to get the maximum leg drive possible. So again you need to experiment and determine what form is going to work best for you. Having a large arch is generally recommended but with my short stout body structure I can't do it and don't really need it. I have only lifted raw so I don't know if you do things differently with a shirt on. Also if you can find someone either to workout with or train you that has experience it is really beneficial as technique makes such a huge difference in what kind of lifts you get.


Put a bar in the floor. Now do push ups with your hands right behind the bar. Wherever you feel the strongest is the grip you probably want to take on the bar. See where your fingers are in relations to the rings. Most bars now a days have 32" ring spacing. I've seen cheap bars where the rings were closer and I've even seen some that had no rings.
Wherever you end up at make sure your forearms are plumb, meaning not aimed out to the side or inward. Not angled towards or away from your face. Straight up and down. You will have to adjust your elbow angle aka "tuck" to get it right. When doing this you will touch right at your sternum which is right under your nipples ok. Hope this made sense. Good benching man!