T Nation

Re-Visiting the Bench Press


#1

The bench press is usually the first exercise in the gym that we learn. It appears fairly easy, lie back on a bench, lower the bar to your chest and the push back up again.

Because it is the first exercise many of us do, I have a theory that most of us use in-proper technique with the bench. So, the purpose of this thread is to re-visit the bench press.

What cues to you use for the bench press? Do you shrug your shoulders or do you you prefer the "shoulder back and down" approach?? How well do you keep your upper back tight? Do you try and pinch your upper back/lats? How much do you arch?

Go.

tweet


#2

I just lay down and bench.

Honestly, if I didn’t train for powerlifting, I wouldn’t bench. I don’t think it’s a worthwhile movement for most.


#3

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
I just lay down and bench.

Honestly, if I didn’t train for powerlifting, I wouldn’t bench. I don’t think it’s a worthwhile movement for most.[/quote]
Really?? Even for athletes trying to develop strength/power? Do you consider the overhead press a better/more useful lift?

tweet


#4

I’ve gravitated toward slight incline bench exclusively. This may change in the future, but this seems to give me a balance of upper to lower chest development that I’m happy with.

Since I’m healing from some shoulder pain (it’s been healing for 5-ish months now), my form has been adjusted mainly to minimize any pain while benching. For me, I pull my shoulders back hard, and then shrug. I also tense my glutes and between the two I end up with a slight arch. It’s not something I try to do.

Mostly, I just pay attention to making sure my shoulders stay solid through the whole movement and don’t shift around. Shrugging seems to help better for me than depression, keeping the entire upper back tight also helps.

I’ve been doing these bottoms-up, explosively, from pins, so that’s also driven a lot of my form. It requires staying quite a bit tighter to make sure the shoulders don’t rotate forward at the top, especially with lighter weights.

This is what works for me. It’s been personalized as I’ve found what works and what doesn’t.


#5

[quote]theBird wrote:

[quote]T3hPwnisher wrote:
I just lay down and bench.

Honestly, if I didn’t train for powerlifting, I wouldn’t bench. I don’t think it’s a worthwhile movement for most.[/quote]
Really?? Even for athletes trying to develop strength/power? Do you consider the overhead press a better/more useful lift?

tweet[/quote]

If I had to go back and do it all over, all the time I spent benching would have been spent on overhead pressing. Dips are a good horizontal press choice as well.


#6

theBird how do you mean shrug the shoulders, could you go into a bit more detail on how this is done as in the past I saw a video on here that tried to show the shrugging you mentioned only from the angle the video was shot I couldn’t really see what they were tryng to explain .


#7

[quote]tredaway wrote:
theBird how do you mean shrug the shoulders, could you go into a bit more detail on how this is done as in the past I saw a video on here that tried to show the shrugging you mentioned only from the angle the video was shot I couldn’t really see what they were tryng to explain .[/quote]
Im no expert at this so I think its best someone who knows more on this subject answers your question.

But from what I know, when lying down on the bench its best to drive your shoulder back(towards the floor) and then shrug in the same manner you would when you are doing dumbbell shrugs. But like I said, maybe its best for both of us to let someone else answer your question.

tweet


#8

[quote]theBird wrote:

[quote]tredaway wrote:
theBird how do you mean shrug the shoulders, could you go into a bit more detail on how this is done as in the past I saw a video on here that tried to show the shrugging you mentioned only from the angle the video was shot I couldn’t really see what they were tryng to explain .[/quote]
Im no expert at this so I think its best someone who knows more on this subject answers your question.

But from what I know, when lying down on the bench its best to drive your shoulder back(towards the floor) and then shrug in the same manner you would when you are doing dumbbell shrugs. But like I said, maybe its best for both of us to let someone else answer your question.

tweet[/quote]

That’s what I mean by shrugging. As far as driving the shoulders back, that’s part of it, but I also squeeze them together. Basically like trying to pinch someone’s finger if they put it on the middle of your spine. It’s similar to driving them back, but it rotates the shoulder blade a bit more around the torso and engages the mid and lower traps.


#9

I forget where I heard this…probably Dave Tate, but the best mental cue for me for keeping the upper back tight was to think you were doing a banded pull apart and what your shoulders felt like there, then duplicate it.


#10

[quote]chobbs wrote:
I forget where I heard this…probably Dave Tate, but the best mental cue for me for keeping the upper back tight was to think you were doing a banded pull apart and what your shoulders felt like there, then duplicate it.[/quote]
Do you shrug your shoulders too? How hard?

tweet


#11

Shoulders should be retracted/back and depressed/down on bench, not shrugged/elevated. That’s the way pretty much all good Powerlifters, Strength Athletes, and Bodybuilders bench and it better stabilizes the shoulders (shrugging actually deactivates the lats and destabilizes the scapulae/shoulders).


#12

[quote]theBird wrote:

[quote]chobbs wrote:
I forget where I heard this…probably Dave Tate, but the best mental cue for me for keeping the upper back tight was to think you were doing a banded pull apart and what your shoulders felt like there, then duplicate it.[/quote]
Do you shrug your shoulders too? How hard?

tweet[/quote]
I don’t shrug, doesn’t feel “natural” to me. Like stated above I feel like my lats are taken completely out of the movement.


#13

[quote]Sentoguy wrote:
Shoulders should be retracted/back and depressed/down on bench, not shrugged/elevated. That’s the way pretty much all good Powerlifters, Strength Athletes, and Bodybuilders bench and it better stabilizes the shoulders (shrugging actually deactivates the lats and destabilizes the scapulae/shoulders).[/quote]

That was my understanding too until I tried shrugging and noticed that my shoulders were a lot more stable and it cut down on any impingement pain I was getting. I think it’s important to note that this is with an incline, not flat. I also have and maintain a really strong retraction while elevating.

Do you have any idea why that might be?

Based on what you said, I have a feeling it may be because my traps are stronger than my lats, which means I should probably put some serious focus on increasing lat strength.


#14

Incline pressing (like overhead pressing) involves more scapular upward rotation than flat pressing (the more incline, the more upward rotation). Since the traps are upward rotators that sort of makes sense that activating your traps might feel stable performing them that way (though I’ve never personally done them that way). I was more so talking about flat pressing (since that’s what I took it that Bird was asking about).


#15

[quote]chobbs wrote:

[quote]theBird wrote:

[quote]chobbs wrote:
I forget where I heard this…probably Dave Tate, but the best mental cue for me for keeping the upper back tight was to think you were doing a banded pull apart and what your shoulders felt like there, then duplicate it.[/quote]
Do you shrug your shoulders too? How hard?

tweet[/quote]
I don’t shrug, doesn’t feel “natural” to me. Like stated above I feel like my lats are taken completely out of the movement.[/quote]

Yeah, I tried that shrugging bench when CT posted about it a while back too. It felt really unnatural to me, but I plugged on nonetheless, having faith that I was just being closed minded.

After a few weeks my shoulders felt awful, unstable and actually hurt (something which I had never experienced while benching). It also actually took me several months before I was able to bench correctly again pain free (I think my shoulders had just been severely destabilized and the rotators needed some time to heal up and restrengthen as well as reactivate the lats correctly). I honestly would strongly advise anyone from performing that method of benching; the traditional shoulders down bench has a long standing record for maintaining shoulder health (well, at least as well as is possible with bench pressing)/is the most shoulder friendly version.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for CT’s knowledge and that bench apparently works for him. But in this instance, I think this style of bench is a poor choice for most people/I think he is the exception, not the rule.


#16

I know I’m gonna get flamed for this but since were on the topic…I’ve experienced more strength gains when I stopped worrying about my elbow tuck/ elbows flaring than I ever did when I was overanalyzing it every set


#17

[quote]chobbs wrote:
I know I’m gonna get flamed for this but since were on the topic…I’ve experienced more strength gains when I stopped worrying about my elbow tuck/ elbows flaring than I ever did when I was overanalyzing it every set [/quote]

For me, there is just a most comfortable/stable/powerful movement pattern. It took a little while to adjust my grip until I found it, and when I am warming up I will may have to do some minor adjustments before I find it (not always the same bar, so the rings don’t always line up exactly) but once I do I just worry about pressing. My elbow position is around 45 degrees to my torso, but I don’t obsess about it, it just feels “right” when I’m in the right position. Different lever lengths will change this movement pattern for different people though.


#18

Not quite staying on track but closely related which exercises do you guys think has the most carry over to your bench ? so far i’ve been using close grip bench press but someone recently recommended parallel dips as having a better carry over stating that close grip was more of a triceps exercise ( not that i wouldn’t mind adding some size to my triceps ).


#19

[quote]tredaway wrote:
Not quite staying on track but closely related which exercises do you guys think has the most carry over to your bench ? so far i’ve been using close grip bench press but someone recently recommended parallel dips as having a better carry over stating that close grip was more of a triceps exercise ( not that i wouldn’t mind adding some size to my triceps ).[/quote]

That’s really going to depend on the individual and their strengths and weaknesses.

If you are weak off the chest then doing stuff like paused benches, Dumbell benches (making sure to get a good stretch at the bottom), maybe dips if you lean forwards and used enough ROM, Decline also as it usually allows you to use more weight than flat and still use a full ROM.

If you were weak locking out, then stuff like pin presses, floor presses, close grip bench, really anything that’s really going to strengthen the triceps will help.

If your stabilizer muscles were weak then upper back work, middle back work, and rotator cuff work will all help.

These are just examples, different people will find that different methods and exercises work better or worse for them as individuals.


#20

there was an article by john ruskin on here about doing a 45 degree angle for DB press when pressing and i find this more comfortable when doing so… i will look for it and post it