Updated: Jul 1, 2021
Having looked at squatting technique, I thought I’d look at bench pressing technique now.
And as I’m sure you’ve guessed from that line, technique is key for a good bench press just like anything else.
As I’ve said many times, it’s good to strip things back go back to basics. You don’t need fancy equipment; you don’t need complex workout plans. Get the basics good and everything will fall into place.
If your technique isn’t good then you’ll never hit the heights you’re capable of.
Not just for getting results but health too.
Soooo many people have shoulder problems from bench pressing. Now obviously there can be mobility issues. Internal shoulder rotation is key to bench pressing.
Not going to get into that now, but if you’re getting pain from pressing there’s a good chance it can because of your technique.
When you’re lying on the bench, you want the bar to be directly over your eyes.
Your grip should be slightly wider than shoulder width. An option is to do an “imaginary” bench press without the bar. When you get to the top, move your arms back until your hands touch the bar. Where your hands touch is where you should be gripping.
Feet position is very overlooked. You want a wide position for your feet and drive your knees out and really engage your glutes.
Driving through your feet and squeezing your glutes is massive for pressing a big weight.
Bracing your shoulders is huge. Really focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together. When I do this I really focus on wriggling my shoulder blades together. Maintaining that squeeze at all times is great not just for form but for shoulder health.
This is also one of the few exercises were you actually want to arch your back. Now you’re not trying to over exaggerate it. The reason that we do this is because it helps support the shoulders. Plus you’re not loading your back so there’s no risk of hurting your back.
Keeping your abs really tight like you would in most exercises is not good for your shoulders.
Another aspect that doesn’t get the attention it deserves is tightening up your lats. This is the exact same way that you would when you deadlift. The same brace is required. Do to this it’s the same “bend the bar” motion. If you maintain this bending motion, it will really help set your shoulders and help with your elbow position.
Lowering The Bar
Now that you are all tight and set, you can start to lower the bar.
Keep your glutes tight and driving your feet into the floor. Where you bring the bar down to is something that a lot of people get confused on. People typically bring it way too high towards their neck. Same way a lot of people try to lower with their face in a push up.
The drive is coming from our chest so we want the bar to come to our chest. Aim to have the bar come to roughly around the nipple line.
Also the bar doesn’t have to touch the chest. Yes if it does it means that you are getting a slightly greater range of motion. But as I said earlier, people get a lot of shoulder issues benching so if you lack that bit of internal rotation at the bottom you can give yourself some shoulder problems.
Go to what’s comfortable for you. Then as you get stronger and more comfortable with it you can work on getting it to touch.
Also, if you can get the bar to touch your chest, don’t bounce the bar off your chest. This is way more common than it should be and is a ridiculous thing to see and is also the reason that I said it’s ok of it doesn’t touch. Because I don’t want you to think about hitting the chest and going straight back up.
Just like a squat, a slight pause at the bottom is great but not essential.
Control while lowering and at the bottom is so important.
Pressing The Weight
Marinating all that tension at the start the whole way through the lift is so important. Don’t lose it now just as you’re getting ready to drive the weight up.
A tip I learnt from a very successful powerlifter is to think about pushing the bar toward your head very slightly so your pushing on an arch so that the bar finishes over your shoulders. So it started at the bottom at your nipple line and finishes at the top over your shoulders.
Please don’t drive it too far towards over your face as that’s just a recipe for disaster.
But pushing on that arch helps a lot.
Do not over extent at the top. Keep your shoulders tight. You shouldn’t over reach and lose that squeeze. Also, don’t lock out your elbows. Keep them soft with a slight bend in them at the top.
Now that you are back to the start, you would maintain all the tension in the shoulders and the glutes. Take a big breath in and go again.
It’s a good idea to take a step back and lighten the weight and strip it right the way back to make sure you get your eye in with the technique.
Strip it back. Keep it simple. And your bench will shoot through the roof.