1. Use the proper set up!
If you want to rob yourself of strength, and crush the front of your shoulders, then by all means continue to lie flat on the bench. However, if you want to put yourself in the best position to move weight, and spare your shoulders, then utilize a more “power-lifting” style back arch. I illustrate that here:
2. Extend yourself AWAY!
As you receive your hand off extend your elbows and back as hard as possible. By doing so you will feel yourself driving away from the bar right from the start. Remember to keep the shoulders pressed tightly together while doing this. This will keep you from getting a “soft” hand off that lacks stability. Additionally, it will set the platform for a tight base throughout the press.
3. Meet the bar!
Back when I worked at Total Performance Sports I was lucky enough to get some great coaching on my own bench technique from Steve DiLello. He stressed to me the importance of meeting the bar, and bringing my lats up to the bar. I use these cues all the time now, as well as this quick drill to help people feel what their lats should be doing on the lowering portion of the lift. Check it out here:
4. Wait to flare!
Contrary to many people’s belief, the elbows shouldn’t remained tucked the entire press. Instead, make sure the elbows DO stay tucked through the lowering of the bar and during the first half of the press up. This will keep you from flattening out, and losing tension. It will also keep the bar from drifting forward towards your hips. Once you reach the half way point, flare the elbows out and work hard to extend the elbows. This will give you better leverage and a stronger finish. Remember though, don’t flare too early!
5. Use the legs correctly!
Leg drive is the difference maker in a lot of people’s bench press numbers. If you leverage correctly you will drive back into the bench, the hips will stay down, and your arch will only be tightened; sending the force created through the ground into the bar. Leverage in-correctly and you will send force up through the hips, lift your butt excessively, and lose out on tons of power. I talk about that here:
6. Stop sliding!
I saw this tip awhile back from Dave Tate at Elite FTS. It’s a great way to make the bench pad more tacky, which keeps you from sliding around when you utilize hack number 5:
7. Keep a straight wrist!
In addition to being terrible for your wrists, a bent wrist is going to rob you of some strength as well. Do yourself a favor and grip the bar correctly so you can keep a straight line from the elbow to the bar.
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Photo Credit: Eric Feigenson Photography