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How To Bench Press: Technique for Strength Gains

How To Bench Press

There are many different variations of the bench press and each variation creates a different set of benefits for you.

For example, using a narrower grip will target the tricep more. On the other hand, if you use a wider grip and let the bar come down on the middle of your chest, the chest will be more isolated.

I’m going to talk about a variation of the bench press that is best used for strength training because it recruits the most muscle groups in the movement.

I believe that this is the best variation for beginners because it recruits the most muscles. As a result, you will build more overall muscle and also build more strength than the other variations. This will have a better ‘carry over‘ in the future to the other variations of the bench press as well.

Here is a check list of how to bench press for strength gains, for more details and to see it in action, I recommend checking out the videos in the following section.

How To Bench Press

Grip Width

The width of your grip depends on your shoulder width and arm length. If you are a lanky guy with long arms (or have shoulder problems/weak shoulder joints), taking a slightly narrower grip can help reduce the risk of injuries as a beginner. But when you learn the proper technique, this is not the case.

If you are a stockier guy with shorter arms, you can take a wider grip and push more weight that way.

Shoulders

Your shoulders have to be pinched together for the entire movement. This pinch can’t be undone when you complete the lift at the top. Most guys have this problem and it limits you greatly.

When you are lifting heavy weights, this pinch will help you keep stable and to push more weight. It allows you to bring your upper back muscles into the lift at the very bottom and this pinch also keeps you safe when you complete the lift and your arms are completely extended.

Any uncontrolled ‘shift’ or ‘wobble’ under a very heavy weight will increase your risk of injury. So keep it tight.

As a warning, don’t overdo it and use common sense. Don’t pinch your shoulders together so much that it hurts. It just needs to be enough to keep your upper body tight which keeps you steady on the bench.

Lastly, remember that it’s about bring the shoulders together, it’s not a shrug.

Back Arch

Arching your back will create greater stability and as I mentioned above, stability is very important when you’re lifting heavy weights.

It will also allow you to use ‘leg drive’ to push more weight, I will talk abou this more in the next section about your feet and legs.

Lastly, the arch will also help you achieve more muscle activation in the pecs. Keep your back arched enough so that someone can easily slip their arm under the arch.

Feet/Legs

The feet has to be stable on the ground for the entire lift. You see guys in the gym where their feet are ‘dancing around’ as they push, big mistake.

Spread your legs shoulder width and tuck them back. When you lift, drive the feet into the ground for leg drive. This will help your upper body stay anchored into the bench and stabilize the entire body.

Bar Placement

As the bar comes down on your chest, it should fall just slightly under the nipples. If you have the proper arch in your back, the bar should travel in a straight path from your chest to the lockout at the top.

Video Demonstrations

This is a video series of Dave Tate coaching the bench press. Dave Tate is one of the foremost authorities on strength training and powerlifting. He had a very successful career as a powerlifter and coach (you can hire him to bring a seminar to your gym for $17,500 USD). A lot of the strongest powerlifters today have trained with him at some point.

The video series goes into a lot of details on the bench press. These little details will add up to take your bench to the next level. It made a world of difference for me and I re-watch this series every once in a while to refresh my memory.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

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