Boost Your Bench: 3 Steps to a Stronger Press

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“How much do you Bench bro?”

In the past this has been the question that has determined who is the Alpha Male of any commercial gym and where you stack up against them.

At Physique Performance Specialists, Bench Press is typically our key upper body movement in all  our programs. In our opinion it is integral for overall pec development  and increasing overall upper body strength.

Whether you are doing you're bench pressing just to join in on the ‘international chest day’ fun, to target those beach body muscles heading into summer, or whether you are doing it  mainly for strength purposes; there is a bit more to it than just pushing a bar up and down on your chest.

The flat bench press is a common culprit for causing shoulder or rotator cuff injuries. In our opinion, this isn’t the exercises fault. In our opinion, the exercise is not to blame but, but purley how the exercise is being performed which will cause these injuries.

Today we are going to share with you three very simple and subtle tips, to help you ‘Boost your Bench’; allowing you to develop a manly set of beach body pecs safely and pain free.

Tip #1:

‘Break the bar’.

The bench press requires a good degree of shoulder and lat stability.

The rotator cuff and lat will work hard to stabilise the shoulder girdle while you press the bar up and down.

Where most people go wrong; is failing to set up in a stable position, where the shoulders are in ‘external rotation’.

Therefore their shoulders roll inwards or ‘internally rotate’ while pressing, putting stress on the rotator cuff and causing severe discomfort.

One cue we use at PPS to teach our clients how to engage their lats for increased shoulder stability is to ‘break the bar’.

  • Focus on keeping your knuckles strong to the ceiling -  ‘punch the ceiling’,

  • Squeeze your pinky fingers as hard as possible to help maintain a strong wrist to elbow position,

  • Think about trying to bend the bar in half while squeezing shoulder blades back ‘retract’ and down ‘depress’,

  • Flare your lats like a cobra when you press.

If done correctly, we should see our clients elbows pull in towards their body slightly and  their lats flare out, as their upper-back stays driven into the bench while pressing. The end results should be a good bit of manly cleavage swallowing their t-shirt, as they squeeze the weight up.

Tip #2:

Arch your back (Yeah you heard me).

Don’t buy into the whole ‘don’t arch your back’ when pressing hysteria on Facebook.
Having an arch in your lower-back is essential when pressing, as it really helps to keep the shoulders depressed and retracted into the bench.  

Again, this forces external rotation of the shoulders (see tip #1).

The key here is:

  • To allow your lower back to arch but keep your butt on the bench,

  • To maintain tightness through the core to brace your back,

  • Think about ‘pulling the weight’ to you and ‘pushing the weight’ away from you as you go through the movement to maintain this position.

Tip #3:

Think of it as a leg movement.

To tie the two previous tips together and put the finishes touches on your bench, we highly recommend using leg drive in your press:

  • Position your feet directly under your butt,

  • Heels in contact with the floor is optional, but the intent to drive your heels down is essential,

  • As your press the weight, keep your glutes tight and think about ‘leg pressing’ the weight up.

This action not only helps you maintain a strong arch, but again enforces a tight or stable shoulder position.

This slide was presented at our Bench-Press workshop and demonstrates a classic Bench-Press set up.

This slide was presented at our Bench-Press workshop and demonstrates a classic Bench-Press set up.

So if Bench is one of your weaker lifts or causes you some discomfort, stop blaming the movement and start looking at how you're performing it.

Focus on ‘breaking the bar’ to help engage your lats,

Set up with an arch in your lower-back to enforce shoulder blade retraction and depressing,

Use your feet to drive the force through the floor and help maintain this stable position.

If performed correctly, your manly pec development will increase ten fold and you’ll no longer struggle with dreaded shoulder pain.

If you want help with your lifts, TAKE ACTION and click the button below to get in touch for a free initial consult and movement screen: