Whether you think it’s the king of all exercises or the most overrated movement in the gym, if you look like you work out someone, somewhere, someday is going to ask you “how much ya bench?”. Make sure the answer is always “much more than you” by following these 8 tips for a bigger, better bench press.
Tip 1: Eyes Under the Bar
The most important part of bench pressing might just be your set-up. When you lay back on the bench, make sure you line up your eyes directly under the bar. This will help for two reasons. First, it will allow you to pull the bar forward, setting your shoulders and back in the proper “shelf” position (see Tip 4). And it will prevent the bar from hitting the pins as you get close to lock out which will throw off your set.
Tip 2: Don’t Forget About Your Feet
There are two main school’s of thought when it comes to foot position during benching. Some people like to keep their feet flat on the floor as they feel like they can deliver more leg drive that way. I, however, recommend taking a tip from power lifters by pulling your feet back (towards your hips) and only keeping the balls of your feet on the floor. You can still get leg drive from this position and it puts your back in a nice arch. Just make sure you keep your butt, shoulders and head on the bench at all times and don’t lift the balls of your feet off the floor.
Tip 3: Get The Right Grip
While I don’t like a “false” or thumbless grip during benching for safety reasons, I do recommend placing the bar in the heel of your hand (directly above your wrist). Notice that if you place the bar more towards the base of your fingers or in your palm, your wrist gets bent back. However if the bar rests towards the heel of your hand, you can maintain a straighter wrist position and your forearm lines up directly under the bar, giving you more stability and strength. I also recommend a slightly narrower grip than many people are used to. Just outside of shoulder width. This will allow you to kick in more triceps during the movement.
Tip 4: Create a Shelf
It’s easy to think of the bench press as a chest/shoulder/triceps exercise, but if you want to move bigger loads you better start considering it a complete upper body exercise. Make sure that your abs are braced and contract your lats and upper back. By activating these antagonist and synergist muscles you will establish a rock solid “shelf” to press from.