Some people call it the king of exercises, others aren’t as bothered. Regardless of your views of the bench press, few would disagree that there’s a certain “stigma” associated to it.
The figure you can “bench” is something that can transform reputations and as such, nailing this exercise is one of the main aims for most men.
Of course, the reputation-factor also means that the bench press happens to be one of the toughest out there. It can be hard to make strides forward and for some of you, it might feel as though you are constantly at the same level without developing. If you fall into said category, it’s time to read on.
Sure, the bench press is never going to be simple, but if you are looking to take things a step further read the following suggestions which can just make the movement much easier to combat.
The hardest tip of all – get past the sticking point
We said it wouldn’t be easy, right? Well, to highlight that point even more, let’s start with the hardest suggestion of all.
Unfortunately, regardless of what techniques you use (and we will come onto some really useful ones shortly), mastering the bench press does require a degree of toughness. In other words, you’ve just got to power through the hard times to net those bigger rewards.
If you’ve stumbled across this article, we’re going to assume that you’ve already reached one of those sticking points. This is the point where you’re probably a couple of inches away from your chest, with your elbows at a right angle, and you just can’t go any further due to fatigue.
The first time it happens it’s almost acceptable to give up, but after that you’ve just got to push through. If you keep getting stuck on the same point you will never master it – your body just hasn’t been stretched enough.
It might be the slowest rep in history, but that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that your body gets past this sticking point, and once it does this once you’ll be able to do it time and time again.
It’s worth mentioning that this can benefit you from a psychological point of view as well; once you know you can pass that sticking point, you’ll be less inclined to give up.
It’s not all about your chest (your feet matter as well)
This next suggestion might come as something of a surprise; after all, the bench press is something that should only affect your chest, right?
Well, in terms of technique this isn’t strictly true. Your feet are something that can play a massive factor in your success with this exercise and get your position wrong, and you can pay the price in terms of your lifting potential.
Fortunately, there are multiple options. For some of you, the best way might be to just keep your feet as flat as possible on the floor. The basis of this is that it suddenly becomes easier to push from your legs as well, and provide even more power to the movement.
Another tip is one which is commonly used by athletes. This time you should try and pull your feet back as much as possible, whilst keeping the balls of your feet on the floor at all times. By turning to this approach, you’ll still be able to benefit from the power from your legs, but you will also arch your back a little which can help as well. The only disclaimer here is to make sure that your shoulders and butt are kept on the bench, as it can sometimes be tempting to move them when performing this exercise.
Your eyes also come into play
Following on from the last point, let’s bring another body part into the equation. This time, it’s not really a muscle group, with your eyes having a huge bearing on your ability to bench press properly. While some of you might only view them as a weapon for sight, this isn’t their only use. They can also help position your body for the perfect bench, which has the knock-on effect of bigger lifts.
So, it’s all about getting them into position as you set yourself up. As you lay on the bench, make sure your eyes sit straight under the bar. This is hugely beneficial for a couple of reasons, with the first being practical. The bar will be a little more forward and as such, the days of you catching the pins on the equipment will be long-gone. As well as this, the “forward-factor” is crucial for another reason – it will mean that your shoulders and back are set more forward and are in prime position to make those heavy lifts.
In fact, bring your whole body into play
The last couple of tips have looked at your legs and eyes – two body parts which aren’t blatantly obvious when it comes to the bench press. Well, let’s take things a little further and now say that you should bring your whole upper body into play. Instead of just looking at it from a chest and shoulder perspective, start to realize it’s something that your whole upper body needs to be part of.
The reason for this is simple; while not all of your main upper muscles are hugely involved in the movement, they can play a small part. These small factors are crucial as you attempt to progress your lifts and can make all the difference.
Bearing this in mind, make sure that your abs are braced, whilst contracting your lats and upper back muscles at the same time. By performing these short changes, you can give your body that solid starting position which is required for so many main exercises.
Again, it’s something that’s not going to make monumental differences straight away, but to big-up those numbers it’s an absolutely crucial suggestion to implement.
Nail your angles
Finally, let’s talk about angles. We seem to have discussed most parts of the human body so far, so let’s raise a point about how you should put all these together.
This suggestion probably won’t come as a surprise in the slightest. It doesn’t matter what type of exercise you are performing, if your angles are all wrong then it doesn’t matter how much weight you plough on – it’s probably going to do you more harm than good.
In relation to the bench press, the angle of your arms is paramount. The best method is to take advantage of a spotter who can help you get into optimum position but obviously, this isn’t going to be an avenue open to everyone.
Therefore, the basic advice you should be following is making sure that your elbows are at 45 degrees and tucked in somewhat so they are placed between your shoulders and ribs. Make sure that you don’t make the classic mistake of going for a 90 degree angle, with your elbows flared out.
While you might isolate some of the major muscles, you can also cause significant damage to your shoulder which will obviously render the exercise useless.
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