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Question on bench pressing technique

aleeboy

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Hi,

I have a question to all you gym rats out there about bench pressing technique. I'll start by confessing that I don't take the bar down to my chest. I stop at about 3cm and then commence the push phase. Now, am I being a pussy?

There is a reason for this, when i first started, I used to take it down to my chest, but I injured my shoulder twice and it is not as flexible anymore. It always gives me some problems when it comes to chest and shoulder work.

What are your thoughts on proper technique? And what are the growth/strength benefits you have experienced or seen? I'm not looking for range of motion type answers here guys...

Cheers,

AL
 

Eason

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There's been threads about this, but basically if you don't have any pain or injuries then touch your chest. If you do, then go as far as you can without.
 

AintDatRite

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The Perfect Bench Press Rep (from a bodybuilding website)

STEP ONE: HANDSPACING
The perfect bench press rep starts without any weight on the bar. Why no weight? The first thing you need to do is determine your proper hand spacing on the bar.

Lie down on the bench and unrack the bar as you normally would. Lower the bar to your chest and have a partner take note of the orientation of your forearms. For optimal power, your forearms should be as close to vertical at the bottom of the rep as possible. Adjust your grip accordingly and take note of where your hands are in relation to the smooth rings on the Olympic bar.

The reason for this is simple: if your hands are placed wider, some of your pushing power will be expended pushing outwards rather than upwards. If your hands are placed closer, power is expended pushing inwards. When your forearms are vertical, the vast majority of your power goes to pushing the bar directly up.

STEP TWO: LOCKING DOWN
Now that you have your grip properly positioned, put some weight on the bar. Lay back on the bench and plant your feet firmly on the floor. Your knees should bent at about an 80 degree angle. DO NOT place your feet up on the bench. You will lose stability and potential power by doing this. Place your hands on the bar in the grip width that you determined previously.

A technique that I like to use to lock my shoulders into the position for maximum strength and stability is as follows:

  1. Instead of placing your palms on the bottom of the bar, place them on the back of the bar.
  2. Now, without removing your grip, rotate the bar down so that your palms are now directly under the bar. This has the effect of placing your shoulders into their most stable and strong position. It will almost feel as though you are "locking down" your shoulders.
  3. As you are rotating the bar and locking down your shoulders, lift your torso slightly off the bench and force your shoulder blades together tightly underneath your torso. This will force your shoulders back and puff your chest out, placing the pectorals in a position where they have a more effective line of pull. It also has the added bonus of making your torso thicker, reducing the distance you need to press the weight. Keep your shoulder blades squeezed tightly behind you for the duration of the set.

STEP THREE: LOWERING THE BAR
Remove the bar from the racks and tighten up the muscles of your torso. Begin lowering the bar under complete control to a point at the bottom of your sternum (about even with the bottom of your sternum, a.k.a. the breastbone).

Imagine as though your muscles are springs storing up all the energy of the weight lowering and getting ready to explode it all back out. Inhale as you lower the bar and feel it tightening up your chest.

Lightly touch the weight to your chest. DO NOT bounce the weight off your chest! This can cause injury in the form of cracked ribs or even snapping the tip of the sternum (a little bony protrusion known as the Xiphoid Process). It also diffuses the tension you've built up in the pectorals, reducing the effectiveness of the exercise for building strength and muscle mass.

STEP FOUR: DRIVE WITH THE LEGS
As you start to change the direction of the bar and begin the press up, drive with the legs. This is a technique that most trainers do not know about. It's strange to think about it but your leg power can actually help you bench press more weight!

This technique should be practiced with an empty bar before attempting it during a regular set. Start by planting your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent about 80 degrees. This angle is very important as it is what allows you to push with your legs. Lower the empty bar to your chest. The moment you start to push the bar back up, push hard with your legs as though you are trying to slide your body up the bench.

With an empty bar you probably will be able to slide yourself up the bench. When you have a loaded bar, however, the weight will keep you from sliding and the pushing power from your legs will get transferred through your body and into pushing the bar up. This is what's known as driving with your legs. It can really beef up your power out of the bottom of the rep.

STEP FIVE: RAISING THE BAR
Exhale forcefully through pursed lips as you continue to push the weight up. This will help maintain your torso stability better than simply exhaling all at once.

Keep your feet firmly planted on the floor even if you start to struggle with the weight. The moment you lift your feet off the floor, you break your base of power and the odds of you completing the lift diminish greatly.

If you have a tendency to shift your feet around, try placing 2.5 pound plates on your feet. This is not to weigh your feet down but to help you be more aware of what is happening with your feet. If a plate falls, your foot has moved. Strive to keep those plates in place.

The bar should follow a slight backwards arc as you press it up, moving from your lower rib cage to over your face at the end of the rep.

Be aware of your sticking point and try to drive the bar through it rather than letting the bar slow down as you come up to it. There are many training methods for working on sticking points that I will delve into in a future article.

STEP SIX: FINISHING AND COMPLETING
Power the weight up to lockout. You have just completed the perfect rep! Now do it again!! Using these techniques can add immediate poundage to your bench press. Your chest will thank you for it!
 

oneade

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excellent article. except that's it targeted toward strength/weightlifting rather than bodybuilding. If you're looking to build size or workout the chest rather than lifting poundages, driving with legs is unnecessary.
 

zeni

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Careful with benching if you're having any pain. My friend added weight really rapidly (he was on a heavy creatine routine at the time) and ended up hurting his shoulder, he even had to go in for surgery.
 

AintDatRite

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Careful with benching if you're having any pain.
I agree - you can do significant damage if you arent careful. You can tell the difference between being 'sore' from a workout and having muscle/joint pain. Its always better to be on the safe side...

If you're looking to build size or workout the chest rather than lifting poundages, driving with legs is unnecessary.
Bodybuilding is about putting on as much muscle mass as possible; to do that, you have to lift heavy weights...

So how do you 'build size' without lifting 'poundages'? You can do a million reps with a light weight and you will have nicely toned muscles... they wont increase in size but they will be toned. Generally, to increase muscle size, you have to tear/damage the muscles - when they 'rebuild', they increase in size. Proper form is proper form - whether you are bench pressing 100 lbs or 350 lbs.


From another bodybuilding website:

"As you start to change the direction of the bar and begin the press up, drive with the legs. This is a technique that most trainers do not know about. It's strange to think about it but your leg power can actually help you bench press more weight!

This technique should be practiced with an empty bar before attempting it during a regular set. Start by planting your feet flat on the floor with your knees bent about 80 degrees. This angle is very important as it is what allows you to push with your legs.

Lower the empty bar to your chest. The moment you start to push the bar back up, push hard with your legs as though you are trying to slide your body up the bench.

With an empty bar you probably will be able to slide yourself up the bench. When you have a loaded bar, however, the weight will keep you from sliding and the pushing power from your legs will get transferred through your body and into pushing the bar up.

This is what's known as driving with your legs. It can really beef up your power out of the bottom of the rep."
 

aleeboy

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So, when it comes to muscle growth and strength, are their any benefits of taking it all the way down vs. almost all the way down?

I have yet to see anything that proves otherwise.
 

Eason

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Yes, obviously if you don't stress a muscle through it's mechanically disadvantaged ROM, you will never develop strength there. There's no real practical reason for bench pressing, so I'll use this completely made up example that counts for nothing: A 260 lb man named Tyrone Tyson Washington King is attempting to rape you. I'm not going to mention race, because that's unimportant. He is laying on top of you, squeezing the breath out of you. Because you never tried benching that 260 lb max you claimed all the way from your chest, you are unable to get him off you. Tyrone Tyson Washington King only gets off. NOT TOUCHING THE CHEST WHEN BENCHING IS FOR VICTIMS OF RAPE
 

oneade

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Originally Posted by AintDatRite
So how do you 'build size' without lifting 'poundages'? You can do a million reps with a light weight and you will have nicely toned muscles... they wont increase in size but they will be toned. Generally, to increase muscle size, you have to tear/damage the muscles - when they 'rebuild', they increase in size. Proper form is proper form - whether you are bench pressing 100 lbs or 350 lbs.

I wasn't suggesting using light weights. But rather that if you're using your legs in addition to chest to push weights, you're lifting in excess of what your chest is capable of... which could lead to injury. My thoughts only.
 

Hard2Fit

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Originally Posted by Eason
There's been threads about this, but basically if you don't have any pain or injuries then touch your chest. If you do, then go as far as you can without.

+1.
It wouldn't hurt to work on your shoulder's flexibility.
 

why

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This is the dumbest thread I've read in a long time.

When I have more time or I'm especially bored I might comment. Until then I'm reserving a space.
 

thekunk07

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floor presses and neutral grip dumbell presses are both > bench presses. if you bench, do it at a slight incline for greater recruitment. there is no mid chest as it is split between upper lower.
 

James Bond

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Originally Posted by oneade
excellent article. except that's it targeted toward strength/weightlifting rather than bodybuilding. If you're looking to build size or workout the chest rather than lifting poundages, driving with legs is unnecessary.

More weight put up with good form = more strength and muscle gain.

I always find it amusing to see people who put their feet up on the bench.

Originally Posted by AintDatRite
You can do a million reps with a light weight and you will have nicely toned muscles... they wont increase in size but they will be toned.

Not really. Light weights for toning is essentially a myth.


Originally Posted by thekunk07
floor presses and neutral grip dumbell presses are both > bench presses. if you bench, do it at a slight incline for greater recruitment. there is no mid chest as it is split between upper lower.

There is no upper and lower pectoral. At least, not in the sense that you can preferentially recruit the clavicular head of the pectoralis major over the sternal head.
 

thekunk07

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^well you can shift emphasis from upper to lower recruitment but there is no middle per se.
 

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