How To Improve Your Bench Press With These 5 Points Of Contact
Training Tips To Improve Your Bench Press
The bench press is one of the fundamental exercises in the weight room. It is a favourite of the physique driven gym goers and the athlete alike. The NFL Combine uses the bench press as a test of upper body strength and sees athletes do 30+ reps with 100kg. It’s not uncommon to see competitive powerlifters to bench well above twice their bodyweight in training and competition. In this article, we’re going to talk about the correct bench press form, what the 5 points of contact of the bench press are and how you can use them to improve your bench press.
THE VIDEO: How To Improve Your Bench Press With These 5 Points Of Contact
What can you learn from the best bench pressers in the world to improve your bench press?
5 Bench press contact points to improve your bench press
- Your foot.
- Your other foot.
- Your glutes.
- Your upper back.
- The back of your head.
Each of these points of contact are relatively small so each one needs to be planted firmly into the bench or the ground. We often say, the bench press isn’t just a chest exercise, it’s a full body movement. The chest and arms will be moving but the entire body will be engaged if you do it correctly.
Feet and leg drive in the bench press
If you ever watch a crane, they have big wide steel legs which, help stabilise the machine as it operates. This is exactly how you should be using your feet when you are on the bench press. Keep them planted on the ground and in a wide position. The wide position creates stability and helps keep your glutes engaged as you perform the movement.
To practice this, straddle the bench and place your feet on either side. Lay back and plant your feet firmly on the ground. Press your feet into the ground, lift your hips up off the bench and push your knees apart to engage your glutes. Slowly and gently place your glutes on the bench whilst staying engaged throughout the legs and the hips.
The arch in your lower back
If you lay on the ground with your legs straight and your arm straight beside you naturally, you have an arch in your lower back. This arch allows mobility of the pelvis and trunk rather than being fixed flat to the ground. When your spine extends, it is able to lock into position as you brace, much like when you perform a squat or a deadlift. Powerlifters exaggerate this arch for two reasons; It creates a stable column between the hips and shoulders and raises the chest and decreases the adjacent angle of the arms to the body. This means there is a smaller lever and less distance for the bar to travel, making the lifter more efficient.
Feet up on the bench
If the best bench pressers in the world are doing this maybe, there is something to learn from it. We often see people in the gym with their feet up on the bench to eliminate the arch in their back. This puts your thoracic in an unloaded position and creates a turtle back shape on the bench. This is obviously very unstable and puts the shoulder in quite a compromised position. Place the feet back on the floor and embrace the arch. This will create stability between the hips and your shoulders and it will help to keep you in position during your set.
How to improve thoracic mobility for a better arch
To improve your thoracic mobility and your ability to arch on the bench, practice the common cat-camel movement. Start on your hands and knees, push your belly button down towards the ground and lift the chest and tail bone. This will exaggerate your arch in extension. Now, go the other way into flexion and curl your tail bone under, your chin to your chest and tuck the belly button in, closing the space between your ribs and pelvis.
Pack your shoulders back to prevent rotator cuff injuries
The common mistake in a lot of gym movements is that you are trying to create as much range as possible. If it’s not ass to grass, it doesn’t count, right? In the bench press, the shoulders need to be packed backwards in a stable position. This might reduce your range by 1-2 cm if you previously had your shoulders pushed forwards or flat to get the bar as high as possible, but you are unlikely to tear any rotator cuffs and will be able to handle a hell of a lot more load. How many competitive powerlifters suffer from rotator cuff injuries from bench pressing? Not many, but it seems to be a common injury when you ask around a common weight room.
To practice packing the shoulders back, take a bar in a rack and hang against it with your feet on the floor and body at about 45 degrees. Without Bending from the elbows, squeeze your shoulders back and lift your chest towards the bar. Try these 10 times and get your shoulders back further with each rep. This is shoulder packing and it enables you to create a stable position for the shoulder joint to press and pull from.
Use your head to create a more stable position
If you have an arch in your spine, your feet planted firmly on the ground and have your shoulders packed back into a stable position, it should be pretty hard to lift your head off of the bench. But if you can, don’t! This is the last anchor and contact point you have to create a stable position. We’ve heard coaches talking about driving your head back into the bench, but this just causes other issues and tension when you don’t need it. Keep the chest lifted, the shoulders back and eyes straight up. Often, people watch the bar come all the way down onto their chest which, causes them to lift their head and lose their position. Leave your head on the back and don’t let your position move throughout the entire set. If you are moving, this is energy wasted and you aren’t creating a solid foundation to press the bar from.
The bench press is a full body movement. Keep all 5 points of contact firmly in place and hold your position throughout the set. Use these drills to practice your leg drive, arch position and shoulder packing to improve your bench press. Stick to these rules and you can’t go far wrong.
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