The bench-press by Daniel Pare, Canadian strength coach

The bench-press by Daniel Pare, Canadian strength coach

The bench press is one of the most popular exercises out there and still, one of the most poorly performed one. There is more to pressing the barbell up than one may think!

Many trainees are just not doing the exercise properly. Here are a few tips on positioning yourself before beginning to make sure that everything is in line to push from floor to ceiling. The barbell should go down to your chest and then pushed back up in a straight line. This rarely happens.

The elbows should be under the barbell and they usually are not. Often times they flare out to the side in a most dangerous position relative to the shoulders.

Let us look at some of the muscles involved in bench-press. We have the chest which is a given, then we have the triceps, the abs, the legs and less we forget, the back.

Take a moment and look at your Gray’s Anatomy book, where do the Latissimus dorsi (lats) muscles of the back originate from and insert?

The answer is very simple it originates from the lower part of the spine and up to mid back and inserts to your humerus bone, the bone of the upper arm near the shoulder joint. When the abs and lats are strong, you will notice now that your elbows will stay under the bar. The lats must be strong and ready to work. Here are a few exercises to consider for strengthening them:

  • The chin up,
  • The lat pull down,
  • The deadlift and
  • The bent over row

Make sure that you are doing each of these exercises with proper form and technique. For example, when doing the chin up, your chin should come up to touch the bar without letting your body swing on the way up or back down.

If you cannot do that then, trade it for lat pull down. With the lat pull down, the line of pull is very simple; keep your elbows pointed down to the floor. This means no leaning back. If you lean back, you lose the effectiveness of the exercise and the lats are not working up to their full potential. Some of you will be very surprised at how little weight you can actually do on this exercise when doing it properly. Be consistent and persistent and you will get stronger lats that will ultimately improve your bench press.

The deadlift is also a great exercise to strengthen the lats. Remember though it is not the stiff leg deadlift or the Romanian deadlift (RDL). It is the simple plain jane deadlift.

The bent over row is also an excellent exercise. Make sure to keep your torso strong and tight as you bring the barbell up. Keep your elbows coming up and slightly back towards your lower rib cage. This is the reverse motion of the bench-press. You want the barbell to touch the lower part or your rib cage. Remember, we are working on a bigger bench press, so make sure you get your back stronger.