8 Essential Bench Press Tips for Powerlifting

Thick Powerlifter Bench Pressing

If you're looking to break your bench press PR's, these techniques and tips continue to help me and other powerlifters push more weight every year. Implementing these techniques can take you from a beginner bench presser to intermediate and beyond a lot faster than if you didn't. But mastering them does take practice, repetition, and adjusting the technique for each person's different biomechanics.

"Keep tight!" This is something you'll hear a lot. You can push more weight from a solid base than a flimsy one. This starts before you even lift the bar. It's all about how you setup on the bench...

1. Leg drive

One of my "Ah ha!" moments on this powerlifting journey was when I got the combination of pushing my traps into the bench with leg drive. It made my weights feel a lot lighter and lifts went smoother. When you're laying on the bench, grab a hold of the bar and push your upper traps into the bench, at the same time pull your feet back as far as you can and then push down hard through your heels. You should feel a stretch through your quads. You'll see some guys pull further back so that they're on their toes while pushing their heels down. When I benched in a bench shirt, going back onto my toes worked, but for raw bench pressing, I have my feet flat on the ground. Experiment and see what works for you. So now when that's all good and tight, the next thing is...

2. Pinch your shoulder blades back

It shortens the bench press distance or stroke, gives you a broader base and gets your lats into the movement when you explode up off of the chest. Hold your arms in front of you now like you're air benching and flex your lats. See that movement?

3. Grip the bar as hard as you can

This activates more muscle fibres and helps keep your form tight. This also helps stop any wobbling you might've had and put more of your power into pushing the weight instead of correcting the bar path if it's wandering around.

4. Keep your wrists neutral

Your wrists shouldn't be curling too far back with the bar in your hands, but rather staying tight in a neutral to a slightly curled back position. This is because when you press up, you want all the power to transfer in a straight line up from your elbow, through your forearm and then into the bar. If the path is not straight from your elbow to the bar, you could be losing out on some pounds on your lift.

5. Pull the bar out of the rack

Pulling the bar out of the rack preserves all that setup that you just... setup. If you just press the bar out of the rack pins traditionally, the back shelf you created by pinching your shoulder blades comes undone when your shoulders come forward. If you must press it out, keep your shoulder blades pinched and use your triceps to get the bar out instead of shoulders and chest.

6. How to breath

After you unrack the bar, lockout your elbows and hold it there. Take a deep breath and hold it in and then start the lift. Keep holding it in until you finish the lift. If your set includes multiple reps, do as many as you can in one breath, then pause at the lockout position, take a breather then continue on. Just another puzzle piece in the bench game.

7. Strengthen your lats

This improves your bench press all around and at the bottom part of the press. If you fail a few inches from your chest, either the weight is too heavy or you need to do more lat work. Kroc rows, dumbbell rows, barbell rows, chin-ups are the go-to exercises for more lat strength. 6-10 or more reps works best. Here's a video of some of my favourite back exercises.

8. Strengthen your triceps

This improves your bench press lockout. Get on this if you're failing near the top or end of the lift. The best exercises are weighted dips, rack lockouts and holds, close grip presses and heavy pushdowns. Higher reps in the 8-12 range works best. Here's a video of some of my favourite tricep exercises.

Words by Dan Profane

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1 comment:

Henry said...

Hopefully some of these tips will come in handy. I've been stuck on a plateau on my bench for a few months now. A personal trainer friend of mine also recommends 'pyramid sets' for this type of situation, what do you think?