The first question you probably get asked in the weight room is, "How much do you Bench?" More important questions might be asked later on, but the fact remains that strong, powerful athletes are good at the Bench Press.
Elite high school athletes should be able to Bench Press at least 1.5 times their body weight (300 pounds for a 200-pound athlete, 225 for a 150-pound athlete). So, how can you bench 1.5 times your bodyweight? It's as simple as learning how to do a Push-Up the right way.
1. Straighten Back and Neck
One of the biggest benefits of Push-Ups is how they strengthen the core. Build a stronger core through your Push-Ups by eliminating any arch in your back (up or down) and maintaining a perfectly straight neck and back. An easy way to make sure you are in the right position is to place a dowel rod straight down your spine. The rod should contact your body at three points: the back of your head, your upper back (between your shoulder blades) and your hips. It’s OK to have a space between the dowel rod and your lower back, but the space should not be bigger than the thickness of your hand.
2. Tighten Glutes
Squeezing your glutes throughout the Push-Up activates your core and eliminates any arch remaining in your lower back. Learning to squeeze the glutes will pay off as you start increasing your Bench Press, since lifting heavy weights requires total body activation.
3. Tuck Elbows
When you set up for a Push-Up, your hands should be directly under your shoulders, and your elbows should be pointed at an angle away from your body. Many people mistakenly position their hands in front of their shoulders and flare their elbows out (a T position). The correct position is an arrow, in which the elbows go back. By tucking your elbows, you are able to engage your triceps and pec muscles to a greater degree than you would in the T position.
4. Squeeze Shoulder Blades
By squeezing your shoulder blades together, you protect your shoulder joints from damage and ensure your upper back is functioning properly. Squeezing shoulder blades translates well to the Bench Press since this action provides a stable platform from which you can press.
5. Finish Every Rep
One of the most common Push-Up mistakes athletes make is failing to perform a full range of motion. Touch your chest to the ground at the bottom of every Push-Up and fully extend your elbows at the top. Don’t let your ego get in the way. If you can’t do Push-Ups all the way to the ground, elevate your hands to a bench or a rack bar and try again. After a couple of weeks of practicing elevated Push-Ups, you’ll be able to get to the ground with no problem.
When you start doing Push-Ups the proper way, you’ll probably be surprised at how few you can do. That’s OK. By performing Push-Ups the right way, you’ll develop the strength necessary to improve your Bench Press and become a beast in the weight room.
Check out several Push-Up variations to further build strength and power.