How to Improve Your Bench Press, Part 3: Build a Strong Back

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Strong Back

It's the exercise you love to love: the Bench Press. To help you improve your favorite move, STACK presents a four-part series on the Bench Press. Tune back in each week for a new article.

Imagine building a house on sand. The house would cave in and fall apart. Think of your Bench Press the same way. Without a solid base, your technique will break down and your performance will suffer.

Having a strong back is critical to keeping your body tight and stable during the Bench Press. A strong upper back creates more tension, giving you a more solid and stable base. It also helps you perform the Bench properly. But more important than your performance is your health. Without a strong and stable back, your shoulders will be more likely to suffer injuries.

To improve shoulder health and Bench Press performance, athletes need to focus on horizontal pulling exercises. Begin incorporating back exercises into your training program to balance out your strength. Perform one of these back exercises following a chest exercise.

Sets/Reps: 4-5x6-12 each back exercise

Bent-Over Row

  • Keeping back flat, bend at waist until chest is parallel to floor
  • Holding barbell or dumbbells with overhand grip, start with arms straight and pointing toward floor
  • Raise bar or dumbbells to chest or upper waist
  • Return to starting position; repeat

Dumbbell Row

  • Place right hand and knee on bench with left foot on floor to side
  • Hold dumbbell in left hand with palm facing inward
  • Bring dumbbell to chest while keeping elbow tight to body; hold for one count
  • Lower dumbbell to start position; repeat for specified reps
  • Perform on opposite side

Seated Row

  • Assume position on Seated Row platform with chest and head up, slight bend in knees and back straight
  • Grip handles with hands in low position
  • Flex elbows and bring handle/cable to waist, pulling shoulders back and pushing chest forward while maintaining slight arch in back
  • Return to start position with arms fully extended, keeping slight bend in knees
  • Repeat for specified reps

Chest Supported Row

  • Lie face down on incline bench
  • Grasp dumbbells with arms fully extended and palms facing each other
  • Pull shoulder blades together and pull dumbbells to armpits; keep elbows close to sides
  • Slowly extend arms to lower
  • Repeat for specified reps


  • Place hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart and grip bar with palms facing away (palms facing you for Chin-Up)
  • Pull up until chin is over or even with bar
  • Lower until arms are fully extended
  • Don't swing or use legs for momentum
  • Repeat for specified reps

Check out the video below for more great upper back exercises:

Read the whole series:
Part 1: Lift Like an Athlete
Part 2: Refine Your Technique


Joe Meglio is a strength and conditioning coach at the Underground Strength Gym in Edison, N.J. Mentored by one of the brightest minds in the strength and conditioning industry, Zach Even-Esh, Meglio has worked with athletes at the high school, college and professional level. He specializes in training baseball players. Besides being a strength coach, Meglio competed in his first powerlifting meet in 2010, setting the New Jersey state record for Squat, Deadlift and total in his weight class and division. He graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University in May 2011, following his final season as captain of the baseball team. For more information, please go to

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock