Most athletes who spend time in the weight room think they know how to perform the Bench Press. Guess what: most of them are wrong.
The Bench is more than just pushing a bar off your chest. And if you want to press some serious weight in this exercise, you first need to understand how the body functions. One small technique error can take your body out of the proper position, costing you strength and restricting your potential gains. (Watch Ndamukong Suh perform the Bench.)
Here are the three most common technique mistakes, which silently sabotage athletes’ Bench Press efforts—along with advice on how to avoid them.
Using the wrong arm angle
When performing the Bench Press, many athletes make the mistake of having their upper arms form a straight line with their elbows directly under the bar. This disengages the lats—the largest muscles in the upper body and a critical player when pressing the bar.
The Fix: Change your arm angle so that your elbows are at the four o’clock and eight o’clock positions—assuming your head is at 12 o’clock—to engage your lats and help you put more force into the bar.
Not engaging the shoulders
It’s easy for your shoulders to shift into a forward position when pressing the bar off your chest. This takes the upper back out of the move, meaning those big, powerful muscles are essentially asleep at the wheel (or bar).
The Fix: Pull your shoulders back to engage your rear delts, lats and upper back. The resulting “loaded” shoulder position will maximize your pressing strength and power.
Not using the legs
Yes, the Bench Press is an upper-body exercise, but you can’t ignore the importance of the lower body. Without it, you’re only half as strong (duh).
The Fix: Before lifting, set your feet on the floor in a solid and comfortable position. As you start to push the bar off your chest, press your feet into the ground, fire your glutes and drive your shoulder blades into the bench. This will transfer energy from your lower to your upper body and into the bar.
For more ways to build a bigger Bench, check out STACK’s Bench Press page.