Pretty much every bodybuilder knows that the bench press is the most popular exercise in the gym. But just because virtually everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean they’re all doing it correctly. Below is a list of 9 bench press tips to help you put more weight on the bar, keep your shoulders healthy, and build a bigger and stronger chest.
Don’t Grip the Bar So Wide
If these bench press tips were for powerlifters, then a wider grip might be a good idea. This is because it would shorten the range of motion and allow you to lift more weight. But since you’re more than likely a bodybuilder, grab the bar at or just slightly wider than shoulder-width. This is easier on the shoulders and actually gives you more of a contraction at the top of the movement.
Tuck Your Elbows
Too many bodybuilders let their elbows flare out wide when bench pressing, letting their upper arm become perpendicular to the torso. In actuality, you want your upper arms to form a 45-degree angle with your torso as you lower the bar. This is safer for the shoulders and allows you to use more weight.
“Bend” the Bar
When gripping the bar, act like you’re trying to “bend” it, bringing your pinky fingers together. The bar obviously won’t bend, but this will trigger you to want you to tuck your elbows as just discussed. It also will put a little more tension on the pecs than normal.
Do Plenty of Upper Back Work
You might wonder why there’s upper back work being discussed on a list of bench press tips. This is because many lifters do way more pressing work than pulling work, which leads to muscular imbalances in the shoulder girdle. Having a strong upper back not only prevents these imbalances and the injuries they can cause, but keeps you more solid when benching. This can then let you use more weight, which lets you build more strength and muscle.
Speaking of being “solid”, keep your feet, butt, and upper back all firmly planted while benching. Too many guys flail around or let their hips come off the bench. This is just exaggerated cheating and won’t help you build a bigger chest.
Slow Down the Negative
You don’t have to move too slowly, but lowering the bar with a 2-3 second negative will greatly increase the tension put on the pecs. All other things being equal, increased tension means more muscle will be built.
Explode Off the Bottom
When the bar hits the chest after that 2-3 second negative, explode through the concentric phase of the movement as fast as possible. Contracting the muscle both hard and quickly builds strength and explosive power, as well leads to thicker muscle fiber development.
Safety isn’t often listed with other bench press tips, but it should be. The mind can easily be a limiting factor when going for heavier weight or an extra rep. The bench press is one of the only exercises you can’t “bail” out of if you fail on a rep while training alone, so your mind may convince you to stop your set too early. Avoid this by either training with a competent spotter or inside of a power rack.
Stop Just Before Lockout
If you’re training for a bench press competition, then you need to be able to lock out every single rep. However, if more size is what you’re after, then consider stopping your reps just shy of lockout. Doing this will keep more constant tension on the muscle, which leads to a better pump and more muscle being built.
You don’t have to incorporate all of these bench press tips at the same time, but do try to eventually work them all into your training. Doing so will help you build a bigger chest, let you use more weight, and go a long way toward preventing injuries. That way you can train both harder and longer.