Do you wish you could get stronger pecs? If so, you're probably no stranger to that staple among chest exercises: the bench press. But do you know if you're doing it the right way? See our five tips on how to do the bench press with stellar form and take your performance up a notch!
Tip 1: Three foundation points
Head, shoulders, glutes
Your head, shoulders and bum should always stay in contact with the bench. This creates a stable base. Without stability, you'll have no strength. The bum will often come off the bench as you raise up to reduce the range of motion when you come back down and to compensate for the weight. When pushing through your legs, remember to keep your glute muscles in contact with the bench. If you lack flexibility in the pec minor, your head will also tend to lift up as you lower the bar down. If this happens, you should stretch between each workout to prevent your head being pulled forward when bench pressing.
Tip 2: Arch your back
Many people lie down on their weights bench with a flat back, which can be dangerous.
Arching the back reduces the distance the bar (and weight) travels. The shorter this distance, the more weight you can lift. The degree of arch mainly depends on your flexibility in the psoas and quad muscles.
To become more flexible, you can stretch these two muscles by placing a cushion under your lower back during your training sessions. As you arch your back, squeeze your shoulders and keep them in contact with the bench.
Tip 3: Low shoulders
When you take the bar off the rack, remember to immediately pull your shoulders back.
Keep your shoulders low and squeeze them together throughout the exercise. This will keep your pecs forward and your thoracic cage open. This automatically reduces the negative (lowering) phase so you can lift more weight.
Tip 4: Feet on the floor
Place your feet on the floor - and not the bench as is often recommended.
A strong bench press depends on more than just your pecs and arms. Dig your heels firmly into the floor to support you as you raise the bar.
Your feet should be as close to your bum as possible: the closer they are, the more you'll be able to arch your back and the more strength you'll have as you push up.
If you want to reach your goal, you'll also need to learn to use your thighs, and especially your hamstrings. Getting cramps in these muscles is actually quite common among those who bench press regularly!
Tip 5: Follow a J curve
Lower the bar in a "J" shape: from the raised position lower down to about 5 cm above your nipples. Inverse the curve as you lift back up.
Moving the bar in a straight line may reduce the distance it travels, but the curve increases the power in the muscle and the amount of weight you can lift.
During the movement, remember to keep your elbows tucked in, near your body. This reduces the weight on your shoulders and engages the dorsals to increase your stability and strength.
Work on your bench press at home