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Expert Guides

Getting Your Bench Press Right

Publish date: 19/07/2013

The Bench Press is almost a religion with all fitness enthusiasts the world over. However contrary to the popular belief that it is an easy routine to perform, it is in fact, one of the most technical routines ever. This is the reason that a lot of the people end up getting the routine wrong. We will discuss the common bench press mistakes to help you perfect the routine.

Problems with the set up

You might think that bench press is just about lying down on the bench and doing your rounds of lifting the bar. In reality, how you set it up is very important to get results. You need to ensure the following to make the set up technically sound before starting with the movement:

  • Ensure that your forearms and wrist joints are in line with the bar.
  • Make sure you are completely rigid before you unhook the bar and your feet are firmly set on the ground in a position that is comfortable to you.
  • Grab and squeeze the bar as hard as you can before unracking it. This will improve your bar grip.
  • Allow the bar to settle in your grip for 2 seconds before starting with the lift
  • While you are unracking the bar make sure that you do not lose the tightness/rigidity of your body. It is good to let someone do the unracking for you while you keep your eyes directly under the bar.
  • Decrease your Range of Motion (ROM) when you increase the weight. Widening your grip and arching your lower back keeping your head, shoulders and butt firmly on the bench are good ways of decreasing the ROM.

Problems with the stroke

After ensuring the right set up, it is equally important that you get the movement or stroke right. Watch out for the following:

  • Get the breathing pattern right. Take in a big belly breath while the bar is descending and breathe out when you are lifting it.
  • Ensure that your elbows are not flared out during the movement. This will increase injury risk for your shoulders. With the right elbow position the bar will mostly touch your chest just below the nipples.
  • Make sure that your reps are not inconsistent with the bar touching different points in your chest during the descent or you doing partial reps.
  • Do not bounce the bar off your chest. Use a controlled motion for the movements.
  • Make sure that your butt is firmly on the bench. If you find it impossible to do your lift without lifting your butts off, it means you are doing more weight than you should and you may end up injuring your lower back.

Problems with Assistance or Spotter

It is important that you get a good spotter who gives the right assistance. Many a time the lifter ends up doing more reps because the spotter is actually pulling up the bar than he himself doing it. This could be dangerous in terms of risk of injury.

Neglecting Other Muscle Groups

It is extremely important that you don’t neglect other muscle groups to be able to get best results out of your bench routine. Your back muscles, triceps, biceps, shoulders and leg muscles are crucial for you to get your bench press right. Make sure that you train these other muscle groups appropriately to get the desired results from your bench routine.

Ineffective Training

While you might be training hard, you need to make sure that it is not an ineffective routine that you are following. To ensure that you stay away from this pitfall you need to ensure the following:

  • Never skip the warm up
  • Stress on progression by increasing the weights, reps and sets with time
  • Do your reps at a rapid rate that is comfortable to you. A low bar speed, contrary to popular beliefs, does not do much to get you better results.
  • Get your reps and sets right. Talk to your trainer. When you want to increase muscle mass you should ideally do 8-12 reps and when you are concentrating on increasing strength, doing 5 reps is ideal.
  • Have set goals and religiously work towards them by keeping notes on your progress.
  • Do not overtrain. Consult your trainer and understand what is required for the goals that you have set for yourself and stick to that. Doing more of it may actually end up injuring you rather than doing any good.
  • Do not neglect your nutrition. An exercise routine without proper nutrition may be very bad for your health. Also get your nutrition chart drawn up according to your goals and needs.

Issues with the Mindset

Getting your mindset right is as important as getting your technique right. Train with partners who are your equals to keep the healthy competition alive. Avoid getting obsessed with increasing the weight that you lift. Remember that your goals are important and not the amount of weight you lift. Listen to your trainer and stick with the routine he suggests. Do not let unnecessary rivalries regarding “who can lift the most” get at you or stress you out. Also keep rational expectations and don’t expect magic in no time. If you keep your mind strong and focused and follow your routine religiously, you are certain to get to your goals.

Author: Susie