A couple of months ago I came across an awesome video by Alan Thrall about How to Bench Press. Alan offered a couple of simple but extremely effective tips that helped me increase my bench press volume by 20% almost instantly. At the same time I reduced pain and injury risk. Take 11 minutes and watch his video. In this post, I summarise the key takeaways ordered according to what helped me the most.
Three points of contact for solid platform
First off, create a solid upper back platform by pulling your shoulders back together and down. Imagine sticking your shoulder blades into the back pockets of your pants. This helped me a lot to engage my back, shoulders and lat and is one of the main reasons why I could increase volume.
To maximise your bench press, make sure you emphasise on three points of body contacts: your shoulders with the bench, your glutes with the bench and your feet with the floor. This is another big change that I introduced in my training. It is somewhat opposed to the typical flat bench press where the whole back just lies on the bench. Sometimes for more isolation athletes may even lift their legs off the ground. However, for a more compound move rooting your feet in the floor is important for leg drive and helps to generate more power.
Ideal elbow and wrist positioning
I used to get a nagging shoulder pain while doing bench presses. The main reason was the positioning of my elbows which were about 90 degrees open from my torso. I reduced this now to about 45 degrees and the shoulder pain is much better. Also, never lower the elbows below the bench but more or less down to bench level. If you constantly go below, it may cause pain or injuries.
Another thing to bear in mind is that the bar travel should always be the same. That means the start point, the end point and the movement in between should be equal with every repetition. A trick that helped a lot is to focus on a steady point on the ceiling and not to look at the bar. Make sure the bar always travels the full range of motion: all the way up (elbows extended) and all the way down (touch sternum with the bar).
Finally, to have the correct wrist position for maximum power and to reduce risk of wrist injury make sure that your second knuckles point up to the ceiling. And always squeeze the bar really hard for a bit of extra power.
Below is Alan’s original video included. It is really worth watching to improve the bench press, which is an essential compound exercise in resistance training. We also make heavy you of it in our 4legsfitness Training Plan and Tool. Check it out if you are interested. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to submit them in the comments section below.