Boost Your Bench

A step-by-step guide to proper bench-pressing technique.

Courtesy of Weider Health & Fitness

3. GET A GRIP

The width of your grip will depend on the width of your shoulders. Take a grip with which your forearms are vertical to the floor. A wider grip will put too much pressure on your shoulders, and a narrower grip will work your triceps more than your chest. Ronnie Coleman used a thumbless grip on 500-pound bench presses, but who was going to tell Mr.O he was doing it wrong? For safety, put your thumbs beneath the bar and your other fingers over the bar. You also need to grip the barbell low in your palms. This may feel like a less secure grip, but if you take a mid-palm or high-palm grip, your wrists will bend back, limiting your strength and eventually straining wrist tendons. Squeeze the bar and keep your wrists straight. You can use wrist wraps, but they should only be an adjunct to proper technique.

4. ARCH NATURALLY

Your spine has a natural curve. You want to maintain this or slightly exaggerate it during each set. This puts you in the strongest position and also raises your chest, slightly reducing the range of motion. An extremely exaggerated arch can dramatically reduce the range of motion, but it can also compress your spine. Arch naturally and keep your butt tensed and touching the bench but not pressing against it. Lower-body support will come from your legs, not your glutes.

5. TENSE UP

Before you unrack the weight, squeeze your shoulder blades to tense your upper inner back. Staying tensed throughout the set boosts stability and strength. You’re not just lying on the bench. You’re pressing against it with your upper back. Keep your shoulders down. Many people reflexively raise their shoulders as if to meet the bar, but this lengthens the range of motion. If you keep your shoulders down and upper back flexed, your chest will be maximally elevated, shortening the range of motion.

 

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