1. Crazy legs
If you are going to be working with a lot of weight, start by building solid support and use your entire body correctly. I constantly meet guys who, in a desperate desire to squeeze out “one more time”, pound the air with their feet as if they are trying to strangle them. It is even worse when the athlete puts both legs on the bench – this position does not provide any advantages, and it is useful only for those who practice tightrope walking skills.
What is the right way then? We take the starting position on the bench and pull our legs towards the head until a little more and the heels come off the surface. At this point, we fix the feet and make sure that the heels touch the floor throughout the entire approach.
By the way, if you have long legs, the prerequisites are created for the separation of the pelvis from the bench; to avoid this, just spread your legs wider. In the initial phase of the exercise, “drill” your heels into the floor – in this position they should remain until you complete the approach.
2. Forearms: camber – toe
Obviously, the grip should be even on both sides, you can use the notches on the neck as a guide. The width of the grip determines with which muscle groups you will lift the weight, and which muscles will be more involved in the exercise. By increasing and decreasing the width of the grip, we transfer the load to the pectoralis major muscles, then to the triceps, however, at the initial stage, it is necessary to determine the basic width at which the load is evenly distributed between these muscle groups.
To determine the base width, we need a companion. Find a volunteer and ask him to stand directly behind your head or directly in front of you. Take a starting position, grab an empty bar and begin to smoothly lower the bar to your chest. At this point, your assistant should tell you what position the forearms are in: ideally, they should be located strictly vertical and perpendicular to the floor, and the hands should be exactly above the elbow joints. If your arms “fall apart” to the sides (which often happens), just narrow your grip.
Found the perfect balance? Now you can move on to variations and change the grip, but I do not advise you to go more than 3-5 cm in any direction. If all your strength comes from the pectoral muscles, take the bar with a wide grip, if the triceps dominate, bring your hands together slightly.
And never use an open or one-sided grip. Firstly, it is dangerous, and secondly, such a grip forces you to press your elbows to the body, and thereby transfers most of the load to the deltoid muscles and triceps.
3. Shrugging shoulders
When lying on a bench, your shoulders should not rise above your ears. In such a clamped position, you will not be able to use the pectoral muscles to the maximum and completely turn off the lats from the exercise – yes, your lats also take part in the bench press.
Instead of shrugging your shoulders, engage your lats and pull your shoulders down towards your pelvis while bringing your shoulder blades together. This movement will create a deflection of the back, but the gluteal region will be fixed, and only the upper part of the body will form a kind of bridge. And also – always look straight ahead and do not press your head against the bench. The latter is fraught with injuries of the cervical spine.
4. Failing wrists
When doing the bench press, do not let your wrists bend back, the bar should be in the same plane as your forearms. Allowing the wrists to collapse creates the conditions for medical problems, and the working weight in this position of the arms is not in line with the points of maximum application of force.
Need an illustration? Keep your wrists tightly clenched like punching a punching bag.
5. Partial repetitions
Who told you that you can stop the barbell 10 centimeters from the chest? Probably, this idea was thrown at you by the same people who park their cars a meter from the curb.
In the lower phase of the bench press, the load on the pectoral muscles is maximum, and if you do not touch your chest with the bar, you steal from the pectoral muscles and prevent them from enjoying a job well done. Naturally, this same phase of the exercise is also the most difficult, that’s the point!
Do you think that by using a dishonest trick you will be able to dramatically increase the number of repetitions? Then take a note: any movement that did not begin with the bar touching the chest and did not complete the full extension of the arms without assistance is not considered a repetition at all. This means that you will have nothing to answer the question of the annoying partner in the hall: “So how much, buddy, are you pressing from the chest?”
Partial repetitions are appropriate as part of certain training programs, it is true, but today such issues are beyond our competence. In this article, we are talking exclusively about the correct technique for performing the bench press.
6. Chest trampoline
Fortunately, today I meet this violation much less often than in the old days, and after all, once the guys threw the barbell with their chest, like a soccer ball. This is another form of fraud that is counterproductive and, you better take my word for it, very, very dangerous.
I knew a guy who never held a barbell without bouncing off his chest. Later, he first appeared in the competition and was forced to take a short pause at the bottom. As a result, his pectoral muscles ripped like an old, worn towel.
Not so long ago, an “updated” version of the chest trampoline appeared: the guys drop the barbell, and then convulsively catch the bar a couple of centimeters above the chest. But what does it give them? By shortening the negative phase of the bench press, they deceive themselves, since in its anabolic effect this part of the exercise is in no way inferior to the positive phase.
Imagine this analogy: the downdraft phase should be smooth and controlled, as if you were compressing a heavy spring. When the barbell touches the ribcage, the spring begins to straighten out, helping you to overcome the dead center.
7. Too much weight
This chronic infection has hit every gym on the planet. I have to hold back as hard as I can not to scream, “Are you doing the bench press or are you helping the belayer do the vertical deadlift?”
Trying to finish an 8-rep set with a working weight that you can lift no more than two times without assistance? Take it easy, buddy, literally – take it easy! You should do one, aximum two reps with the help of a spotter, and before that at least five on your own; it is only for these two final movements that an assistant is needed.
And if you’re helping a partner, don’t let the bar stop. Always keep the projectile forward to the top.