Lift your rib cage
Push your chest up as much as possible like you're trying to touch your chest to the barbell
An effective cue for this is to "show off the chest" just like in the deadlift. The thoracic erectors arch the upper back to give the chest muscles better lines of action to the upper arms.
...think about bringing your chest to the bar instead of the bar to your chest.
Lift your chest and lats while leaving your hips down. Try to spread your chest up to the bar, and use the appropriate leg action based on your foot position to keep your butt glued to the bench.
As you descend continue to pull your ribs up hard to meet the bar...you NEED to actively push your ribs towards the bar during the ENTIRE MOVEMENT.
Improve leverage and stability
I want you to think about bringing your chest to the bar... That's going to keep your upper back tight and extended and that's gonna keep your lats tight.
BRING YOUR CHEST TO THE BAR
Reactive Training Systems
As she brings down brings the bar down, we're trying to reach up to the bar with her chest...It's become a very common practice for athletes to lift their head off the bench, and unless you're very very mindful of it, then as the head comes up, the chest will often come down and the chest will sort of retreat from the bar and that can cause a loss of upper back positioning. It can cause a loss of tension. It's also going to cause you to have to move the bar a further distance... You shouldn't need to lift your head...just be mindful of keeping your chest as high as possible throughout the lift.
By throwing your chest up, you put the bench movement further up your shoulders for more leverage. Chest up, shoulders back.
Once I’m lowering the bar, I try to bring my belly up to the bar to meet it. This not only keeps my arch solid but also keeps my upper back locked in.
As you lower the bar, actively drive your chest up to meet it to slightly reduce range of motion.
Pull the bar down
PULL YOURSELF UP TO THE BAR
While you're actively rowing the bar to your chest, I want you to think about wedging yourself between the bench and the barbell - almost like you had a spring and you were compressing it.
Start the rep by using your lats to “pull” the bar down to your chest. This will help you control the bar, not only with regards to the speed of the motion but your line as well.
Lower that bar as quickly as possible, but only as quickly as you can comfortably control that weight.
Engage the back muscles
On the descent, we want to stay under control. I want that bar path to be perfect, and we're trying to keep all that muscle recruitment that we have on the way down. I know it's counterintuitive because it feels heavy on the way down, it's a little slower and more controlled, but that is what's...making sure that the bar path stays exactly where it needs to be, so you have a nice efficient path. If that groove is off just a little... that could make or break a PR.
Rowing it down to your body is gonna cue your body to be actively engaged in the motion... You need to think about coiling a spring. You're building up kinetic energy as that bar comes down, you're getting tighter and tighter and tighter and tighter. That spring is getting wound up so that when you release it, all that kinetic energy goes at one time, becomes a powder keg, EXPLODES, the bar shoots off your chest then your elbows flare.
I focus on rowing the bar to my chest. I do not think about just lowering it... that is letting the bar control you, you need to be in control of the bar the entire time. The way that I go about that is by keeping my elbows bent so my lats are locked in. That also allows my elbows to stay tucked on the way down.
By activating the muscles of the upper back as if you're doing a row, you're recruiting the muscles that stabilize the scapulae, and that's going to keep your shoulders healthy.
Stacked above your elbows
NIPPLE HEIGHT OR LOWER
You're gonna want to stick to right around where your sternum is for where the bar is gonna make contact. The lower we go, okay the harder that bench press is gonna become, and higher up it's gonna be the same thing.
Finding this position where the bar is stacked over your joints and the joints are stacked over each other when the bar is on your chest is critical to maximizing the force you can apply to the bar. If you have a wider grip, you will likely need to touch the bar higher on your chest with more flared elbow position to achieve this. If you have a closer grip, you will tuck your elbows more and touch the bar lower on your chest to achieve this position. One option is not universally better than the other and will depend on your strength and shoulder stability.
The proper bench press will land a barbell on the chest at a point where the elbows are roughly under the bar and where the hands are stacked atop the elbow.
Don't bench press with your elbows out. This puts too much stress on the shoulders and will almost definitely lead to problems down the road. The bar should come down and touch on the nipple line or even slightly below.
Feet down and away
PUSH YOUR BODY UP THE BENCH
PUSH YOURSELF UP THE BENCH
Reactive Training Systems
Instead of trying to push through your toes, try to push your heels down like you're in mud - like you're pushing your feet into mud. Then try to push the mud forward... So push down hard and then forward as hard as you can.
EXTERNAL FORCE + DRIVE BACK
Think about doing a leg extension and push yourself... across the bench. If your chest is high, you will feel your legs reinforcing your arch by driving your traps further into the bench. Keep this tension in your legs throughout the entire set.
Imagine she's driving her toes into the end of the shoes... Driving down with the heels makes it more likely for the butt to come off the bench.
I want you to think of a fighter throwing a punch. You can throw a punch with just your arm, just like you can bench press with just your arms, but... a STRONG punch starts from the floor just like a strong bench press starts from the floor... When you initiate that leg drive, instead of trying to drive your butt upward like it's trying to go straight to the ceiling, I want you to try to push towards your head like you would literally slide backwards towards the uprights.
For the timing of your leg drive once you're set up... your legs are going to be engaged pushing your body northward, and it's going to increasingly go up as that bar comes down. So as that bar is lowering I'm putting 60% pressure on my legs, then 70%, 80%, 90%, until I touch my chest. Once I touch my chest, I reverse all of that. My legs drive as hard as possible: 100% pushing my head towards the top of the bench and that bar will start going up.
Leg drive arguably one of the most important things in bench pressing... What people think that means is "push your butt up off the bench" and that is the absolute opposite of what you want to do... you want to push yourself north on the bench so your head is sliding towards the barbell, creating kinetic energy traveling all the way up your body into your arms into that bar.
LEG DRIVE TUTORIAL
try to push yourself backwards on the bench...the leg drive is performed during the entirety of the rep...we're trying to push ourselves backwards on the bench and not up
In an effort to create a bar path back over the face, some lifters will try and manipulate their arm angle to create this action but in doing so will lose their stacked joint position. Instead, your leg drive needs to create the energy that pushes the bar towards your face. Push your feet down and away from you, driving your toes into the ends of your shoes and creating energy coming back towards your head that the bar will follow.
Putting pressure into the floor is the first step to creating effective leg drive during the Bench Press. Good leg drive will push their lifter towards their own head and to create this effect, you need to push down and away. Pushing your toes into the ends of your shoes will help to make sure you’re pushing at the right angle, rather than just pushing straight down.
Imagine sitting in a wheeled desk chair and pushing off HARD backwards down the nearest hallway by pushing off both your feet at once and think about what you’re doing with your quads and feet.
Drive your feet into the ground and forward. Try to crush your toes into the front of your shoes... You should feel the pressure in your quads. If you do this correctly and you have a solid arch set up you will feel yourself being pushed back into the bench.
Drive the bar off your chest
WHY USE LEG DRIVE
Proper leg drive must initiate force backward toward the bar, not up toward the ceiling. This keeps your butt on the bench while applying force toward the bar, nicely complementing the desired J-curve bar path that naturally places the bar over the appropriate joints for each phase of the lift...Good leg drive accelerates the bar through the most common sticking point, which is a few inches off the chest. If you can blast through the point, it becomes much easier to flare the elbows and get the bar aligned over the triceps and shoulders.
I try to maintain consistent leg drive pushing me this way towards my head up the bench to keep me on my traps to keep me in position to keep my chest up.
If you push your head towards the direction of the bar, there's no way that your butt should pop up off the bench. When you take the the bar out, tighten your quads and bring it down to your chest... Take [the bar] down with tight quads, but then when you're ready to throw it up - that's when you're going to really fire your legs to push yourself back towards the bar. That's going to help... raise your chest towards the bar and... apply all the force of your legs towards the bar.
You wanna think about having 99% leg tension on the unrack and descent... and then that extra 1% to drive the bar off your chest.
As you start the press, squeeze your glutes hard and try to drive your heels through the floor. This pushes your chest slightly higher, and back into the bar. The force of your chest pushing back into the bar helps you drive the bar back off your chest toward your throat, putting it in the proper position to finish the press.
If you have a good arch and your glutes are engaged it's gonna be much harder for your butt to leave that bench... Also while you're pushing your knees out, you want to be engaging your quads. As soon as I'm rack the bar, I'm probably at about 20-30% legs engaged. As I lower the bar, I go to 40%, 50%, 60%, 70%, all the way up. As soon as the bar touches my chest and I reverse it, my legs are 100% engaged trying to slide me backwards on the bench. But since my traps are set and I'm pinned, my arch is going to hold and all that kinetic energy is going to go from my feet through my legs, into my torso, up my arms, and out the middle of my hand just like a punch.
A lot of your power from the bench press comes from your feet...being able to stay in that tight position all starts with your connection to the ground.
We want to get the bar into that [mechanically advantageous] position as quickly as possible. We have to achieve that with leg drive because if Marissa was just to come down and touch... and with only her arms tries to drive it back over her shoulder it would either happen late... or if she were to get there early, she would... lose that relationship of bar over wrist, wrist over elbow that we're trying to achieve. So leg drive is gonna help you achieve a more optimal bar path.
...your feet and legs create an abutment, providing horizontal resistance against the tendency for your butt to move away from your shoulders... Your feet should be actively pushing to create a line of force parallel to the bench pushing you toward the head side of the bench.
Get your leg drive on throughout the entirety of the lift... push yourself up and back the whole time to avoid your butt lifting up.
Wrist and elbow stacked
ARMS PERPENDICULAR TO BENCH AND BAR
You're keeping the elbow under the bar the entire time. The key to the bench is to keep your wrist and elbow in line.
The bar should be directly above your elbows at all times.
We want a nice stacked position through the wrist, through the elbow...
I learned at an elitefts seminar to have the bar, wrist, and elbow always in a straight line.
As you’re driving the bar up to the locked out position, many will have a tendency to become “unglued” and let their elbows flare out immediately. Instead, think about keeping the elbows tucked and underneath you when driving the bar back up.
During the descent, you want to drop your elbows down at a 45 degree angle relative to your torso (when viewed from the top) and... when viewed from the side on the elbows shouldn't be too far out in front of the bar - and you can make it a goal to keep the elbows stacked under the bar. When viewed from the side, the descending bar path should be down and slightly forward at the same time.
KEEP YOUR ELBOWS INLINE
We want to make sure to avoid is if we overly tuck the elbows and the elbows are way inside the hands, or a bit more rare would be to flare too much and have the the hand and bar below the elbow.
If your elbows are flared on the way down, that's gonna stick a lot of pressure on your humerus and you're looking at a shoulder injury. If your elbows have no place to go when you touch the bar to your chest, then flaring the elbows is what gets horsepower back under the bar once you get about halfway to 3/4 of the way through the bench press. If your elbows are already flared, they have no place to go... it's just gonna stop and fall back down to your chest. So what I recommend doing is trying to keep your elbows tucked at about a 45 degree angle. You do not want them right next to your side... and you do not want them flared out.
Upon analyzing injuries during flat bench press, Green and Comfort (2007) explained how shoulder abduction at 45 degrees with a medium grip offered the safest method of bench press performance for the shoulder joint.
As you’re pulling the bar down, think about tucking your elbows into your sides. This will not only help you in pulling the bar down, but it will keep your more stable and reduce the stress on your shoulders as well.
The ideal amount of adduction produces a vertical forearm when viewing the lifter from the front and profile views. This represents the most efficient way to transfer force from the shoulder girdle, through the arms, and to the barbell.
When the bar's in line with your wrist joints and forearms, then what you have is what us powerlifters call a straight line. And the strongest and shortest distance to move a heavy weight is through a straight line. Keeping the bar in line with your wrists and forearms will also save you undue stress to your wrists. If the bar rolls back in your hands, it's going to hurt like hell.
Push yourself away from the bar
PUSH YOURSELF INTO THE BENCH
Think about trying to push your body away from the bar. This is gonna take a while for you to really get... When it does come your bench is gonna go way up... If I have my back against the wall and I want to push John away from me and I didn't put any pressure into the wall, he's only gonna go so far. Now if I put more force into the wall AND push him, he's going to go a lot further because I have the wall to be able to generate that force from.
When you're doing a push up on the ground, you're not actually pushing the ground anywhere. You're pushing yourself away from the ground. So I want you to think about that while you're bench pressing.
When you bench press, you don't want to think about pushing the bar away from you. You want to think of pushing yourself into the bench.
I want you to think about pushing your back into the bench. Do not push the barbell away from you!
Once I pause, I reverse the motion by thinking about pushing myself away from the bar. Pushing yourself away may sound ridiculous, but it will make sense once you are under the bar. Again, it’s about staying tight through the whole movement. I’m able to keep my upper back locked in much better this way.
Press every rep as hard as you possibly can. In one study, pressing each rep as fast as possible resulted in literally twice the bench press gains as pressing the bar intentionally slower with the exact same training program. When you press harder, force output is higher (so training conditions are more similar to conditions when attempting 1rm loads), and you recruit more motor units, amplifying the training effect.
Feel as if you're pushing yourself away from the bar and into the bench. This will dig your traps and lats into the bench even more, providing you with a solid base to push from.
Stop thinking about pressing the bar away from you. Think about pressing yourself into the bench. Imagine for a second that the barbell was stationary (it wasn't going to move), but the bench underneath you did move. You're trying to push yourself into the bench, and what that prevents is reaching. A lot of people will bench and they'll kind of lock out... where they're reaching to finish that last rep and they lose all upper back tightness. Then they're left trying to find it, digging around on the bench.
From a very basic physics standpoint, you are not pushing the force into that bar. The amount of force you push into the bench allows the bar to go up from you. So you want to drive as much force as you can into the bench to allow the weight to go up.
Like a push-up
BAR PATH CHART
BAR PATH PROGRESSION
Think about pressing the bar up and back over your face, back to the starting position. This position is much more advantageous for the lockout.
Creating a bar path that moves the bar over the face as you press will help you shorten the moment arm between the shoulder and bar at lockout, putting you in your strongest position. How aggressive the motion of your face is when initiating the lift from the chest will be determined by your grip width and where on your chest you are touching the bar.
Make sure you're pressing the bar up and back - not just straight up. You can also try flaring the elbows out a bit more, as this is going to get your pecs more involved... Think about lifting the bar off your chest with max speed.
The novice lifters pressed almost straight up initially, with the bar then moving up and back more toward the top half of the lift. The elite lifters followed the opposite pattern – they initially pressed the bar up and back at the start of the lift, and finished the lift by pressing the bar almost straight up toward the top half of the lift...while elite lifters whose bench numbers continued to rise pushed the bar back toward their face to start the press more and more as their lifts improved.
What we're trying to achieve is the shortest moment arm possible. If Marissa was to touch very low on her chest and push the bar straight up from there, the distance from the bar to her shoulder is much greater, but as she pushes the bar back over her face this distance between the bar and the shoulder lessens. That smaller distance is going to be a much stronger position for her to press from.
Once you've touched your chest, get that barbell back over your upper back as soon as you can. Stop moving the bar up and down in a vertical line... Once you touch your chest, press the barbell back towards the rack. Rotate your elbows back under the barbell and this will put the barbell back over your shoulder joint where it wants to be.
Once you touch your chest your first couple of inches are going to be straight up, but then you need to start actively getting the bar back towards your face. This going to allow your elbows flare a little bit more.
If we were to press straight up from the touch point on the chest without bringing it back over the shoulder, we're gonna end up out in front of the shoulder. We're gonna have significantly worse leverage down there. So what we want to do is we essentially want to bring the bar back over the shoulders as the first part of the press and then we want to press straight through lockout.
I don't push straight up. I push back and then up. What that's doing is shortening the shoulder extensor moment arm, which is trying to pull [me] out of extension... down towards my hips. You're going to finish above your shoulders, so you have to get back there quickly.