The Bench Press is undoubtedly one of the most popular exercises in strength training and bodybuilding industry used today to enhance muscle growth and develop core strength. Sadly many beginners and even advanced training individuals have been found doing their training a great disservice by failing to recognize the proper technique for maximizing their strength and available power during each rep. Learning how to bench press like a professional begins without the use of any weights on the bar. This allows the individual to determine the correct spacing of the hands on the bar.
This is generally achieved by the person laying on the bench removing the bar from the rack as though they would normally do. The bar is then lowered towards the chest as the spotter carefully observes the alignment of the forearms. To achieve the optimum power the forearms should be positioned as close to vertical at the lowest point of the lift as possible.The grip should be adjusted appropriately noting the position of the hands relative to the smooth rings located on the Olympic bar. This exercise has been used to demonstrate effect of positioning the hands wider which results in the power used in pushing to be displaced in an outward direction, thus if the hands are places closer and the forearms positioned vertical, then the power exerted is displaced in an upward direction.
Locking down is a specific technique used by many professional bodybuilders and trainers to lock the shoulders into a position to achieve the maximum stability strength possible. The individual begins by laying on the bench planting both feet firmly against the floor. The knees should be positioned roughly at about 80 degrees. Placing the feet on the bench results in a loss in stability and power and should be avoided at all costs. The hands are then placed on the bar in the previous position discussed.
Both palms should be placed on the back to the bar rather than the bottom. While maintaining a firm grip the bar is rotated until the palms are positioned directly under the bar effectively placing the shoulders into a strong and stable position. While rotating the bar locking the shoulders the torso is lifted just slightly off the bench contracting the shoulder blades beneath the torso. This motion will result in the positioning of the shoulders to the back causing the chest to puff in an outward direction. This motion places the pectoral muscles in an optimal position to produce an effective line of pull additionally creating a more rigid torso as the distance required to press the weight is effectively reduced. The shoulder blades are tightly squeezed together for the entire duration of the exercise set. The bar should be removed from the rack and lowered to the bottom of the sternum tightening the muscles of the trunk.
Pretend as though the muscle tissue are springs containing the required energy needed; as the weight is lowered the muscles are compressed although ready to explode in an upward motion. While the bar is lowered the individual inhales slowly simultaneously tightening the chest.
It is vital that the bar should be very softly allowed to touch the chest with a minimum amount of force, as allowing the weight to bounce off the chest has often resulted in a cracked ribs, or snapping the tip of the sternum as well as dispersing the built up tension within the pectoral muscles thus rendering the exercise ineffective.
While reversing the direction of the bar the individual begins to press in an upward motion, using the legs to direct the motion of the bar. This technique commonly referred to as driving with your legs and has been used by a selective number of trainers and fitness professionals to allow the legs to assist in pressing the weights by increasing the power out from the bottom of the rep.
It is recommended that this technique be practiced on an empty bar prior to attempting an exercise set. While driving he weight upward the individual forcefully exhales through tight lips. This technique is often used to assist in maintaining a level of stability within the torso rather than exhaling all at once.
Both feet should be firmly planted on the floor to ensure the availability of power to be used to complete the lift. Some bodybuilders have often been seen placing 3 pound weights on their feet to help maintain the position of the feet during the lift.
As the bar is driven upward it should be followed by a motion of a slight backward arc moving it from the lower rib cage positioning it over the face as the motion is completed at the end of the rep powering the weight up to the lockout.