The flat bench press is the most popular exercise performed in the gym. Everyone began their bodybuilding aspirations by doing them and the amount that one can bench has always been used as a measuring stick of their overall strength. Even college prospects at the annual NFL Scouting Combine are judged by how many reps they can bang out with 225 pounds – the only weight lifting movement that they are put through.
It would seem that benching is an easy thing to do and idiot-proof, right? Well, most people that think they know what they are doing fuck up every rep and have been doing so since that first time all those years ago.
A quick recap on why the bench press is such an important part of any workout program. It is a compound movement that works the chest as the primary muscle, but also the lats (at the bottom of the rep), shoulders (as you reach the top of the rep) and triceps (mostly at lockout). It is a great exercise for overall strength and power, as well as developing muscle mass and carving out detail in your pecs.
So with all of this good shit on the line, let’s throw a few common mistakes at you that some people may not even be aware of as being detrimental towards getting the most out of your bench press.
5. KEEPING YOUR LOWER BACK FLAT
A slight arch in your lower back will help keep the rest of your body where it needs to be (we’ll get to them in a moment) and it is NOT cheating at all. Yes, it does shorten the distance that the bar travels, but you will still be working all of the muscles you set out to and using proper form. Isn’t that the objective?
(Note: Lower back does not mean your ass; leave that flat on the bench.)
4. NOT RETRACTING YOUR SHOULDER BLADES
This goes in line with the lower back arch and what you are trying to do is squeeze your shoulder blades together throughout the full rep. This actually rounds out your sternum and puts more emphasis on the pectorals.
3. MOVING YOUR HEAD AROUND
Watching some people benching can be a fuckin’ pisser, especially the ones who pop their heads up and look at the bar from across instead of underneath. That is a good way of straining your neck and does not make it any easier to blow out that rep, either. Leave your head straight and in constant contact with the bench.
2. FEET UP ON THE BENCH OR CROSSED AND FLOATING
There are all kinds of theories about where you should put your feet while performing the bench press. Some say that putting them up on the edge of the bench works best, while others tell you that holding them up in the air, knees bent and crossing your feet is the way to go.
You know what? If either of those “tricks” makes you feel stronger, who are we to tell you to stop? But merely keeping your feet flat on the floor and not bouncing around will be your best bet to keeping the type of form you should. It also gives you the opportunity to ‘drive through the floor with your heels.
1. GRIP BEING TOO NARROW OR TOO WIDE
The narrow grip will make it harder to push up some quality weight and give the triceps more of a pounding than the chest, besides putting a lot of strain on your delts. The really wide powerlifter-type grip really shortens your range of motion and will allow you to max out. Find a comfortable place in the middle of these two so that you get the benefit of using more weight and maintaining a good range of motion for bodybuilding purposes.