Bench Press Technique Mistakes
They’ll Kill Development… and Your Back
Wanna see some funny shit? Head down to your local gym and check out bench press techniques. It’s not just that
bench press technique mistakes you look damn silly; they hamstring development, and can make one of the best upper body power and development movements into an injury-riddled disaster.
Yeah, it’s true. Make these and you’re risking all your hard earned progress just to look studly in the gym. Guess what? You don’t have the biggest bench in there anyway, so who gives a crap? In addition, these mistakes keep you from reaching your maximum potential, especially if you’ve got an eye on doing some power lifting, since screwed up form does not a legal lift make.
If you get hurt and can’t train, you’re really screwed. How many people have you known who got hurt, then got fat? It’s a big party you don’t want to attend.
I’m not claiming to be the world’s best bench presser.
Hardly! At my peak, I could only hoist 295, and that wasn’t yesterday. I tried to not look stupid in the process, though. Going from 295 with good form to 335 with crap, wasn’t going to make all the Gold’s dudes think I was a bad ass, or have the SeaGals want to come by for a night cap. Hey, it’s not my fault anyway; I have long arms!
Bad bench press technique is easy to spot, and it’s like attorney general Ed Meese’s porn definition back in the ’70s; you’ll know it when you see it. So, what are the technique gaffes you’re most likely to see?
Lifting Ass Off Bench
Drive a semi-truck under your ass when you’re benching? It’s too far off the bench! Actually, if you can see light under there at all, it’s too far, and no, I’m not lookin’ at your ass. You can get a good leg drive without resorting to ass flying. If compressing your lumbar vertebrae, and hurting your back is your goal, go for it with ass a flyin’. Otherwise, planted is proper.
You know the drill:
Feet flat on the floor for stability and leg drive, ass planted.
Getting the Big “Chest Bounce”
Getting that extra bounce off your chest to pad your numbers? If you’re bench pressing that way, it’s your chest that could use the padding. Really, using your sternum as a springboard for 365lbs is a recipe for disaster; plus it looks ridiculous, really. For maximum strength and power: down slow, pause for 1 on the chest, explode off. Even if that’s not your goal, and you’re more growth oriented, barely kissing your chest with the bar is more effective than basically dropping the damn thing. Ain’t no missile science….
Like you keep telling your girlfriend, “Please go down all the way”. So it is with your bench, only without the begging. If you’re stopping 3” from your sternum, you’re missing out on all the pectoral loading that happens down there. No load = no overload = no progress…. or not nearly as much.
A better way?
If you’re locking out easy, but having trouble at the bottom, try this: Go down all the way with lighter weight, then use heavy chain wrapped around the bar and hanging to the floor. The weight is on the floor when the bar is lowered, but you have to lift it as the bar raises. It works to progressive increase the bar loading as you complete the lift. Damn, you can feel that on lockout, and you’ll be able to go all the way down.
All Thumbs… or None
Many people use a “thumbless” or “suicide” bench press grip, where their hands are not completely wrapped around the bar, their thumbs and fingers are on the same side. Yeah, on occasion I’ve done it, too. Disaster recipe 101, here. If you’re into a nice skull crush, by all means use this one. Seriously, it significantly increases the risk of you losing your grip on a heavily loaded bar, and catching it in the neck. Hey, we ended up on the opposable thumb end of the development ladder, why prove we’re really a few steps down by not using them?
Okay, if you’re a powerlifter, you can hoist more weight with a thumbless grip. You also have a spotter or 3 ready to fend off a pain in the neck. For the rest of us….
See this over at Stronglifts for what happens if you F this up (and some more mistakes). Not pretty.
Wriggling around like a fish when lifting may help you lift more weight… but probably doesn’t. It does make people whip out their cell phones for a quick video to show their friends, though. Keep the bar and your body even. Be smooth. It’s better for development, and safety.
Here’s a nice video from LeanMax with some pretty funny illustrations of how not to bench!
What are the biggest bench press technique mistakes that really get your goat? What did I miss? Let me know, please!