A few weeks ago I got accepted to compete as part of Team Canada PowerLifting at the Bench Press World Championships in April at Killeen Texas.
My bench press has always been my weakest link, so I am making it a point to learn as much as possible. I have been working a lot of practice on technique and also coaching it a lot more with my athletes.
The bench press is a very technical lift. Most people think that lifting heavy weights is all about strength, it’s not. It’s about technique first, then strength. For women it’s even more technical since women don’t have the upper body size or strength of men.
If your goal is to bench press as much weight as possible there are a few things you can do to get you stronger, but one of the simplest and most effective is to reduce the distance the bar has to travel.
Unlike a bench press where the goal is to hit the muscle as much as possible (think Body Building Bench Press), if your goal is to lift heavy weights you need to change a few things up.
Here are 3 tips to help improve your bench press technique and strength.
1. Open Your Hands Wider
One of them is the range of motion of the bar. Reduce this and you will improve your bench press.
Try to over time widen your grip. The wider you grip the bar the less distance the bar will travel before it touches your chest.
Everyone is built differently, find a grip that works comfortable for you, but over time and practice you can have a big impact on your bench press grip width.
2. Drive Your Chest Up High Before You Start Your Bench Press
You will hear in Power Lifting often cues like “Big Breath” or “Big Chest Up”, the goal here is to get air into your chest and make your chest expand as high as possible.
The higher you drive your chest up the less the bar will have to travel when you touch your chest. Drive your chest high before the bar starts to descend towards the chest.
3. Learn To Arch
A lot of people who don’t know about competing in bench pressing hate Arching. They don’t understand it or think it’s bad for your back. For the most part this is only done by pretty high end competitive PowerLifters. Some female lifters have crazy excessive arches, if you are Power Lifting this is fine (and great for builing your numbers), but for the average gym lifter you don’t need a big crazy arch.
But you should try to bring your feet back and drive your ribs up. If you can arch even 1″ that is 1″ less that the bar has to goes and this can make a big difference in the weight you lift.
Give these 3 tips a try and let me know how you find them.
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Cheers and Stay Strong.
Rob King is a Competitive PowerLifter, Coach and Writer.