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Proper Bench Press Technique

If you want to substantially increase the amount of weight you can bench you have to make sure your form is locked in.  Some people just jump on the bench and try to press the weight without any thought whatsoever.  However, if you are reading this you are looking to actually improve your bench press technique.

So What Are The Keys To Proper Benching?

Grip Width 


This is kind of dependent on why you are benching.  If you are a powerlifter in a bench shirt you should take the maximum legal grip, which is index on the rings.  If you are a raw lifter then you probably should not go wider than pinkies on the rings.  If you are using the bench press to increase your athletic performance for sport you might want to consider an even closer grip.  The closer grip may reduce your strength potential slightly, but it will save your shoulders.  Just remember that for an athlete, the bench press is just a tool not the sport itself.

Drive Your Upper Back Into The Bench

It’s simple physics that the more force you drive into the bench, the more force you can transfer into the bar.  To do this you have to use your legs to drive your upper back into the bench.  You have to be in a solid position to use all the force to help you get the bar started.  That initial push could be the difference between you stalling or blasting through your sticking point.

Retracting Your Shoulder Blades

This is part of the upper back postion.  To get the most out of the bench you have to get in the most solid position possible.  Since we can’t widen the bench we have to change the width of our body.  We do that by retracting our shoulder blades and squeezing them together as tightly as possible.  This serves two purposes.  It puts your body in contact with a greater area on the bench, and it pulls your arms back which shortens your range of motion.  Be sure to keep your chest out and not allow your shoulders to roll forward.

Foot Placement


Once again you have to realize why you are benching.  If you are a competitive lifter looking to move the most weight; tucking your feet under you can significantly increase your arch and decrease range of motion.  If benching is your sport this is the way to go.  For athletes using the bench press to improve their overall athleticism; setting your feet out in front of you so you can drive back more mimics situations on the playing field.  It also is slightly less taxing on the lower back.

2279852639_535a99039e_oTucking Your Elbows

When you lower the bar your elbows should be roughly 45 degrees from your torso.  This is the best elbow position to move the most weight, and do so safely.  It decreases the rotation of the shoulders, and allows you to use your lats more.  For both powerlifters and athletes, this is proper bench press technique. []

Lowering The Bar To The Proper Place

For competitive lifters in bench shirts you want to lower the bar to your sternum.  This decreases the range of motion, and increases your chances to bench maximal weight.  For raw lifters and athletes you cannot safely go that low.  You should aim for just below the nipple line.  Either way the higher you place the bar on your chest, the more shoulder rotation will be required.  This is less than optimal for shoulder health and longevity.

These are some of the key points to proper bench press technique. [] Try to practice these at every bench session.  Have someone watch you, and give you verbal cues.  Don’t make the mistake of trying to change everything at once.  Concentrate on ONE thing until it becomes second nature, and then move on.  If you want to bench big weight you have to set up properly every time.


Don Johnson is the founder and head strength coach at Mammoth Strength, and athletic training facility in Jacksonville Fla. Visit his sites at Mammoth Strength and Bench Press Technique.