Bad Bench Press Mistakes - AnabolicMinds.com
    • Bad Bench Press Mistakes


      by Jim Vaglica, C.S.C.S. Bodybuilding.com

      As soon as I walk into any gym, I start critiquing other lifters. I can't help myself. "Those are some great half-reps, buddy," or "Lady, if those dumbbells were any lighter they'd float away." Sometimes, it's just, "Pal, I have no idea what the Christ you're trying to do."

      Obviously I don't say these things aloud, or I'd spend more time fighting than lifting. One of my rules is I never give unsolicited advice. Sometimes this rule tortures me—especially when I see mistakes with the bench press.

      Why is the bench so important to me? Well, I spent several years competing in this particular lift as the captain of a traveling team that participated at meets throughout New England. I'm not one to do anything half-assed, so I did my research, read books, watches videos, and experimented with different methods in preparation for my contests. My work paid off in many official lifts more than double body weight—and in one strange contest, where I benched my body weight for 29 reps.

      I spent hours at bench contests watching hundreds of lifters making thousands of attempts. I saw the following mistakes, and many others. This is my list of the major crimes and how to correct them. Fix each one to bring you closer to fulfilling your quest for a big bench, and move on to more pressing matters.

      1 / Crazy Legs
      If you want to press heavy weight, start with a solid base and incorporate your whole body. I've seen guys straining for another rep with their feet kicking like they're being strangled. Even worse are those who put both feet up on the bench. Unless you're practicing to walk a tightrope, there's absolutely no benefit to that position.

      Here's how to build your base: After you lie back on the bench, bring your feet straight back toward your head, to the point where your heels are about to come off the ground—but no further. Your heels should stay in contact with the floor throughout the lift.


      If you've got long legs, your butt may tend to come off the bench. You can avoid this by widening your feet. On the initial drive off your chest, drive your heels through the floor and hold that position until you rack the weight.

      2 / Bent Forearms
      Where you grip the bar determines which muscle groups will have the most influence on your lift, and which ones will get worked. Obviously your grip should be balanced and identical on both sides, using the power rings as a gauge. You may generate more power from your chest or your triceps, but at least initially, you should start out with a placement that uses both equally.

      Here's how to determine that placement—and you will need someone to help you with this:

      Have your helper stand either directly behind your head or directly in front of your feet. Lie back on the bench and take a balanced grip on an empty bar. Lower the bar to your chest and hold it there. Now have your helper tell you whether your forearms are exactly vertical and perpendicular to the floor. Ideally, your hands should be directly over your elbows. If you hands are flaring out (which is often the case), narrow your grip.


      Now that you're properly aligned, you can make slight alterations, but I'm talking about an inch or two at most. If you believe most of your power comes from your chest, you can widen your grip. If you feel like the triceps are your big movers, you can narrow your grip slightly.

      Do not use a false, or "thumb-less," grip. It's dangerous, and it also tends to force your elbows in tight to your body, making your front delts and triceps do most of the work.

      3 / Shrugged Shoulders
      When you lie on the bench your shoulders shouldn't be up by your ears. In the shrugged position you're not getting the full benefit of your pec strength, and you take your lats completely out of the lift—yes, your lats assist in your bench press.

      During the lift, flex your lats and drive your shoulders down toward your hips while squeezing your shoulder blades together. This should create an arch in your lower back, but your butt should always stay on the bench. Only your upper back should be pressed hard into the bench. Always look straight up, and do not press your head into the bench. This could cause a neck injury.


      4 / Sagging Wrists
      When you grip the bar, don't let your wrists sag back. The bar should remain directly in line with your forearms. Allowing your wrists to hang could lead to wrist problems. More important in the short term, it means the bar isn't in line with the sources of your power.

      Need a visual cue? Hold your wrists tight as if you were punching a heavy bag.


      5 / Partial Reps
      Who said it was OK to stop six inches above your chest? Are these the same people parking two feet from the curb?

      The bottom portion of the bench press is where your pecs are most heavily activated. If you don't touch the bar to your chest, you're cheating your pecs out of a lot of good work. Sure, it's the most difficult portion of the lift. That's the point.


      If you're doing these partial reps to inflate your numbers, be advised: Any rep that doesn't both touch your chest and end with complete unassisted lockout is not a rep. This means that you can't claim it when a fellow gym rat asks, "So how much ya bench?"

      It's true that partial bench reps are acceptable in certain training programs, but that's beyond my jurisdiction for this article. We're talking the standard bench press here.

      6 / The Chest Trampoline
      Thankfully, I don't see this as much as I used to, but back in the day, guys were bouncing the bar off their chest like it was a bell-ringing contest. It's just another form of cheating, it's counterproductive, and you better believe it's dangerous.

      I knew a guy who never benched without bouncing. Then he entered his first contest, where he had to pause with the bar on his chest. His pec ripped like an old gym towel.


      A new version of the chest trampoline I still see is a lot guys dropping the bar on the descent and then coming to a quick stop just above the chest. They cheat themselves out of the negative portion of the lift, which is just as effective in building muscle as the positive portion.

      Envision it this way: Your descent needs to be controlled, as if you are compressing a heavy spring. When the bar touches your chest, the spring releases upward, powering you past the sticking point.


      7 / Too Much Weight
      This is a chronic problem in the weight room. It takes all my strength not to shout, "Are you benching, or are you assisting your spotter with upright rows?"

      If you're doing a set of eight with a weight you can only get to lockout on two reps, lighten up, buddy. One or two assisted reps, after you perform at least five on your own are all you should need for assistance.

      And if you're spotting someone, don't let the bar stop. Always keep the bar moving, upward and level.

      Source: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/pres...es-solved.html
      Comments 13 Comments
      1. Bodock's Avatar
        Bodock -
        Some good tips here!
      1. PalmFist's Avatar
        PalmFist -
        Very nice indeed
      1. songeboptv's Avatar
        songeboptv -
        True dat
      1. v4lu3s's Avatar
        v4lu3s -
        If you HAVE to touch your chest that can actually cause shoulder injuries, especially in long armed people. a full rep can vary some based on the mechanics of your body...
      1. Boatcop1's Avatar
        Boatcop1 -
        Originally Posted by v4lu3s View Post
        If you HAVE to touch your chest that can actually cause shoulder injuries, especially in long armed people. a full rep can vary some based on the mechanics of your body...
        Adjust grip accordingly.
      1. v4lu3s's Avatar
        v4lu3s -
        Not what the sports medicine doc told me when i was rehabbing my acromioclavicular ligament after it was damaged. He flat our told me if i keep touching my chest i will end up needing surgery sooner rather than later, going that deep was putting enough strain on the ligament it was pulling the bones apart enough that the bones were also damaged leading to arthritis. Said if my shoulder structure was different or if i had shorter arms it would not be an issue
      1. JoeySon's Avatar
        JoeySon -
        great simple tips
      1. binkshimself's Avatar
        binkshimself -
        Started working out with a few power lifters. Always touched my chest or got yelled at, and always had shoulder problems. Unless you arch your back and shove a phone book under there, most people probably won't do anything but hurt their shoulders by going all the way down.
      1. Sigurd8404's Avatar
        Sigurd8404 -
        Originally Posted by v4lu3s View Post
        Not what the sports medicine doc told me when i was rehabbing my acromioclavicular ligament after it was damaged. He flat our told me if i keep touching my chest i will end up needing surgery sooner rather than later, going that deep was putting enough strain on the ligament it was pulling the bones apart enough that the bones were also damaged leading to arthritis. Said if my shoulder structure was different or if i had shorter arms it would not be an issue
        As much as I agree that touching your chest with the bar does use your chest to it's full potential, I have to agree that for some of us it can cause shoulder issues. I'm 72" tall with a 76.5" wingspan, I use proper alignment when benching, with my elbows directly under my wrist and my shoulders "down" where they should be. Coming down to a 90 degree arm angle leaves the bar a good 7" above my chest yet, coming to my chest puts my elbows all the way below the bench and strains my shoulder(s). This has led me to be in physical therapy for my shoulder at this moment in fact.

        Like I said, I still agree that going to your chest gives the best chest workout, no argument there. But for some of us long armed guys it's not quite feasible without the risk of shoulder injuries. Just my personal opinion.
      1. AllNatty's Avatar
        AllNatty -
        Originally Posted by Sigurd8404 View Post
        Like I said, I still agree that going to your chest gives the best chest workout, no argument there. But for some of us long armed guys it's not quite feasible without the risk of shoulder injuries. Just my personal opinion.
        do you squeeze your shoulder blades together? you mentioned you have your shoulders down, which is good, but in addition squeezing your shoulder blades helps take tension off your shoulders.
      1. AllNatty's Avatar
        AllNatty -
        I much like the author am a supporter of touching your chest. I weigh 160, and bench 360. From around sR year in high school through my 3rd year of college I only went down to 90 degrees and always said it was 'for my shoulders'. About two years ago i started training for a power lifting meet and changed my training style up to touching my chest. In the transition, I started pausing every other rep on my chest. During the transition to getting my true bench press up, lifters would ask me how much i benched. I always replied with x-ammt to 90 degrees and x-ammount all the way down. Anyways... my advice to the cats with shoulder issues is in the article... squeeze your shoulder blades together during the entire rep. I squeeze mine together before i even take the bar off the rack.
      1. v4lu3s's Avatar
        v4lu3s -
        I have watched a lot if Dave Tate videos....arched back with upper back and butt being the contract points to bench, shoulder blades pinched together, feet solid on the ground pushing through heels, wrists directly over elbows with bar over wrist, hands slightly wider than shoulders, and bar lowered to just below nipples....it is even painful to bring an empty bar to my chest. The damage is done. If i go lower than about 2" off my chest my shoulder hurts for days.

        I trust my sports medicine doctor over one size fits all bench press advice. Body mechanics makes a big difference....
      1. PalmFist's Avatar
        PalmFist -
        You guys are all right. Bottoming out works for some and not for others. The article is just general tips and not to be interpreted as the bench press bible. Everyone is different