Bench Press Foot Placement
by Charles Poliquin Iron Man Magazine
Q: I have some disk problems in L3-L5, and bench pressing with my feet on the floor tends to bother my lower back, so I place them on the bench. That helps relieve pain. I understand it works because the lower body is less involved and because it has a better training effect. Is that true?
A: No, it’s not true. Because your feet are not on the floor, your stability is compromised. That means you use less weight, which reduces muscle tension and decreases the muscle- and strength-building effects. Oh, and there’s a risk of losing your balance, which can easily result in injury.
Rather than placing your feet on the bench or on the floor, try putting some bumper plates on the floor under your feet to reduce the arch in your lower back. Another compromise is simply to do other exercises for the chest that don’t cause your lower back to arch excessively, such as incline-bench presses or dips. By the way, extremely heavy weights can be used on the incline press. I saw pro bodybuilder Dennis James, who was trained by Milos Sarcev and who placed fourth in the ’03 Mr. Olympia, perform several sets of multiple reps of incline presses with 495 pounds—and James’ primary sport was bodybuilding, not strongman or powerlifting.
Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit www.CharlesPoliquin.com. IM