Ah the bench press, a movement that has bred millions of a love/hate relationship across the world.
The bench press is often the first barbell movement that beginners tackle in the gym, and it’s often the first barbell movement that causes hangups and plateaus. After all, there’s a lot that goes into the perfect bench press: strength, mechanics, coordination, and power are only some of the variables required to execute perfect reps.
Outside of the bigger bench press variables listed above, little details matter, too. For example, things like un-racking the bar when lifting solo, where you’re positing the feet, and the width with which you’re gripping the bar can all play a major role in pressing success. In this article and video, we dive into three quick bench press tips that can help virtually anyone instantly at every fitness level.
Quick Bench Press Tips
Tip #1: Perfect Your Grip Width
The Issue: Gripping too narrow/wide.
The Fix: A great way to start finding your perfect grip width is by watching where the wrist is positioned in relation to the elbow at the bottom of the press. For most recreational lifters, a grip width that has the wrist sitting pretty much directly over the elbow will be most mechanically advantageous.
Now, it’s worth noting that every lifter will have some variation when it comes to their grip width due to personal preferences and anthropometrics, but using the wrist and elbow visual is a great starting point for most beginners. Play with that grip for a few weeks and scale wider or more narrow accordingly based on what feels best.
Tip #2: The J-Hook Roll
The Issue: Losing tightness when lifting solo and un-racking.
The Fix: The next time you’re lifting alone, set for your bench press like you normally would. Then, before un-racking the barbell, roll it to the edge of the j-hooks and maintain that tension before your lift off. This tension created with the j-hooks and barbell will help increase your lat tightness and the strong “shelf” of the upper back needed to execute strong presses.
- Set up for your bench press like normal.
- Grip the barbell and roll it to the edge of the j-hooks (the edge towards your pecs).
- Maintain that tension between the rolled barbell and the edge of the hooks.
- Lift off.
- Brace and begin your presses.
Author’s Note: This method may take fine-tuning before nailing perfectly and you may have play with your setup sequencing slightly!
Tip #3: Screw the Feet Into the Floor
The Issue: Happy feet and legs.
The Fix: Similar to how you screw the feet into the floor for the squat and deadlift, you’re going to do the same for the bench press. This rotation of the feet will help slightly externally rotate the hips, which will create more glute tension and tightness through the hips, a major point of contact for the bench press.
When done correctly, this mechanical fix can have major carryover to leg drive, which is a big contributor for maximizing the power you can put into heavy presses. Play around with different stances and see what works best for you. What’s most important to consider is to make sure your feet are not sliding around in between reps, and the hips are not completely coming off the bench when concentrically contracting.
There’s a lot that goes into a strong bench press and these are only a few of the tips that can implement to help improve your performance. If you find that you’re struggling to progress due to faulty mechanics in one area, then try out these tips and see if they have carryover to your overall growth under the bar!