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  • Writer's pictureNate Johnson

Common Mistakes With the Bench Press

What are the common faults in the Bench Press?

Setting Up With the Eyes Behind the Barbell:

This is very common. Which is why I just tell people, when you think you’re under the bar, scoot down the bench 2 more inches. This solves it 99+% of the time. Setting up too far behind the barbell means you have a greater chance of hitting the hooks with the barbell while pressing the bar off your chest. Hitting the rack in the middle of a set just isn't safe and will totally mess up that set.

Not Arching the Back/Lifting the Chest Up:

Arching the upper back puts the shoulders in a safer and stronger position. This arch opens up the shoulder joint which is a good thing!

Doing the Bench Press without the arch has the potential to put more strain on the shoulder.

This is a simple fix- think about lifting your chest up/arch their back.

Not Keeping the Feet, Legs, and Butt Tight:

Staying tight means stability and strength. Staying relaxed means instability and weakness. Simple as that. If you see them relaxed on the bench, remind them we aren’t chilling on the couch watching Netflix. We are not relaxing. Get tight! Feet digging into the ground, squeeze your thighs, squeeze your butt!

Wrapping Fingers Around the Barbell Before Pressing the Palm Into the Barbell:

It’s very common to see new lifters bending their wrist during pressing movements. Especially the Bench Press. Trying to correct it during a set is pointless because if you're bending their wrists, the barbell is already sitting too high in the hand. You have to address it during the setup.

The solution is to find the correct placement for the hands, drive the palms into the bar, then, and only then, will you wrap your fingers around the barbell.

Lowering the Barbell Straight Down:

Though uncommon, this does happen sometimes. The barbell should be lowered to the chest and not the collar bone. This puts unnecessary stress on the shoulders. Just make sure you're lowering the barbell to their chest.

Elbows Flaring Out:

The elbows should always be directly under the bar. The elbows should NEVER be behind the bar. This puts the shoulder in a HORRIBLE position.

This is an injury waiting to happen.

Note*** The elbows can really be tucked anywhere from 30 degrees in relation to the torso to as much as 75 degrees. We do NOT want to see 90 degrees.

There are 2 solutions to this problem:

1. Try again while thinking about keeping your elbows slightly tucked in (as opposed to flared out)

2. If that doesn’t work, do the 2 mobility exercises we use for the Press (Foam Roll the T-Spine and Stretch the Pecs)

Pressing the Bar Straight Up Instead of Up and Back:

Like I said earlier, the Bench Press is primarily an up and down motion but there is a slight movement of back and forth which is crucial. Sometimes clients will lower the bar to their chest and press straight back up in the air. By doing this, the client is finishing with their arms at an angle rather than straight to the ceiling which puts their shoulders in a disadvantageous position.

To fix this, think about pressing up and BACK over the collar bone when pressing the barbell off the chest.

Touching a Different Spot on the Chest Every Time:

There is a range of places you can lower the barbell too. As high as the middle of the chest and as low as the sternum. It all depends on your personal preference/anatomy. The important thing is you're touching somewhere in this range AND you're touching the same spot every time.

The way to correct this is when you find a spot that feels good for you to lower the barbell too, pause at the bottom of the lift for a second and feel what having the barbell on that spot feels like. Press the bar up and back. Then when you repeat, find that same spot!

Lowering the bar slowly while learning to touch the same spot on your chest will help tremendously.

Pressing Your Last Rep Into the Rack:

The re-racking of the Bench Press is a 3 step process.

1. Lock out your last rep. Slight Pause

2. Let the barbell fall against the rack. Slight Pause.

3. Lower the Bar into the hooks.

We teach it this way so people don’t miss the rack!! Many people will try to condense this into one or two steps by pressing the bar against the rack as they’re locking out their last rep and then almost dropping the barbell into the hooks once they realize they’re in the rack.

They do it because they’re tired. And because in some ways it’s the body’s natural reaction when you have something heavy over your face/chest. You just need to remember to do the above 3 steps as is.

And look, I get it. You’re getting tired and your body’s like “get this off me!” But you’ll actually be safer when you do the 3 steps above. It's also a good idea to have someone spotting you on the Bench Press!

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