Most people, (*cough* guys, *cough*) who go to the gym love the bench press, and it certainly is one of the most alpha exercises around.
But love is a pretty strong word. Here at Core Advantage, I'd say we like bench press.
As a friend, but not like best friends, probably one of those friends that's in your crew that you hang out with, but you'd probably never hang out with one-on-one.
For team sport athletes, bench press provides one key benefit -- to improve shove strength so you can get rid of an opponent whether legally or illegally.
But if you are going to bench, you might as well bench hard.
Tip #1: Loosen Your Thoracic
If your thoracic is stuck in excessive kyphosis (forward hunch/slouch), it's going to be tough getting those shoulder blades back and down into a nice, stable position. By pinning your scaps underneath onto the bench you create a stable platform for your shoulders to work from. Without this you lose stability and strength and also open up the front of the shoulder joint for extra stress and ligament wear and tear.
For more on how to do the thoracic stuff, check out our videos here and here.
Tip #2: Turn on your Rotator Cuff
The rotator cuff looks works like a rev limiter in a car. If it senses instability in the joint, it shuts off power to your prime movers (pecs, delts, and lats) reducing the amount of weight you can lift. For this, five five-second holds of an open book and a supra hold should do the trick.
Tip #3: Improve Your Set Up
Set up is vital, whether you are benching with Dumbbells, a Barbell, Incline, decline or flat the same basic rules apply. Every time we coach bench we have a set sequence of cues that we roll off every time; feet set, squeeze the glutes, chest up, and shoulders back and down. Yes it is internally focused, but by quickly working through the body this set up series puts you in a good spot to get to work.
Bench is really a full body exercise, and lower body tension is one of the biggest drop catches when it comes to going heavy. So drive your heels into the ground, push your knees out (so they are over the middle of the foot), squeeze your glutes, and lock in your core. This will give you a stable platform to work from. After all you can’t fire a cannon from a canoe.
Tip #4: Warm Up Light
The last piece of advice is to always warm up with a super-easy light weight. Before Core Advantage had its own facility, we used to work out of a gym in St Kilda. We trained side-by-side with powerlifters who would always warm up with 10 to 20 reps of deliberate, perfect, beautiful reps on an empty bar. I'm talking about guys who bench 140, 160 kilos regularly in competition. Warming up nice and light helps you groove you the patten, practice your skill, and hit those spots. Strength coaches call it “greasing the groove” After all, strength is as much a skill as it is a physical characteristic.