The measure of the common man hinges on his ability to bench press. It’s an objective pecking order, which directly correlates to ones self-worth, income, social status and overall manliness. Ergo the more you can bench, the easier your life will be…At least this is the mind sight you inhabited as you approached the bench for the first time. Here’s a fool-proof rookie check-list for your bench set-up.
Building a beastly bench press is much like building a towering estate, it all starts with the foundation. Proper foot position is imperative not only for generating strength in the movement, but also to make sure you’re executing it safely.
Your feet should be flat on the floor, shoulder width apart creating at least* a 90 Degree angle at the knee. *More advanced lifters might create a more acute angle at the knee and have their feet anchored behind their knees in or to increase their arch in order to decrease the distance the bar has to travel.
Some beginners find themselves with either too narrow of a base or too obtuse of a knee angle. Both of which will decrease the ability of the lifter to generate force through the bar.
The second point of contact to focus on is where you park you ass-ets. There isn’t much to discuss here other than the fact that you need to keep your ass parked on the bench the entire set. Your butt is going to dictate how the rest of your spine will act, and as long as it stays on the bench you should be just fine.
An over zealous leg drive can force the lifters but to come off the bench, placing excessive force on the upper back, and putting the cervical spine into more relative flexion. A no-no when attempting to bench injury free.
Shoulder blade contact when performing a bench press is inevitable. The variable is not where the shoulder blades are placed relative to the bench but rather where they are placed relative to each other.
The safest and strongest scapular position is full retraction. Which is to say, “squeezed together”. This position ensures that glenohumaral joint stays as stabile throughout the full range of motion.
In beginner benching your head position is much like your ass position… its hard to mess up as long as it stays on the bench. You’ll notice some big name benchers lift their head as the weight eccentrically loads into their chest… You’re not ready for that. Trust me. So if you like your cervical discs where they are I suggest you keep your head on the bench at all times.
Hand position on the bar is our final box to check on the bench basics checklist. Hands should be symmetrically placed on the either side of midline. It’s common knowledge that the width of your hand placement can dictate which muscles are emphasize during the movements.
Closer grip will utilize more of your triceps, as the angle of the elbow will increase the closer the grip is, but this logic has diminishing returns when the lifters hands come inside of shoulder width, a very narrow grip forces the wrists into loaded ulnar deviation which can drastically limit your lifting longevity.
Wider grip is going to decrease the amount of travel through the elbow, therefore decreasing the triceps demand to complete them movement, that load gets placed on the anterior delt as the shoulder as to travel into more flexion/extension.
Beginner lifters should have their hands placed at a point that when the bar touches their chest, their elbows are at a 90 degree angle, and not attempt to overload a certain secondary muscle group when performing the movement.
So there you have it , an idiot-proof checklist to get you through your inaugural bench workouts safely and effectively.