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    The Bench Form Thread

    We see a lot of threads asking for bench form critiques on this forum. I feel like most of these threads are made because people don’t know how to critique their own form. They just don’t know what to look for. I’m hoping to narrow that gap with this thread. I’m not going to touch on everything, but I will touch on what I feel are the majority of issues people have. These are some of the questions you should be asking yourself when watching your bench video.

    Are my wrists straight?
    Regardless of whether you are using suicide grip or a thumb grip the weight needs to be over your forearm. The top photo is incorrect and the bottom photo is correct.



    Are my elbows under my wrists?
    You need to keep your elbows directly underneath your wrists. This is a stronger and much more natural position. Only powerlifters in special circumstances deviate from this. If you were one of these people you wouldn’t be reading this thread. The first photo is incorrect and the second photo shows the correct position.



    What about the arch?
    Bodybuilding-If your primary goal is bodybuilding then you might not want as much of an arch, but you still want a slight arch. Laying completely flat back isn't advised. You will want to use the most range of motion you can as long as you remain pain free. More range of motion means better muscle development.

    Powerlifting- If your primary goal is to build strength and press more weight then you want the biggest arch you can comfortably handle. The fact of the matter is the larger arch you have the less range of motion you will have to press. Below you’ll see a photo of an extreme arch. It is quite debatable his butt doesn’t have solid contact, but the picture is to show that however big your arch is it can probably be bigger.


    What are my shoulders doing?
    You need to be pulling your shoulder blades together very hard. The most common mistake I see is people push their shoulders forward when unracking the bar. You need to keep your shoulders back and not use them when unracking the bar. The video shows me doing some unracking. The 1st and 3rd unracks are done correctly with the shoulder remaining still and pulled back. The 2nd and 4th unracks are done incorrectly with the shoulder coming out of place to unrack the bar. A mental cue to help with this is to pretend you are trying to “bend” the bar in half. This constant pressure exerted outward will help to keep your shoulders back in place.


    Am I staying tight?
    The tighter you keep your body the more stable platform you have to press from. If any part of your body is loose or wobbling around you are losing stability and therefore power. Your entire body needs to stay tight. Feet don’t move, legs are stable, entire back tensed and traps/shoulder blades dug into the bench. Some people feel they are able to stay tighter by imagining pulling the bar down to your chest instead of letting gravity do the work. Please keep your butt on the bench. Don’t be that guy. Proper powerlifting bench form is downright painful. If you aren't pretty uncomfortable when you are set up on the bench then you aren't tight enough. Even doing warm up sets with light weight I'm still breathing hard when I get up, because of how hard I'm working to stay tight.

    Elbow Positioning

    The first photo depicts flared elbows and the second shows tucked.



    What is my bar path?
    Bodybuilding- Look back at the photo of the flared elbows above. You can see how touching high forces your elbows to flare. Many bodybuilders will use a high bar path like this to get more pec activation. There is much debate about the safety of this approach. Use this style of benching at your own risk.

    Powerlifting- Again, your bath path directly relates to how your elbows flare. In many cases for you to tuck your elbows properly you will need to touch lower on your sternum. Due to your arch, you will also be limiting range of motion by doing this since your upper abs are higher in the air than your chest. As you press the bar it should slowly move back over your upper chest and at lock out should be directly above your shoulders. It should move in a diagonal fashion towards the rack. In many cases when people struggle to press the weight they immediately move the bar over their upper chest and flare their elbows. This is what we want to avoid. Controlling your bar path will ultimately control your elbow flare.

    In the below video the first two reps are done correctly. The second two reps are done incorrectly and probably the most common mistake seen in beginners.



    How wide is my grip?
    Grip width also relates to elbow flare. If your grip is narrow it can help you to keep your elbows tucked in well. If it is wide it will help to flare your elbows more. Grip width is determined by height, bar path and desired elbow flare. Once you learn the bar path you’d like to go with, have decided what degree of elbow flare you are comfortable and pain free with you’ll find your grip width. Bottom line is to choose a grip width that will allow you the best bar path with your desired elbow flare. If you don’t have your bar path under control your grip width has much less of an impact. You can flare your elbows to 90 degrees while doing a close grip bench press if your bar path is over your upper chest.

    It is also worth mentioning that when you are trying to fix your form, you can't fix everything at once. If you have several problems, then pick the one that seems most important and focus entirely on it for several weeks or more until it becomes second nature. Trying to implement a bunch of changes all at once will only lead to you spinning your wheels and not making any actual progress. You need to drill these into your form until you do them without even thinking about it.

    For a more in depth look at form and how you can improve it you can watch the “So You Think You Can Bench” series on youtube. It is over 30 minutes long, but it is a very well put together series. It goes over most of this stuff again along with a few more great tips. If you see anything I’ve missed feel free to let me know. I’m sure I’ll be doing some touching up on this. I’ve intentionally left out foot position and leg drive…I may add it in the future.



    Here's another thread on benching which addresses many common questions:
    http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showth...hp?t=157280613
    Last edited by davisj3537; 12-17-2015 at 01:30 PM.
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    there is too much useful information in this thread, which means that all noobs will ignore it. each noob is a special little snowflake that must have his form and program personally addressed individually, rather than improving it himself by seeking universally useful information in a thread like this, or a "sticky", whatever the hell that is.

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    Thumbs up

    Great write up; will add to my blog. Would be nice if you also included the floor press.

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    Originally Posted by WeedyRainfall View Post
    there is too much useful information in this thread, which means that all noobs will ignore it. each noob is a special little snowflake that must have his form and program personally addressed individually, rather than improving it himself by seeking universally useful information in a thread like this, or a "sticky", whatever the hell that is.
    Lets hope that isn't the case. lol

    Originally Posted by -Lucifer View Post
    Great write up; will add to my blog. Would be nice if you also included the floor press.
    Thanks. I'll be honest and say I haven't worked enough floor presses to do a good write up on them. Maybe it is something I can add down the road.
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    Bumpity bump
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    Great thread, with the potential to prevent thousands of 'RC and/ or wrist pain when benching' threads.

    Such a shame that WeedyRainfall is right.

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    Boomp.

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    Originally Posted by davisj3537 View Post
    Are my wrists straight?
    Jesus.. I've been doing this bit wrong for years.
    Is there a trick to getting it correct? I just tried to hold it like in your picture and just naturally moved to the "wrong" position.

    I've seen dozens of "how to bench" videos and no one's ever covered this.

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    Originally Posted by josh26 View Post
    Jesus.. I've been doing this bit wrong for years.
    Is there a trick to getting it correct? I just tried to hold it like in your picture and just naturally moved to the "wrong" position.

    I've seen dozens of "how to bench" videos and no one's ever covered this.
    You'll need to actively work on keeping them straight. You can bend the wrist a bit, but remember to keep the bar over your forearm instead of behind it.
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    Really good **** bro

    My problems are keeping my shoulder blades pinched, and getting the right arch.. I have no idea how to keep my shoulders pinched on free weight bench.. But on the machine I'm able to do it... What can I do about this?

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    Originally Posted by type8291 View Post
    Really good **** bro

    My problems are keeping my shoulder blades pinched, and getting the right arch.. I have no idea how to keep my shoulders pinched on free weight bench.. But on the machine I'm able to do it... What can I do about this?
    If you've benching for any amount of time the rest of your form is probably second nature by now. With this in mind you should focus almost all you attention on keeping your shoulders back. During your liftoff and throughout the whole set try and focus on how tight you are pulling those shoulder blades together. Trying to "bend" the bar works for most people.
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    Originally Posted by davisj3537 View Post
    If you've benching for any amount of time the rest of your form is probably second nature by now. With this in mind you should focus almost all you attention on keeping your shoulders back. During your liftoff and throughout the whole set try and focus on how tight you are pulling those shoulder blades together. Trying to "bend" the bar works for most people.
    When you said outward, you mean bending the bar down or up?

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    Originally Posted by type8291 View Post
    When you said outward, you mean bending the bar down or up?
    Once you have a tight grip on the bar, you can pretend to bend the bar by putting outward pressure on your hands (towards the weighted ends). You want to bend the weighted ends of the bar down and crease the area over your chest.
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    Originally Posted by davisj3537 View Post
    Once you have a tight grip on the bar, you can pretend to bend the bar by putting outward pressure on your hands (towards the weighted ends). You want to bend the weighted ends of the bar down and crease the area over your chest.
    Aight thx bro I gotta try it and get back to you

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    Originally Posted by type8291 View Post
    Aight thx bro I gotta try it and get back to you
    Good luck sir. Keep me updated.
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    Good thread. Some really helpful stuff here
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    Originally Posted by lca1986 View Post
    Good thread. Some really helpful stuff here
    Thanks for the comments sir.
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    Thumbs up

    Great thread!!
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    Originally Posted by WeedyRainfall View Post
    It took me a while to realize what the dog is doing. lol
    Originally Posted by Brandon270 View Post
    Great thread!!
    Thanks
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    Put this in the powerlifting section and get this stickied goddamnit!

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    Originally Posted by Gavin93 View Post
    Put this in the powerlifting section and get this stickied goddamnit!
    Thanks for the kind words. I'm not sure it has the potential for a sticky. Maybe a link within another sticky.
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    Good info. I'll bump this for you.
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    Bumpump!

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    Great thread, lots of info. One thing I wanted to clarify though. I was kind of confused about what to do where it comes to bar path as someone who is bodybuilding as opposed to powerlifting. Of course that then trickles down to grip width, which is another thing I'm currently experimenting with..

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    Originally Posted by BigVics View Post
    Great thread, lots of info. One thing I wanted to clarify though. I was kind of confused about what to do where it comes to bar path as someone who is bodybuilding as opposed to powerlifting. Of course that then trickles down to grip width, which is another thing I'm currently experimenting with..
    If you are working with moderate weight in higher rep ranges you can try out a bar path over your upper chest. You'll develop better chest muscles, but it isn't quite as safe. This is an individual specific thing...you'll need to find out if you can handle flaring your elbows that much.
    Experience, not just theory

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    Good thread man! Beginners can definitely benefit from the tips you've posted. I had to learn the hard way 20 years ago and reprogram myself from the bad habits and bro science.

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    Originally Posted by 6mildollarman View Post
    Good thread man! Beginners can definitely benefit from the tips you've posted. I had to learn the hard way 20 years ago and reprogram myself from the bad habits and bro science.
    You aren't the only one. No one starts with perfect form. I had a ton of bad habits to break too.
    Experience, not just theory

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    We see 3-4 bench threads a day in here. Spend some time reading dudes.
    Experience, not just theory

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