Bench Press Technique: variation for individual build

Status
Closed Thread. (Continue Discussion of This Topic by Starting a New Thread.)

Al Ciampa

Level 8 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
Since @Anna C dragged me into this ;] ... Arryn's perspective is accurate.

I am probably one of the few forum members who have benched pressed over 600lbs, in a T-shirt, no belt or wraps. My 585lb competition lift from that training cycle was reported in the back of an issue of PowerliftingUSA, circa '96-97.

I report this precisely because I believe that it gives me no authority over anyone else to argue pressing dynamics, but my experience on that long journey matches what SF teaches. The bar will move in a slight arc, but the cue most folks need to focus on is pushing straight up. The groove--your groove--will come with time and experience.

I should also point out that the very next training cycle trashed both my shoulders, permanently. My advice for most (if you want to bench) is to use the bench press as a strength tool: keep your grip and elbows tighter rather than wider. You probably won't break any records, but your shoulders might just last you for your lifetime.
 

kennycro@@aol.com

Level 6 Valued Member
The principles taught at the course are, of course, correct,

-S-
Steve,

Let me reiterate that the body does not move in one plane. Thus, Bench Pressing in a straight line does not follow the natural movement of the body; it's counter productive.

Information on any topic should be examined from multiple angles/sources rather than accepting only one.

It somewhat like police interrogating suspects. They interrogate them separate and see if they come up with the same answer.

Reviewing various sources gain greater knowledge.

Kenny Croxdale
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
@kennycro@@aol.com, to "follow the natural movement of the body" is not always a guideline for safe, effective lifting. The StrongFirst courses and certifications teach what they do and in the way they do after much thought, with considerable success with our students, and always with an eye towards teaching StrongFirst principles in the safest and most effective manner possible. There are many other ways to go about performing various lifts and there are many other methods of instruction. We don't say you're wrong, only that we know what we do works.

My best wishes for your continued strength and success in lifting and in teaching, and I will bow out of this discussion here.

-S-
 

kennycro@@aol.com

Level 6 Valued Member
I agree with the right cue for the athlete.
Concepts and Principles

The same concepts and principles work for everyone.

That means, if it "the right cue for the athlete", it the right cue for everyone.

The natural arc, that I like to see, in a bench press is not huge; I'm talking about maybe 2-3 inches. When I see people miss the rep with bench press, what often happens is they let the bar drift too much to their head on the way up. When this happens their elbows flair and their lats aren't as engaged as they were before.
Missed Bench Press Rep

There are a multitude of reason for a lifter missing a Bench Press rep.

1) Muscle Fatigue: This is at the top of the list. Muscle fatigue ensure poor form. Research shows muscle firing action changes. The body shift that Bar Path in an effort to maintain momentum and find an easier path to complete the movement.

2) Ascending Strength Curve: The Bench Press falls into this category. The weakest part is the first third of the movement (with all Ascending Strength Curves).

When bar speed stagnates in this area, it wavers back and forth trying to maintain momentum.

Bar Drifting Back Toward The Head

This occurs because the body realizes that arcing the bar back toward the head is the natural Bar Path.

Unfortunately, the body over compensates similar when you car goes into a skid. You then oversteer trying to regain control.

I'm definitely not an expert and am not an elite-level powerlifter. But I do follow StrongFirst's teachings, and this is how they're taught.
Examine the various research data on will provide you with a greater perspective on this.

As Alwyn Cosgrove (Strength Coach) stated, "No one ever got dumbber from reading a book", (research, etc)

Kenny Croxdale
 

kennycro@@aol.com

Level 6 Valued Member
@kennycro@@aol.com, to "follow the natural movement of the body" is not always a guideline for safe, effective lifting.
Oxymoron

Your statement makes no sense. Natural = Not Safe.

Instead you advocate having the body move in an unnatrual position. How much sense does that make.

The irony is that a straight up and down Bar Path in the Bench Press places more stress on the shoulder. The arc in the Bench Press decreases stress on the shoulder.

The StrongFirst courses and certifications teach what they do and in the way they do after much thought...
Thinking Doesn't Make It So

Thinking is a good place to start. However, it doesn't mean it is right.

It needs to be followed up and supported with research.

It then need to be prescribed with documented research that substantiates as to why it should be preformed in such a manner.

I'd like to review the research data that supports the manuals positioning statement on this. I'd be grateful if you could provide resource data so that I could have a better understanding.

Kenny Croxdale
 

Arryn Grogan

Level 6 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
@jca17, apologies that you now have conflicting information on how to bench press... The information I and other instructors provided is what StrongFirst teaches (I'm sure there's a good reason you come to us for information). Happy lifting!
 

Al Ciampa

Level 8 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
Concepts and Principles

The same concepts and principles work for everyone.

That means, if it "the right cue for the athlete", it the right cue for everyone.
You Keep Saying the Same Thing.

And no one here has disagreed with you about the actual bar path.

You Do Not Know How to Use Analogies.

So please stop. Just make your assertions directly.

Coaching Cues Are Effective Teaching Instructions.

And usually do not describe reality.

They are a set of instructions that the student uses to coax the brain into better movement.

The same cue does not apply to everyone, but can have positive effects on many.

Exercise Science is Anything But.

I hate to burst this bubble, but there is more nonsense in this field than anything usable.

Simply check out the latest edition of the NSCA's flagship textbook for reference.

Coaches and Athletes Have Always Been Far Out in Front of the Research

Research is something to consider, and can improve upon direction of thought.

Since science is now a business, every body of literature is fraught with conflicting conclusions.

Acting upon research alone will leave one paralyzed; unless of course, you take a side, which is of course, is not supported by the research...

Albert Ciampa
 

krg

Level 5 Valued Member
As a barbell novice I've found this discussion interesting and useful despite the difference in emphasis from the posters, so thank you all.

My take home interpretations are:

1) The bar path is likely to be an arc regardless of your body type. But is likely to be individually unique.
2) There is no good reason to try and exaggerate this arc - it will come naturally.
3) A good cue is to try and push straight up - don't exaggerate and end up with the bar over your face.
4) And then finally from Al - tread wisely if you try to really build your limit strength on the bench press.

The last point resonates with me.

I personally greatly prefer overhead pressing to benching - mainly because I get transient pain at the front of one shoulder when I bench and I figure that is not a good long term prognosis for benching. The pain is not bad and is minimised with a narrower grip and if I try and ensure an arc (avoiding sticking the bar over my face), but it is still the only lift that causes me discomfort.

Overhead pressing in contrast causes me no discomfort and in my opinion it's just a happier feeling.
 

North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member
As a barbell novice I've found this discussion interesting and useful despite the difference in emphasis from the posters, so thank you all.

My take home interpretations are:

1) The bar path is likely to be an arc regardless of your body type. But is likely to be individually unique.
2) There is no good reason to try and exaggerate this arc - it will come naturally.
3) A good cue is to try and push straight up - don't exaggerate and end up with the bar over your face.
4) And then finally from Al - tread wisely if you try to really build your limit strength on the bench press.

The last point resonates with me.

I personally greatly prefer overhead pressing to benching - mainly because I get transient pain at the front of one shoulder when I bench and I figure that is not a good long term prognosis for benching. The pain is not bad and is minimised with a narrower grip and if I try and ensure an arc (avoiding sticking the bar over my face), but it is still the only lift that causes me discomfort.

Overhead pressing in contrast causes me no discomfort and in my opinion it's just a happier feeling.
I'll add to this a few items from my own experience.

- The bar path might be straight up and down, or close enough that it is difficult to say for sure if it arcs or not. Don't sweat it.

- The bar usually drifts faceward on a failed attempt right at the stickpoint, but it can also begin to twist. Too much drift faceward or in any other direction on a failed attempt is a problem with your spotter and maybe your ambition, not your technique.

- Flat bench seems to induce a mental deficiency that makes people shoot for dangerous weights. I suspect is because once you hit a solid groove it feels GOOD to bench heavy and the results are impressive. It is the only lift I psychologically miss doing from my younger days.

- There is no lift more liable to harm you when it goes bad - a good spotter is essential. In the absence of one I strongly encourage one to switch to dumbbell bench press or a Smith machine. Not the same but you'll still get 90% of the benefit.
 

Antti

Level 9 Valued Member
There is no lift more liable to harm you when it goes bad - a good spotter is essential. In the absence of one I strongly encourage one to switch to dumbbell bench press or a Smith machine. Not the same but you'll still get 90% of the benefit.
What exactly do you find to be wrong with safety pins?
 

North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member
What exactly do you find to be wrong with safety pins?
They still require you to move the weight off of its line of support to rack it. If you are already failing this can put the shoulder in a very compromised position.

A spotter's main job (assuming they aren't prying the weight off your sternum!) is to assist in racking over the span between the pegs and the upper hold.

If your arms are locked this is not a big deal, if the arms don't lock out then the shoulders take a huge amount of strain as the weight comes off the line of support.

IMHO when it comes to flat bench the spotter is as essential to the lift as the bar itself, if you're going to be pushing it.
 

Antti

Level 9 Valued Member
They still require you to move the weight off of its line of support to rack it. If you are already failing this can put the shoulder in a very compromised position.

A spotter's main job (assuming they aren't prying the weight off your sternum!) is to assist in racking over the span between the pegs and the upper hold.

If your arms are locked this is not a big deal, if the arms don't lock out then the shoulders take a huge amount of strain as the weight comes off the line of support.
I agree that a spotter is very useful in moving the bar to and from the rack.

I'm not sure I get your point, though. Are you talking about the possibility of someone trying to rack a failed rep instead of just letting it come to the pins?
 

North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member
The pins still aren't in line with the path of the bar on the units I've trained on. I may be out of touch on this - the benches I'm familiar with didn't have passive stops and had to be dragged under a power rack to safely train without a spot.

Edit to add:
just seeing a spotter's hands under the bar will make you good for two more reps than you thought you could do.
 

JeffC

Level 7 Valued Member
The guy at the gym who has to interrupt you for a spot is the worst. Then if you do, he seeks you out. Set the president, just say no. Work within your means man. I have been training mainly in my basement, mainly alone, and I have never been stapled to the Bench. Just use the pins if you feel unsafe.
 
Last edited:

North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member
Incline bench is nice variation.

Dips do a good job of hitting the lower and middle pecs. Most people are a little shallow across the upper sternum.
 
Status
Closed Thread. (Continue Discussion of This Topic by Starting a New Thread.)
Top Bottom