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Barbell Novice lifter looking for feedback - barbell benchpress

Sandman.84

Level 1 Valued Member
Hi folks,

Hope I'm not being too greedy here soliciting feedback on my lifts, but everyone on the forum has been very helpful and I hope the be able to return the favour when I learn more.

I'm looking to get some feedback on my benchpress. I'm a novice lifter who is recovering from a back injury and am focusing on technique over weight.
I've filmed two videos, one just the empty bar and one with some modest weight. I'm not screwing my feet hard enough into the floor and I may be off with my shoulder technique as the arch sometimes causes discomfort in my back when pressing (not all the time).

Any tips would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance

No weight

Modest weight
 

Kev

Level 6 Valued Member
Hi folks,

Hope I'm not being too greedy here soliciting feedback on my lifts, but everyone on the forum has been very helpful and I hope the be able to return the favour when I learn more.

I'm looking to get some feedback on my benchpress. I'm a novice lifter who is recovering from a back injury and am focusing on technique over weight.
I've filmed two videos, one just the empty bar and one with some modest weight. I'm not screwing my feet hard enough into the floor and I may be off with my shoulder technique as the arch sometimes causes discomfort in my back when pressing (not all the time).

Any tips would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance

No weight

Modest weight
Try and create tension from your feet right through your body. Some people do an exaggerated arch to achieve this but it can be enough to just dig those feet in on your toes. But then again your back is injured so that might have to wait. I’m no expert but the resulting tension I always found gives more oomph than feet just passively in the deck. Try bringing your legs back and going on your toes.
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Team Leader Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Sinister
Basically good, IMO. Agree, more tension is key. Practice, practice, practice. We did so much tension in bench press when I did SFL that I had trouble getting off the bench after a set! But I got a lot better at it over time. To me the most effective tension to create is trying to bring the chest UP throughout the rep, especially when bringing the bar down to it. Chest up, shoulder blades squeezed together, lats tight, grip tight. Then push it back up. Also from the feet all the way up through your body, as @Kev said.

Too bad those safety bars are so short. If that's all you have for safeties, I would get in the habit of not collaring the weight. If things go awry and it comes down on you, at least you can dump the weight off one side and then the other that way.

You might be touching your chest a little low. Generally forearms should be vertical at the bottom position.

One tip, and this is from the book Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe (and SS videos/teachings), when you start your set and you're in that good lockout position, fix your gaze on the ceiling in the spot that corresponds to the bar in lockout. Keep your gaze there throughout the set and push the bar back to that spot between reps.

Are you following a particular program? 10 reps is a lot of reps per set for general strength training.
 

Kev

Level 6 Valued Member
Basically good, IMO. Agree, more tension is key. Practice, practice, practice. We did so much tension in bench press when I did SFL that I had trouble getting off the bench after a set! But I got a lot better at it over time. To me the most effective tension to create is trying to bring the chest UP throughout the rep, especially when bringing the bar down to it. Chest up, shoulder blades squeezed together, lats tight, grip tight. Then push it back up. Also from the feet all the way up through your body, as @Kev said.

Too bad those safety bars are so short. If that's all you have for safeties, I would get in the habit of not collaring the weight. If things go awry and it comes down on you, at least you can dump the weight off one side and then the other that way.

You might be touching your chest a little low. Generally forearms should be vertical at the bottom position.

One tip, and this is from the book Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe (and SS videos/teachings), when you start your set and you're in that good lockout position, fix your gaze on the ceiling in the spot that corresponds to the bar in lockout. Keep your gaze there throughout the set and push the bar back to that spot between reps.

Are you following a particular program? 10 reps is a lot of reps per set for general strength training.
Oops I never even considered the safety aspect of his rack.
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
I'm a novice lifter who is recovering from a back injury and am focusing on technique over weight.
I'll make a point I've made here many times before - if your technique is good enough to be safe, sometimes the best teacher is finding the right weight. I consider it an advanced skill to be able to manufacture a lot of tension with a light weight.

Although I guess I shouldn't call myself a novice at the bench press, I'm not far from that - after doing it a bit 20 years ago, I put it away and only started again about 18 months ago. I can call myself a fairly weak bench press - I recall meeting the SFL standard but not by much - but I did set a lifetime PR last April because I finally figured out how to really drive with my legs. That best was/is 87.5 kg, about 193 lbs, and I'm a 67.5 kg (148 lb) lifter and 66 years old. For me, anything below about my bodyweight is too easy and I tend to avoid the legs part of the lift, but I do try to remember. I'd suggest you try to get to a weight that will teach you something - what you show in those videos is, IMO, good enough that you should try to put some weight on the bar. Get a spotter if you're at all concerned about not making a lift.

The other point to be made is that the SFL follows the USAPL standard, which means your feet must be flat on the ground, so be wary of advice to do otherwise. The other federations' ways of BP will allow you to move more weight in most cases, but I prefer to lift in a way that's good wherever I go.

-S-
 

Mark Limbaga

Level 8 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Pretty good start .

Try gripping the bar harder as you press up..

Try that for now then let's add another detail next time
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Team Leader Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Sinister
if your technique is good enough to be safe, sometimes the best teacher is finding the right weight. I consider it an advanced skill to be able to manufacture a lot of tension with a light weight.
Always a great point. IMO applicable to kettlebell, barbell, bodyweight - all types of strength-building movement.

I think the reasons I've been able to get decently strong from beginning strength training at age 45 to now at age 54:
  1. Consistent training, with
    1. Good technique - taught by knowledgeable trainers, attended a lot of classes & certs, had good training partners, started teaching others
    2. Good programming - followed good programs, had good coaches
    3. Good health and genetics - (mostly just lucky there :) )
  2. Practicing tension, learned through
    1. Feed-forward tension techniques taught by StrongFirst - particularly from SFB and SFL
    2. Pushing limits and doing high-intensity reps as taught by Starting Strength. This can't work forever and I'm glad I'm not still doing it, but I learned a lot in the year that I did this programming (2018) about how to grind, and how my max strength and what I could do in training were a lot more than I thought.
The way I see it, strength training is effective because of motor unit recruitment. You can do that by either 1) generating it by neural drive, i.e. feed-forward tension, 2) requiring it, by lifting heavier; closer to 1RM, 3) doing more reps to get closer to failure. StrongFirst is big on #1. Many other strength methods rely on #2. Bodybuilding generally relies on #3.

So to your point, Steve, the manufacture of more tension than you need (either feed-forward tension, or just the same tension that you would need for any lift but a little more than you need for that weight or variation) is the advanced skill, and I agree. The simpler way to learn to use tension is to just lift heavier, closer to 1RM... but that's not the best programming for most, and comes with risks, especially if technique isn't solid. So perhaps the ideal way is, as you said, "finding the right weight" which gets you in the ballpark, and then putting some effort into continuing to practice the skill of tension as you train.

Anyway, just a ramble... I guess this thread caught me at the right time with my morning coffee. ;)
 

Sandman.84

Level 1 Valued Member
Try and create tension from your feet right through your body. Some people do an exaggerated arch to achieve this but it can be enough to just dig those feet in on your toes. But then again your back is injured so that might have to wait. I’m no expert but the resulting tension I always found gives more oomph than feet just passively in the deck. Try bringing your legs back and going on your toes.
Thanks @Kev, I'll try and create more tension through my body and will bring my legs back and press more up on the toes
 

Sandman.84

Level 1 Valued Member
Basically good, IMO. Agree, more tension is key. Practice, practice, practice. We did so much tension in bench press when I did SFL that I had trouble getting off the bench after a set! But I got a lot better at it over time. To me the most effective tension to create is trying to bring the chest UP throughout the rep, especially when bringing the bar down to it. Chest up, shoulder blades squeezed together, lats tight, grip tight. Then push it back up. Also from the feet all the way up through your body, as @Kev said.

Too bad those safety bars are so short. If that's all you have for safeties, I would get in the habit of not collaring the weight. If things go awry and it comes down on you, at least you can dump the weight off one side and then the other that way.

You might be touching your chest a little low. Generally forearms should be vertical at the bottom position.

One tip, and this is from the book Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe (and SS videos/teachings), when you start your set and you're in that good lockout position, fix your gaze on the ceiling in the spot that corresponds to the bar in lockout. Keep your gaze there throughout the set and push the bar back to that spot between reps.

Are you following a particular program? 10 reps is a lot of reps per set for general strength training.
Good call @Anna C on uncollaring the bar for safety. I'll try and create more tension, press a little higher and focus on the ceiling after lockout.
I'm doing more hypertrophy workouts as I'm just getting back into weights, and figured a 5 rep program might be aggressive as the weight would be higher. Certainly open to programming suggestions. Thanks again fr the tips, Anna!
 

Sandman.84

Level 1 Valued Member
I'll make a point I've made here many times before - if your technique is good enough to be safe, sometimes the best teacher is finding the right weight. I consider it an advanced skill to be able to manufacture a lot of tension with a light weight.

Although I guess I shouldn't call myself a novice at the bench press, I'm not far from that - after doing it a bit 20 years ago, I put it away and only started again about 18 months ago. I can call myself a fairly weak bench press - I recall meeting the SFL standard but not by much - but I did set a lifetime PR last April because I finally figured out how to really drive with my legs. That best was/is 87.5 kg, about 193 lbs, and I'm a 67.5 kg (148 lb) lifter and 66 years old. For me, anything below about my bodyweight is too easy and I tend to avoid the legs part of the lift, but I do try to remember. I'd suggest you try to get to a weight that will teach you something - what you show in those videos is, IMO, good enough that you should try to put some weight on the bar. Get a spotter if you're at all concerned about not making a lift.

The other point to be made is that the SFL follows the USAPL standard, which means your feet must be flat on the ground, so be wary of advice to do otherwise. The other federations' ways of BP will allow you to move more weight in most cases, but I prefer to lift in a way that's good wherever I go.

-S-
Thanks @Steve Freides - appreciate the tips and congrats on your PR last April!
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Team Leader Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
Sinister
I'm doing more hypertrophy workouts as I'm just getting back into weights, and figured a 5 rep program might be aggressive as the weight would be higher. Certainly open to programming suggestions.
Depends what else you're doing, but I think in the beginning, 3 sets of 5 at a challenging weight 3x/week is always a solid approach to build strength. It will also give you hypertrophy if you keep after it. Do a set with the bar to start, and then 3-5 reps in one or two ascending weights in between the bar and your working weight, to work up to your work sets. "Challenging weight" to me is, it's pretty hard, but you can do all 3 sets of 5 (the last set of 5 might be harder than the first, but should still be do-able if you're resting 3 minutes or more between sets) and feel like you might be able to do 1 or 2 more reps in each set if you had to. (some systems call this RPE=8).

But... didn't you say you did the StrongFrist Barbell Fundamentals Course online? I think it comes with a program in the last module. That's a good way to to also.
 

John K

Level 7 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
I'm doing more hypertrophy workouts as I'm just getting back into weights, and figured a 5 rep program might be aggressive as the weight would be higher.
Just something to keep in mind - more reps/lighter weight does not necessarily mean it is safer. Often the last half of a set of 10-12 reps gets increasingly ugly as you continue to fatigue, your breathing becomes ragged, and you start to get a little panicky. It takes a degree of skill and focus to maintain technicality under that stress, and a lot of beginners don't have it when there's a challenging weight. This is most evident on squats and deadlifts, but still evident with bench.
 

Sandman.84

Level 1 Valued Member
Depends what else you're doing, but I think in the beginning, 3 sets of 5 at a challenging weight 3x/week is always a solid approach to build strength. It will also give you hypertrophy if you keep after it. Do a set with the bar to start, and then 3-5 reps in one or two ascending weights in between the bar and your working weight, to work up to your work sets. "Challenging weight" to me is, it's pretty hard, but you can do all 3 sets of 5 (the last set of 5 might be harder than the first, but should still be do-able if you're resting 3 minutes or more between sets) and feel like you might be able to do 1 or 2 more reps in each set if you had to. (some systems call this RPE=8).

But... didn't you say you did the StrongFrist Barbell Fundamentals Course online? I think it comes with a program in the last module. That's a good way to to also.
Thanks @Anna C , I am currently doing the fundamentals course but haven’t hit the programming section yet
 

Sandman.84

Level 1 Valued Member
Just something to keep in mind - more reps/lighter weight does not necessarily mean it is safer. Often the last half of a set of 10-12 reps gets increasingly ugly as you continue to fatigue, your breathing becomes ragged, and you start to get a little panicky. It takes a degree of skill and focus to maintain technicality under that stress, and a lot of beginners don't have it when there's a challenging weight. This is most evident on squats and deadlifts, but still evident with bench.
Thanks @John K , appreciate your comments
 

Starlord

Level 5 Valued Member
Just something to keep in mind - more reps/lighter weight does not necessarily mean it is safer. Often the last half of a set of 10-12 reps gets increasingly ugly as you continue to fatigue, your breathing becomes ragged, and you start to get a little panicky. It takes a degree of skill and focus to maintain technicality under that stress, and a lot of beginners don't have it when there's a challenging weight. This is most evident on squats and deadlifts, but still evident with bench.
100% correct.

I have seen more injuries come from rep maxes and fatiguing bodybuilding style workouts ala Dante Trudel and Jordan Peters than low rep, heavy work.
 
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