Building A Better Bench Press – Back Setup


Part One of Building A Bigger Bench Press

Benching is one of the most common exercises that everyone is always boasting about.  While it's very common for lifters to say, "So, ah, whadya bench?"  Very few are boasting a hefty squat, much to the dismay of people like myself who've always suffered from having a horrible bench press.

Well, all that has changed over the past few years and the reason why is from improving upon my technical form on the bench press.

During the course of these short video clips, I'll show you some of the very best improvements for making your bench press mediocre to superior quality.

The Back Setup - Shoulder Blade Position

The first topic for consideration for most people is their overall back position on the bench.

You don't simply lie down on the bench, take your grip and press away.  It's a bit more complicated than that.

To bench efficiently you need to arch your back a bit, depending on how flexible you are in order to achieve an optimal position to set in a foundation for your pressing.  Think of setting your shoulder blades down into your pockets and pinched together.  The video does a nice job of emphasizing the overall position.

The Reason This Works

Your back is your foundation for your pressing ability.  If your back isn't strong or in the right position to hold the shoulders in a solid position you're not going to be able support a heavy bench press weight, not to mention push it up.

You should be able to palpate or feel a persons lats while on the bench and they should feel tight throughout the range of motion.

The lats and upper back muscles are held statically against the bench as if gripping onto the bench to increase stability and give your triceps a good platform to push against.

Correcting Deficiencies

There are a number of ways you can help increase your back strength in order to progress further in the bench, such as bent over rows, single arm dumbbell rows, cable rows, band pullaparts, face pulls, etc.  The list goes on.  The main thing is that you need to build a strong back to bench heavy.

And then when you setup on the bench, get a good arch in with your upper back into the bench so that you can feel the back contracting the whole time.  It's not comfortable, but then we're talking about lifting heavy weights, not being comfortable.  For that you might as well sit on your easy chair and continue watching episodes of Shameless in order to feel better about your life in general.

As a standard rule of thumb, an effective way to ensure your back is getting enough stimulation and strength is to add two pulling exercises for every pressing exercises in your lifting routine.

Warming Up

Before you're even starting to lift, you can start with a light set of band pulls or face pulls before tackling the bench press.  This is always a nice way to get those back muscles fired up and ready to work.  You can even do band pulls on the bench with a nice isometric hold to really get the sensation of having to hold the lats tight against the bench.

Another method to ensure you're performing the bench press correctly is to have someone grip onto your lats or shoulders.  They should be able to feel your muscles throughout the whole set.  If not you need to re-address your form, lighten the weight and focus on keeping those muscles tight, while driving from your hips and triceps.

Now get to the gym and start practicing this technique and watch your bench press immediately start feeling more solid and powerful!





Jess Howland

Jesse "Captain Smash" Howland is the owner of SMASH’s Strength Lab, which offers targeted personal training to reach a variety of fitness and physique goals. A natural bodybuilder, competitive powerlifter, certified personal trainer, and nutrition coach, Jesse is often the go-to resource for personal training Ottawa. He studied Exercise Science at Oregon State University and even trained at the world famous Gold's Gym. He's a former US Army Captain with the 86th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, a former blog writer at Veterans Fitness Career College, and former Chief Executive Officer at U.S. Army Forces Command (FORSCOM). His workouts and personal training are army-inspired to help reach your weightloss, athletic, or physique goals.