Foot Position Matters
Many people that want to improve their bench press miss out on this very simple fact! Your foot position can make or break a big bench press.
Your foot position has a great deal of impact on how much leverage you can create between you and the bar. If your feet are not digging into the floor and driving backward towards your shoulders you're missing out on a great deal of power.
Now opinions will vary on exactly how wide or how far back you need to go for optimal leverage, but ideally it's all about you and your individual preference. It will take some experimenting to figure out what position will work best for you unique body type.
Benching, The Squat While Lying Down
Now, benching looks completely different then a squat. You're lying down for god sake. But if you're getting enough leverage from the floor through either the toes or foot, you should feel a great deal of pressure on the front of the hips and in through the glutes and lowerback to a certain degree.
*Note: For powerlifters the whole idea is to wind yourself up into a tightened spring, so as soon as the bar touches your chest you can drive hard from the floor and press that weight up. It's probably the most uncomfortable weightlifting position you can get in.
Now, that said, not everyone will want to get this level of tightness nor will they need to in order to press big weights, but the basic principles still apply. Get a tight rooted position off the floor and once that weight touches your chest drive through the floor with your feet as if you're squatting.
Drive Back Into Your Shoulders
Ideally, you want to find a foot position that allows you to drive back into the arch created in the shoulders to give that bar some power off your chest. Whether that means tucking your hips back excessively and creating a large arch in the low back or just adjusting your feet wide so you can push in hard through the hips.
Some people like to press through on their toes, which is acceptable if you can get enough leg drive from your arched position. Although this position seems to put severe strain on your hip flexors and low back. Which if you can take it, why not. There's benefits in being able to press in varying positions.
The safest bet is to put both feet solidly on the floor and root them. Don't let them move once they're in position. If you're benching and dancing around with your feet your loosing a lot of stability and won't be able to finish your repetitions as easily. Especially if this is a large weight.
Keep in mind you want to press back toward your shoulders and not straight up, so that your butt stays on the bench the whole time.
But What About Elevating My Feet?
Now keep in mind, benching with your feet elevated is still an option. In some cases it might be warranted for someone who has a lower back issue. By elevating the feet you take a great deal of leverage away from the lifter and make it more of a core exercise. This is fine if that's what you're working towards.
It will alleviate a bit of lower back stress, which can often be accomplished by simply elevating the feet with a couple blocks or on the bench. However, if your goal is to progressively lift bigger weights, being in the most advantageous position is with your feet down and rooted solidly on the floor.
So there you have it. Root those feet down on the ground and let's get benching!
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.