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3.1. Execution

Body placement and tightness

The lifter should lie on the bench such that the eyes are under- or slightly behind the bar. If the lifter does not have someone to assist with lifting off it’s usually better to lie a little further up on the bench.

The shoulder blades should be pulled back and down ("put them in your back pockets" is a useful cue) and kept there the entire duration of the lift. This will create a slight arch, make you stronger, and make the lift safer for the shoulders. If the shoulder blades get loose during a set with more repetitions to go, actively pull them back in place before the next rep.

This position means most of the pressure is put on the very upper back and stays there for the entire set.

Gripping the bar

The bar should rest on the meaty part of the palm. This will place the hand so that the bar is above the forearm, and the knuckles behind it without the hand being cocked. Gripping the bar hard can help for a stronger bench press.

Foot placement

Placing the feet further back helps create a greater arch (and thus less range of motion) and more overall tightness in the body. Placing the feet more forward results in less arch but allows for more leg drive. The optimal foot placement must be determined on an individual basis depending on if the lifter performs better with more leg drive or more overall tightness. Regardless of style, the whole foot should remain completely planted for the duration of the lift.

Unracking the bar

Before unracking, the lifter must ensure that everything is tight, from the upper back, all the way down to the legs. A breath is then taken as described in the section ‘1.4. Power breathing'. To unrack the bar pull with the lats. While a slight upward lift is necessary, think about mostly doing a straight arm pulldown. Before lowering, the lifter has two options: first is to keep the air taken during the unracking for the entirety of the lift. This is usually superior as it's easier to keep tightness. The other option is to let a little air out (as little as possible!) then take another small breath of air. This is useful if the lifter gets light headed using the first method but the risk is loss in tightness.

The lifter should not start lowering the bar immediately, instead letting everything settle for a brief second. In competition the lifter waits for the start signal at this point. It's especially important to wait for the bar to settle with heavy weights but it should be taught from the very beginning.

Lowering the bar

The bar should actively be lowered by pulling it down. Lower it as fast as possible while maintaining full body tension. It's more important to keep tension than to lower fast so never sacrifice tension for speed. Actively pulling it down should further tighten the upper back and optimally raise the chest slightly, shortening the range of motion.

The bar should pause briefly on the chest (in competition the lifter waits for the press signal) but it's important not to relax at this point. The full body tension is still kept. Ideally the upper back is tightened and the lats flared so much that it's possible to create a "lat shelf" which the upper arm touches. This technique makes the raising of the bar much stronger.

The point where the bar touches the chest depend on many factors discussed in section ‘3.2. Factors affecting the style of lifting’ but a good starting point is between the nipple area and solar plexus.

Pressing the bar

The legs should work actively during the bench press. Keep them tight from the start and push hard right at the moment you press from the chest. The bar moves in slight curve, first up then at the end slightly back towards the head.

Racking the bar

As the bar reaches the top, the lifter pause briefly before racking it. In competition the lifter waits for the rack signal at this point.

Quick checklist:

  1. The bar is gripped evenly.
  2. Shoulder blades are pulled back and down.
  3. The bar is pulled down actively.
  4. There’s a distinct pause on the chest.
  5. The legs are actively working when pressing.
  6. The back is still tight when the lift is finished.