Powerlifting Bench Press Technique
Proper Bench Press Technique for Powerlifting
The bench press is without a doubt the most technically challenging of all the three powerlifts. It for this reason that there are so many different ways to perform the movement but we will assume that the arched back with a wide-grip is the preferred, technique for powerlifting.
The bench-press, just like all compound movements can be separated into two distinct phases: The set-up phase and execution phase. We will go through the specifics on each of these phases to ensure that you get the importance of thinking where and what your body is connected to.
The lifter interfaces/contact with the apparatus or equipment on five important points:
1) Hands on the bar (wide-grip)
2) Head on the bench
3) Shoulders on the bench
4) Butt on the bench
5) Feet on the ground
There are important aspects in every movement when doing a bench-press correctly. We will not go into the finer details of teaching you how to arch your back when bench-pressing so we will go directly onto, probably the most important aspect of the bench-press which is neither the set-up phase or the execution phase.
The leg drive that you use when bench-pressing is the active engagement of your lower body when doing a bench-press. You need to consciously "drive" your feet hard into the ground. Pushing your feet into the ground like that transfers the kinetic energy you are using to lift the weight directly from the ground.
When you push your feet into the ground the force is transferred through your legs which will tighten up your whole body enabling you to create a much larger arch in your back, putting your chest into a higher position, means lifting more weight.
Good bench-press technique means you are using your lats to help you lift the weight. This means that tightening your lats is critical because when the lats are tight, the belly of the muscle shortens its length the upper part of the back is lengthened. This drives your chest upwards, shortening the length of the movement.
Flexing the lats while pushing out a bench-press is not easy and needs practice which can be done by "breaking the bar". This means that you grab the bar and try and break it in half. Doing this action will engage your lats, so all you need to do is learn how to "break the bar" while lifting the weight.
Breathing is important if you want to increase the weight that you can press. You need to be holding your breath when you press because when the air leaves your lungs it will lower the height of your chest. If you hold your breath it will increase the intra-abdominal pressure, improving stability and the force transfer.
In conclusion it needs to be stated up-front that a book could be written about setting up a bench-press and the correct execution of a bench-press. As mentioned above not all the factors requiring attention, practice and focus have been mentioned here, but in summery we will list the required set-up when doing a competitive powerlifting bench-press.
Step 1: Set the width of the grip you're going to use
Step 2: Create the arch in your back
Step 3: Get tight: bending and squeezing the bar while you take a big breath in.
Step 4: Take the bar off the rack and lower it down to a pause
Step 5: PRESS from your feet upwards
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