Bench (Press) Tech(nique)

I have been using 5/3/1 for several months now and have made good progress on the lower body lifts, but my bench press has been stuck at about 340 pounds for years. I would really like to bench 400 pounds raw, but I can’t figure out why I’m not making progress. After doing a lot of research on this site, I think I may be training to failure too often and need to check my ego and keep a few reps in the tank on my heavy bench sets. But I also wanted to see if you could review the video below and ask if you had any advice for me. Any glaring weak points or technique/set-up problems you see?

Thanks for your help,

Aaron

Aaron,

One thing that immediately came to mind is that you aren’t really letting the bar settle after you take it out of the rack. Once the bar is in your hands, I recommend pausing for a beat to make sure that your upper back and lats are set for the lift. This will keep you tighter and improve your power off the chest. This is especially important for you because you have a long bench stroke and you’re training without a lift-off man.

Good luck,

Dave Kirschen


I am nine weeks out from my first bench press meet, and I had a question regarding my training up to the meet.

I typically perform my ME day on Sunday and my DE day on Thursday. My meet is on a Sunday, and I would like to know what you recommend for training in regards to the last week. I was planning on performing my last ME day one week out from the meet. Would I perform my DE day on Thursday, or would I alter this? Thank you for your help!

Chad

Chad,

First off, congrats on hitting the platform and making it official. My recommendation would be to scrap the dynamic session the week of the meet and go easy on your last Max Effort day. I would suggest using the last ME day to work up to your planned opener, making sure you’re practicing your pause. If you positively have to train after the Sunday session, do really easy stuff like light upper back and triceps work. No training at all after Wednesday.

Get after it,

Dave Kirschen


I was hoping to get some advice on my bench since I am training for my second meet on April 27th. I pressed 214 pounds at my first meet, and I want to shoot for 220 pounds on the 27th. My bench is the hardest lift for me to make progress on, so I was hoping for any advice on my technique. I appreciate it.

Thank you,

Mario

 

Mario,

Two things immediately jumped out at me:

1. Leg drive: You’re really not tucking your feet as much as you could be. If you’re committed to this style of bench, you want to get your feet further under you. Try to get them under your upper back. Then, throughout the duration of the entire lift, try to forcefully slam your heels to the floor (you won’t actually be able to). This will increase your arch and keep you tighter on the bench. If you are unable to do this due to flexibility issues, get them out wide, keep your feet flat, and drive your knees out. This will keep you stable and prevent you from lifting your butt. Right now, your feet are kind of in a no-man’s land, where you aren’t really in a position to do, either.

2. Upper back tightness: After the hand-off, try to re-set more be pulling your scapula together and your elbows in. If you do this right, you’ll see the bar sink about an inch before you bend your elbows.

Work these two points hard and the PRs will fall!

Dave Kirschen


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About the Author

Dave Kirschen has been powerlifting competitively since 1998 and has since reached totals of 1901 in the 181-pound class and 1925 in the 198-pound class. He trains at Eastside Barbell Club in Palisades Park, New Jersey, and currently manages a fitness center in New York City. A lifelong fitness professional, he holds a degree in physical education from SUNY Cortland and lives in New Jersey with his wife Liz. View his training log.