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5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Bench Press Right Now

5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Bench Press Right Now

If you’ve been lifting weights for any length of time, you’ve been asked:

“How much ya bench?”

The bench is so popular that Mondays are affectionately known as National Bench Press day. Walk into any gym on a Monday at 5 p.m. and I can guarantee that all of the bench press stations are occupied. While squats, and deadlifts are having a renaissance of sorts, when it comes down to it, the bench press is probably still the most popular lift.

But the truth is, most people have awful technique. Not only are they probably setting themselves up for injury but they’re also leaving a lot of weight off the bar. With just a few quick fixes to your technique, anyone can be protected from injuries and add pounds to their lift immediately.

1. Pack your shoulders and keep them tight.

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arm-in-out

    Most people lay shoulders “flat” on the bench. What this means is that they allow there shoulders to be passive and spread out across the bench. This has several effects on your bench press:

    • You don’t have a stable base to transfer force through the bench and press off of.
    • You’re Humerus (upper arm bone) has a much better chance of sliding in the joint and creating damage to the shoulder joint.

    What you want to do is pinch your shoulder blades together as tightly as possible and then pull them down “into the back pockets.” Now keep them there throughout the whole lift. This ensures that you’re creating as “open” a shoulder joint as possible and you’re giving yourself a stable platform to drive the bar off of.

    2. Keep your feet in place and drive them into the ground.

    How often do you see someone moving their feet around as they perform their set?

    I see it often, in fact it’s very typical for beginners to have so little foot pressure that they end up kicking a foot out from under them.

    What should happen is that the feet are in place the entire time and you’re actively driving them through the ground.

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    foot position

      There is a lot of debate about if your whole foot should be on the ground or just your toes. I prefer placing my whole foot on the ground and driving through the heels, but many very strong bench pressers perform the lift on the balls of their feet. Either way, you should have tension through the legs the whole time. From lift-off until you re-rack the bar, really focus on pressing the feet through the floor, “squatting the weight up” as you drive the weight off the chest.

      3. Squeeze your butt HARD.

      One of the keys to lifting the most weight possible and increasing safety while lifting is tightness. You need to focus on creating tension through the whole body to brace against the force of the bar and transfer the most force possible through the bar. Without tightness, joints will move that shouldn’t and your chance for injury skyrockets.

      This is why it’s so important to activate the glutes and keep them turned on the whole time. Once you’ve learned how to “squat the weight up” and drive with the legs, if you don’t keep the glutes turned on, there is a good chance you’ll over extend (arch) the lumbar spine as the pelvis shifts anteriorly. This will drive the hips off the bench, increase the chance of the pelvis shifting and can be very stressful to the lumbar vertebrae, especially at the L4, L5. and S1 vertebrae. Squeezing the glutes hard the whole time (especially off the chest) will help lock the pelvis and therefore spine and whole body in place and ensure a better, safer transfer of force into the bar.

      4. Crush the bar.

      Remember, lifting heavy weights is, in large part about creating tightness through the whole body. What happens when you really, I mean really, try to crush something? Your whole body should tighten up. At the very least your arms and upper torso.

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      Crushing the bar will not only help tighten everything up, crushing the bar also sends a signal to the brain that more force is needed to perform this task and the body will respond by recruiting more of the Type 2 muscle fibers. Those are the biggest, strongest type of muscle fibers, the ones that need to be activated to lift big weights.

      Quick Tip: The bar should be in the heel of the hand, NOT the fingers.

      wrist position_edited

        Bar placement in the hand is very important. If the bar is in the fingers you’re going to bend your wrists. Place the bar towards the heel of the hand, keep the wrist straight, wrap the fingers around the bar and crush it.

        5. Press yourself away from the bar; not the bar away from you.

        What does that even mean?

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        You should think about pressing yourself, head, shoulders, and feet into the floor to create distance between you and the bar instead of pressing the bar form you. This will help you stay “tight” by keeping your upper back tight and legs engaged.

        When we think about pressing the bar away there is a tendency to get “soft” in the upper back and legs. Not only does this reduce the amount of force you can transfer into the bar, ie. the amount of weight you can lift, it also increases your chance for injury. As the upper back loses tension and the scapula “unpack” and flatten out the shoulder joint becomes increasingly unstable. If the lower body isn’t engaged you’re not only losing a lot of your power but the chance of the pelvis shifting, and the back injury that could come with it, increases greatly. Get and stay tight.

        Do these five things next time you head in to bench. At first most of them will feel a bit foreign, but after just a few sets you’ll be surprised at how much more “locked in” to the bench and bar you feel, and how much stronger you are.

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        Roy Pumphrey

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        Last Updated on January 17, 2019

        8 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Bring Peace and Happiness to Your Life

        8 Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Bring Peace and Happiness to Your Life

        In life, we all need to be conscientious of what we are doing. You don’t need to live a life of stress if you don’t want to. You can achieve peace and happiness in life by carefully building mindfulness exercises into your life’s routine.

        Exercising mindfulness isn’t rocket science and as importantly, you can do it. It will, however, take a few tries to get into the groove of things but once you get it, it is like riding a bike, you will never lose it.

        Trust me. It’s in your best interest to learn and put these mindfulness exercises into practice. In this article, I will share with you 8 mindfulness exercises that will help you to boost your energy, vitality and live a more peaceful and happier life.

        Why Is It Hard to Live A Peaceful And Happy Life?

        Our Habitat Has Become Too Technological

        The world has accepted the idea that technology is often the cure for all evil. We have accepted, as a society, that everything technological will make us live a better life without fully investigating the many side effects that modernity brings.

        There are a number of technological side effects that have a tremendous impact on your life that the media rarely tells you about.[1] Some of them include self-harm, economic inequality, having less sex, and even suicide. The global community is becoming less happy because of technology.

        How can anybody live a peaceful and happy life when they are depressed? Technology advancements, ladies and gents, is a major reason for why we are living a poor life because it has infiltrated our lives too much.

        According to my research, Americans spend an average of 8 hours a day looking at the computer screen — The average screen time spent on smartphones alone is about 20 hours per week. That’s a lot! No wonder why living a happy and peaceful life is so difficult these days.

        Too Many People Don’t Want to Unplug

        Americans check their phones an average of 80 times during vacation.[2] Some admit to checking their smartphones 300 times every single day. In countries like Brazil, India and China, the situation is no different.

        The reality is that people are constantly plugged into technological devices and this behavior is literally making people all over the globe fight an inner war with themselves, which consequently makes them very sad. As we know, war is the enemy of peace which won’t make anybody happy.

        Listen carefully:

        We have a global anxiety epidemic because people don’t want to unplug from their smartphones and most people aren’t doing anything to fix it. It is a sad state of affairs but very real. This obsession with technology is turning us into perishable robots who live terrible lives.

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        The era of anxiety is here to stay. There is little doubt about it. We can, however, fight back with the best remedy of all — We call it mindfulness!

        Thank God there is an antidote to this whole technological madness. Without further ado, let’s go straight to the mindful exercises.

        8 Mindfulness Exercises to Start Practicing

        There are tons of mindfulness exercises available for you to engage with out there.[3] In the paragraphs below, I will include the best ones I’ve personally tried or have seen my close friends and family members try.

        Are you ready for it? Let’s go!

        1. Pray Daily

        You should pray on a daily basis. Why is that you may ask — Well, because science has told us to do so.

        When people pray, they feel peaceful, almost eliminating anxiety. Worries become secondary, and often gives people energy and hope to cope with the difficulties of life.

        Prayer can make you more confident and focused. Prayer also helps you with self-control, helps to control pain, and can protect you against illnesses and disorders like cancer and high blood pressure. At least, this is what researchers from Harvard Medical School have said.[4]

        Pray. You won’t regret it.[5]

        2. Pay Attention to Your Inner Thoughts

        A lot of people allow themselves to be influenced by their negative thoughts. Be different and resist believing in them. It is a bad habit that can lead to unhappiness.

        By the way, if you do feel this way, chances are high that somebody other than you put these thoughts into your head.

        Here is my secret to combat this cancer — look at things objectively. I bet that if you look at things as they are, you will realize that most if not all of your negative thoughts are only inside of your head.

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        If you pay close attention, you will quickly realize that these voices aren’t worth your time. Believe me — Ignoring them and looking at things with objectivity is often the best course of action.

        This article can guide you to beat negative thoughts:

        How to Stop Automatic Negative Thoughts When You’re Overwhelmed

        3. Smile Often

        Smiling will slow down your heart. It will also relax your body because when you smile, your body releases endorphins which in itself has a number of positive benefits for you as a person.

        Smile often! You may want to smile early in the morning, during the day, and late in the evening. It is amazing what happens to you when you decide to smile instead of being grumpy.

        Surrender your problems to a nice smile. You will notice two things. First, most people just don’t which makes them live a miserable life. Second, if you decide to smile often, you will eventually smile unconsciously which is the ideal.

        The moment that you smile unconsciously, you then know that you are truly happy.

        4. Organize Your Working Desk

        A messy desk will make you less productive and can agitate and overstimulate you. You don’t want that.

        When you clear your desk, you engage in deep inner-thinking and your systematic decision making ends up becoming therapeutic.

        Most people realize that they are most creative when their creative space is clean and organized. The former often makes people more aware of what they are doing which lends to less stress and more productivity.

        Organizing your desk will also make you more energetic and focused because order often decreases chaos which is a condition that often slows down daily progress.

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        5. Celebrate Your Friend’s Victories

        I love this mindful exercise. One of the best ways to live a happy and peaceful life is to celebrate the victories of others. When you do that, you automatically make your friends in a better mood which makes you in a better mood, as well.

        Happiness is contagious! We might as well celebrate others as much as we can. If you find out that your peer has won an award, celebrate with him! If your friend is the recipient of a local charity award, celebrate with her!

        What is also awesome is that when you celebrate with others, they often celebrate with you in return. This, ladies and gentleman, will make you feel fantastic. You can’t go wrong with this one, period.

        6. Listen to Your Spouse/Partner

        God put someone in your life for a reason. You might as well listen to him or her.

        I listen to my wife everyday. In fact, I often ask the following question to her, “Amanda, what are your thoughts about…” or “What am I missing about…” It is shocking what I hear back from her. Without her having much context and perspective, by the art of observation in my own nonverbal behavior and the behavior of others, she accurately gives me incredible insights which helps me out with living my life to the fullest.

        I’m a firm believer that spouses are supposed to engage in interpersonal communication every day. I most definitely do and will continue doing it. You should do the same.

        7. Give Yourself a Break from Technology

        You can’t be in total equilibrium if your computerized devices control your life. You must get away from technology on a daily basis.[6]

        How do you do that? This is my formula:

        First, take this smartphone control test. It is only ten questions but this test will place you somewhere in the human robot cycle continuum.

        If your score is between 25-30, take a break from the computer (or smartphone, pad, laptop/desktop) every twenty minutes and stop being on a computerized device after 8:00pm.

        If you score between 30-35, still take a break every 20 minutes but stop being on these devices at 5:00pm.

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        If you score more than 35, you need to take action immediately.

        Limit computer use as much as possible throughout the day. Give yourself as many breaks from the computer as possible. Are you ready for the challenge?

        8. Go Exercise

        Go exercise at least three times a week. I don’t care if you need to workout early in the morning, late in the evening, on the weekends or during work days. Working out is absolutely imperative for you to live happy and peaceful life.

        The stresses of the modern world are too much for you to neglect this important mindfulness exercise. When you go to the gym, you burn calories, focus on activities one step at a time, your mind relaxes, anxiety decreases, you sweat and often think about topics unrelated to your work place among many other benefits.

        You must exercise at least three hours each week for optimum results. Why? Just take a look at all the benefits of regular exercising:

        12 Benefits of Regular Exercise You Should Know

        The Bottom Line

        It’s in your best interest to learn and put these mindfulness exercises into practice. Now that our habitat has become too technological and many people just don’t want to unplug, engaging in daily prayer, celebrate your friends’ victories, and listening to your spouse are among the best ways to be mindful about what you are doing and how you are living.

        It is possible to live a happy and peaceful life. It only depends on you.

        Go exercise! Take a break from technology and invest in you! Life is too short for distractions.

        More Resources About Mindfulness

        Featured photo credit: Lesly Juarez via unsplash.com

        Reference

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