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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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        Last Updated on May 25, 2019

        20 Spaghetti Squash Recipes For Anyone Who Is Looking For Delicious, Healthy Comfort Food

        20 Spaghetti Squash Recipes For Anyone Who Is Looking For Delicious, Healthy Comfort Food

        Spaghetti squash is similar to cucumber. It has a shell which is difficult to pierce and this hard flesh surrounds a hollow cavity filled with seeds. When you cook this vegetable, the squash flesh falls away from the inner cavity and only the reminiscent of spaghetti remains. You can get surprised and delighted to see how this vegetable transforms with cooking.

        It can act as a great substitute to pasta. It tastes as delicious as the traditional pasta and is equally satisfying but healthier. It is gluten free and contains many nutrients like vitamin A, potassium and folic acid.

        This incredible vegetable can be boiled, baked or steamed. And, a lot of recipes can be prepared with spaghetti squash as the chief ingredient. I’m sure the following recipes will make your mouth water.

        Breakfast

        1. Spiced Coconut Squash Breakfast Porridge

        1

          This unconventional porridge, prepared for breakfast, is a perfect dish to start your day. The ingredients include spaghetti squash, organic coconut milk, ginger, coconut flour, maple syrup, cinnamon, sea salt and vanilla extract. It has a comforting and creamy texture and is best served with fresh fruit topping. (Click here for recipe)

          2. Egg and Avocado Spaghetti Squash Boats

          2

            If you’re looking for a light, healthy, gluten free, vegetarian breakfast then avocado spaghetti squash boats is the best option. Besides chopping the squash, breaking the egg and slicing the avocado, this recipe doesn’t require much effort in its preparation. It tastes amazing with egg yolk and salsa and has a rich decadent texture. (Click here for recipe)

            3. Spaghetti Squash Frittata for One

            3

              This frittata, if prepared perfectly, can be an excellent choice for a healthy meal. It is a combination of lots of spaghetti squash, a few white eggs, some red pepper for color and texture, few onions and garlic for flavor, and some fresh herbs for brightness. This dish is usually served large in size and tastes great with tomato sauce and bean balls. (Click here for recipe)

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              4. Ingredient Spaghetti Squash Brunch

              4

                It’s a fast and easy breakfast that contains a poached egg and feta on a pre-roasted pile of spaghetti squash bed. The yolk from the egg floods through the scraps of squash underneath. It almost tastes like an Italian pasta and the light crumble of feta adds more calcium and protein. (Click here for recipe)

                5. Spaghetti Squash Hash Browns

                5

                  A very healthy take on hash browns in which spaghetti squash is used in place of potatoes and coconut oil in place of butter. This reduces stress, inflammation and starch, making it healthier than traditional hash browns. It helps lose water weight as well which is helpful for weight loss. The final product is fluffy on the inside but crispy on the outside. It is best served alongside some dippy eggs. (Click here for recipe and image source)

                  Lunch

                  6. Spaghetti Squash Chow Mein

                  6

                    Spaghetti squash can not only replace Italian pasta but it can also replace the Chinese noodles. They are a delicious, satisfying dish, prepared by stirring and frying spaghetti squash with a rainbow of other vegetables along with a sweet smelling mixture of fish sauce, rice vinegar and soy. They are gluten free and grease free which makes them healthier. (Click here for recipe)

                    7. Parmesan Zucchini and Spaghetti Squash with Pine Nuts

                    7

                      This dish is a marvelous combination of garlic, spaghetti squash, parmesan, toasted pine and zucchini nuts. It’s super healthy, gluten free, full of vegetables and delicious. Tossed with olive oil, this dish meets all the dietary needs and is perfect for light lunch. You can also add some chicken to increase protein.  (Click here for recipe)

                       8. Spaghetti Squash with Mushrooms Parmesan

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                      8

                        Though spaghetti squash provides low calories, you can add meaty mushroom and a good amount of parmesan cheese to increase the amount of calories. It’s a healthy, full of flavor, vegetarian dish, and has cheap and easy ingredients which you can find in market. The final product is yummy and satisfying and can make your lunch, perfect.  (Click here for recipe)

                         9. Spaghetti Squash with Vegan Fire-Roasted Tomato Cream Sauce

                        9

                          A pile of roasted squash is flavored with a sauce made from five ingredients. The vegan fire-roasted tomato cream sauce is made from the mixture of tomatoes, cashews, basil, salt and water. This spicy sauce makes it more delicious and some small amount of basil adds fresh green color and flavor. (Click here for recipe)

                           10. Thai Peanut Spaghetti Squash

                          10

                            Most of the dishes listed here are either Mexican or Italian. This recipe however will give you a fresh Asian feeling. To prepare this, all you need are spaghetti squash and peanut sauce, then by adding some ginger, lime and vinegar you’ll get one of the most delicious recipes. The texture of this dish reminds you of heavenly beaches in Thailand. (Click here for the recipe)

                            Dinner

                            11. Spaghetti Squash Comfort Bowl

                            11

                              This is the perfect kind of bowl that you want to have on a cold evening, sitting on a couch and watching TV. You’ll enjoy its lightly steamed veggies, allspice beans, and the strands of squash as well. It feels creamy but doesn’t seem too heavy. It’s a great dish with intense indulgence, with our best spaghetti squash, the warm beans, and the comforting steamed veggies. (Click here for the recipe)

                              12. Spaghetti Squash Crust Pizza

                              12

                                As you already know, spaghetti squash is a great substitute for pasta, but this dish here shows how these chewy shreds can make a great stand-in for pizza. You can add anything like meat or veggies to the base which is bound with egg whites and flour. The end product is a great gluten free dish. (Click here for the recipe)

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                                13. Spaghetti Squash Fried Rice

                                13

                                  Spaghetti squash works as a good substitute to the cauliflower as the base of a fried rice. This recipe includes almost all of the usual ingredients of a fried rice. With green onions, eggs, peanut oil, and some garlic, this dish gives a unique texture that you can never find in your local restaurants. (Click here for the recipe)

                                   14. Roasted Garlic Spaghetti Squash Lasagna Boats

                                  14

                                    If you’re looking for something delicious for the winter evenings, you’ll get fond of these cheesy spaghetti squash boats. To lighten it up, it is filled with tomato sauce, cheese, chicken sausage, parmesan and ricotta. You can easily complete its arrangement ahead of time and bake it before dinner. (Click here for the recipe)

                                    15. Chicken Enchilada Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

                                    15

                                      This Mexican inspired dish has spaghetti squash as a serving bowl and inside it goes enchilada sauce, chicken, cheese, black beans and other veggies wrapped inside a corn tortilla blanket. You can also use spinach in place of the corn and black beans. Topped with sauce galore, this dish can be served as a family fun meal.  (Click here for the recipe)

                                      Dessert

                                      16. Sweet Spaghetti Squash Kugel with Apples and Raisins

                                      16

                                        If you can afford spaghetti squash, coconut sugar, some eggs and few other ingredients, then this dish must be your cheapest choice. This noodle is a delight in all seasons. The addition of some apples and raisins results in its fruity freshness. (Click here for the recipe)

                                        17. Spaghetti Squash Coconut Custard Pie

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                                        17

                                          With the fine sweetness from vanilla extract and coconut, this dessert can be a great hit among guests. The spaghetti squash drowns in an egg batter to make it lighter than a cream pie. You can play and experiment with the ingredients and see surprising results.  (Click here for the recipe)

                                           18. Spaghetti Squash Cake With Cream Cheese Glaze

                                          18

                                            This desert will be a delicious treat to those who are a fan of carrot cake. Spaghetti squash is a vegetable with pleasant taste, lending fiber, potassium and vitamins. So, if you drape it in cream cheese frosting, you will end with this mouth- watering cake. This dessert has so many health benefits and is also great for a Thanksgiving dinner. (Click here for the recipe)

                                             19. Spaghetti Squash Kheer

                                            19

                                              Kheer is a rice pudding made by boiling rice with cow milk and sugar. But this type of kheer replaces boiling rice with noodles swapped out of spaghetti squash and cow milk with coconut milk. By pouring some ghee, you can add necessary richness in it. It is healthier than traditional kheer and can act as a great dessert for your evenings. (Click here for the recipe)

                                               20. Cinnamon Spice Spaghetti Squash Cake

                                              20

                                                By now, you must be surprised by the versatility of spaghetti squash. But your best surprise will probably come after you finish preparing this cake. This cake is a game changer. You’ll have the taste of lots of veggies like cinnamon, allspice maple syrup and ginger, all inside a single cake.  It’s a perfect treat for picky eaters. (Click here for the recipe)

                                                Featured photo credit: Spaghetti Squash with Fire Roasted Tomato, Olive and Baby Spinach Sauce via commons.wikimedia.org

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