You'll find that there are
countless discussions in fitness magazines and on the
internet regarding the bench press. How did the bench
press become the defining exercise to measure strength and
who decided it? It's not the most functional exercise
for athletic movement or something applicable to daily life.
Still, you'll find that many athletes set their bench press
weight as a primary goal in their fitness regime.
"How much do you bench?" is a standard question in
conversations between athletes in the weight room.
Hey, don't get me wrong... in my
younger days I was a bench press junkie also. However,
nowadays my focus is more on function and benefit rather
than the bragging rights ; ) Still, given the ongoing
interest and the common struggle by many people in trying to
add another 10 pounds to their bench, I thought that I'd use
this article to touch on some tips that have been proven to
help achieve these goals.
Arm circles, followed by
pushups, followed by a light set or 2 helps prepare the
body for the lift. However, don't overdo the warm-up
and reduce your ability to have a productive exercise.
- The best way to remember
your body position when setting up for the bench press is
to have 5 points of contact at all times. Your head,
shoulders, and butt should be in contact with the bench,
and your left and right foot should be planted firmly on
Keep the pressure on your
upper back and traps. You want the pressure around the
supporting muscles. This is accomplished by driving your
feet into the floor, thereby driving your body into the
bench. Try this: Lie on the bench and line up so
your eyes are four inches in front of the bar (toward your
feet). Now using your legs, drive yourself into the bench
to put pressure on the upper back and traps (while keeping
your butt down). Your eyes should now be even with the
Position yourself on the bench
and try to arch the back as much as possible while keeping
the shoulders, head, and butt on the bench. This position
will lessen the distance the bar must travel and will also
allow the legs to drive the shoulders into the bench for
much greater power.
Hands should be just outside
of shoulders (not too close, not too wide)
"Squeeze the bar" and try
to pull it apart! The best way to get the body tight
and ready for the lift is by squeezing
the bar. Trying to pull the bar apart or "break the bar"
also seems to activate the triceps more.
Keep bar squarely on palm,
directly over the wrists and elbows, not
towards the fingers. This assists in driving force and
limits instability of the wrist.
Dry your hands. Gloves are
not recommended since they cushion the bar, make it
fatter, and thereby change the grip and force production.
Keep elbows tucked at a 45 degree
angle to your body. Not out towards 90 degrees and not
too far in next to the body.
Keeping the elbows tucked will also allow
lifters to use their lats to drive the bar off the chest.
You can generate far more force with your elbows in a
tucked position compared to an "elbows out" position.
- Squeeze your shoulder
blades together and get as much of them on the bench as
While pressing you have to
create the most stable environment possible. This can't be
done if most of your shoulder blades are off the bench.
When you pull your shoulder blades together you're
creating a tighter, more stable surface from which to
Don't lift the shoulders
during lift-off. Push up and out towards the ready
- Tighten the hips and
glutes during the pressing motion to further stabilize the
Drive with your legs forward
(not up) towards your head while keeping your butt on the
Don't pick up a foot (or feet)
while lifting. Keep them planted squarely on the floor.
Bring the bar down to the
sternum area (where your lower chest meets your abs). Not too high on the chest or too low on the
Don't bounce the weight off
your chest. There is risk of cracking your sternum or
ribs and the assistance with the lift is not productive
towards your goal. Control the descent of the weight
rather than letting it fall. This is not suggesting a
"negative" (eccentric) contraction, but just bringing the
weight down in control.
Lock the weight out on every
repetition. Don't do a 1/2 press. The top portion of the
bench press works the triceps and is important for the
Press the weight straight up,
not backwards towards the rack. Don't be in a rush to
rack it... hold the bar at the top of the movement for a
moment before returning to the rack.
As soon as the bar touches
your body, you need to generate as much thrust and energy
as you can, to power the bar back up.
Having a spotter will reduce
your "mental doubt" and allow you to approach the lift
The spotter should not touch
or stabilize the bar during the lift. Following the bar
with thier hands is ok, but touching it reduces the
benefits of stabilization.
Don't just train for the bench
press. Total body effort is both productive for your
entire body AND will help increase your bench press as
Training your triceps for a
big bench has to involve heavy extensions and close-grip
pressing movements such as close-grip flat and incline
bench presses. Train your lats on the same
plane as the bench with exercises such as the horizontal row.
Push the bar with maximal
force. Whatever weight you're trying to push, be it 40% or
100% of your max, you must learn to apply 100% of the
force to the barbell. If you can bench 500 pounds and are
training with 300 pounds, you must then apply 500 pounds
of force to the 300-pound barbell.
Mix it up... don't do the same
thing month after month. Change up your sets,
repetitions, weight, tempo, rest period to keep your
muscles adapting to the stimulus.
Work the bench press at least
twice a week with a minimum of 48 hours between training
that muscle group.
BELIEVE in the lift! Get rid
of the self doubt. Don't think of the weight being lifted
as a BIG number, but just a stepping stone to the next
Lastly you may want to try to
add some more protein into your diet to add some more muscle
mass. There is a 30 minute window, shortly after a
resistance training workout, where your body is capable of
the maximum protein absorption. If you are able to
time your protein intake with this window, you should be
able to make the most out of your nutrient timing for
muscle building benefits. Also add some milk into
your diet because strong bones do help promote stronger
So there you have it... I
compiled this list of tips from a variety of sources that
repeat most of the same technique points. Even if you
are not looking to push BIG WEIGHT, the technique tips
listed above will assist in polishing your form and ensuring
that you are getting the most benefit while limiting your
Bodyweight Exercise of the Month!
Grip work, back, biceps... this version of an inverted row
works it all. You can adjust the intensity of this
exercise based upon how close to horizontal you get. The
close you are to horizontal, the more bodyweight you are
pulling. If you raise the bar and stand more upright,
you will be using less bodyweight. As with many other
bodyweight exercises, you can also increase the intensity
further by adding a weighted vest or similar weights to add to
the amount you are pulling. This is another exercise
that is recommended for wrestlers or other combat athletes.
back, biceps and forearms (latisimus dorsi, biceps brachii,
Description: Begin by
wrapping 2 small towels around a horizontal bar. Power
racks, smith machines, playground equipment all work nicely.
Grasping the towels, lean back and walk your feet forward,
keeping your body perfectly straight from head to toe.
Pull your chest up to the bar, and then return back to
starting position in a slow controlled motion. The
closer your body is to horizontal at the starting position,
the more challenging the exercise will be.
Outdoor Dip and Row
I've gotten some positive feedback about my homemade
fitness equipment, so I'm just gonna keep it coming.
We've had a successful couple of weeks with the
pre-season boot camp
that we started in July. For the first session at the beginning of
the camp I wanted to get some base fitness numbers to see where our
athletes were starting from. We tested them on push-ups, situps,
dips, inverted row, 40 yd dash, 20 yd shuttle, and threw in the 3-cone
drill for the heck of it. Testing is an important part of
performance enhancement in order to determine what type of impact that
we are able to make with the athletes that we are coaching.
Since we were out in the open field, and I wanted to get
a good back and bicep test, as well as tricep, I came up with this
fairly simple way of getting it done. I say fairly simple since I
do quite a bit of woodworking, but you do have to have some tools and
some ability to use them.
This dip and row station that I made is really just a
couple of saw horses. You can buy the metal saw horse brackets at
the hardware store, and I used pressure treated 2"x4"s for the legs.
I made the legs a bit longer than a standard sawhorse in order to get
the clearance that we wanted to perform the exercises. Since I
wanted to cut grooves in the cross pieces, I used 2"x6" boards so
that I still had enough wood to support the weight. I originally
bought a few pieces of sturdy plumbing pipe for the bars, but then I
remembered that I had a few standard weight bars that were just laying
around in the corner of my gym... they work like a champ!
We use this contraption for standard dips (chest and
triceps) as well as inverted rows (back and biceps) and really found
them to be useful for this type of portable station. The athletes
really liked these tests also and I'm told that they were feeling it the
next day... better now than on the first day of practice, right?
Wow... this is my
12th year doing this annual Multiple Sclerosis ride! I
continue to participate every year simply because it is a very
well organized and fun ride that is for a great cause.
This is my annual pitch for riders, volunteers, and
sponsors for this MS150 Bike Tour. Participation in the National MS Society's annual
ride will help raise funds for research and local
The 2009 ride is scheduled for
Saturday, October 3rd and Sunday, October 4th. There are a variety of ride length options for all levels
of cyclists. You can do the new 25k ride (15.5 miles),
45 miles, 75 miles (the full route), or 150 miles (full route
on Saturday and returning on Sunday). This year they
have also added the option of doing a "century" ride on
Saturday which would be 100 miles in one day.
sclerosis affects lives every moment of every year. At any
time, someone with MS may suddenly be unable to stand up, hug
their child or see a friend across the room.
If you are interested in participating in the Delaware MS150
Bike to the Bay this year, you can email me at
click here to join Team Bank of America.
are good too! If you are able make a
by sponsoring me for the ride, we can reach our goals that
much quicker! Every dollar contributed will help us to end the devastating effects
of MS, sooner rather than later.
Thanks for your support!
Are you kidding me? Is it
really August already? Where the heck did the summer
go? I honestly believe that time picks up speed as I
get older! Well, there's only about a month or so left
of the summer, so you better enjoy it!
You ever notice how you have
significantly more energy in the summer during the nice
weather? It makes you want to get moving, do something
outside, or even... EXERCISE! So if you aren't already
doing so, now is a perfect time to get your @$$ in gear!
Seriously though, make it easier on yourself and take
advantage of the energy that you have now, rather than
waiting on that New Year's resolution in January when it's
cold and gloomy. If you can kick start your workouts
and lifestyle changes now, you'll be golden when summer
comes back around next year!
And as for my young athletes
out there that are getting fired up for the upcoming fall
sports season... good luck to you all! Hang on... I
take that back... make your own luck! You have the
power to direct all your focus and energy toward exceeding
your goals. Hard work, discipline, and most of all
HEART will have a much bigger impact on your season than
luck! Work hard now and make an impact when you show
up at that first practice. YOU want to be the one that
the coaches are looking at and everyone is talking about!
Anyhow, whether you are an
athlete or a couch potato... enjoy the rest of your summer!
Winter will be back again before you know it!
P.S. Happy 9th birthday to
my daughter Rachel : )
For prior issues of this
newsletter go to
off more than you can chew and then
chew like hell"
- Peter Brock
youtube video of the month -->
Innovative "Low Tech High
Effect" workout with tires.