The bench has always been a gym favorite.
It’s a primary upper body exercise and for many lifters, the first one that really brought them into the gym. Evan “The Ox” Centopani shares this affection and offers five tips to optimize your benching.
He says, “To lift big, and to lift a long time, you’ve got to lift right.”
Tip one: Evan recommends lifters examine their grip.
He says that, “Too wide a grip puts excessive amounts of stress on the shoulders: Too narrow a grip can beat up on the elbows.”
To further refine your grip, you can also either wrap your thumb around the bar or leaving it open, which is often referred to as a “suicide grip.” Once again, the choice is yours, but using an open grip can tend to place too much stress on the wrists in my experience. I recommend wrapping your thumb and closing your grip firmly around the bar when benching.
Tip two: Arch Your Back
“To get the most out of a bench press, you absolutely have to arch your back so you can shift tension toward the upper part of your back and your traps.”
For strength and safety, lifters should contract their scapula. Otherwise, arms and shoulders will take tension from the chest, resulting in a weaker lift, smaller chest, and vulnerable shoulders.
Tip Three: Tuck The Elbows
It’s important to create torque on any lift. Evan says that tucking one’s elbows into the sides will better engage the lats and better recruit the pecs.
“ I like to compare it to squatting with the focus on your hips instead of your knees. Anytime you do compound movements, you always want to recruit the biggest and strongest joints and muscles so you can safely move the most weight.”
Tip 4. Touch To The Nipples
Different bar paths can engage different heads of the pec.
Evan says, “Many old-school bodybuilders aim higher up, dropping the bar near their throat, which causes them to flare the elbows.”
But he doesn’t advocate this. Instead, he says aiming for the nipples will help tuck the elbows and build tension, and be a happy medium between the unsafe high bar-path and the sub-optimal lower chest barpath. Also, lifters should touch their chest on each rep.
“Full range of movement results in full development.”
Tip 5: Don’t Lock Out
Evan says that this step is ideal for bodybuilders. Powerlifters of course have to lock out in order to complete a technical lift, but for bodybuilders, “stopping just short of locking maintains constant tension on your chest and minimizes stress on your elbows.”
These gold tips from Evan are excellent food for thought before your next chest day!