As a coach, there are 5 main cues that I like to give any lifter that comes through the door here at Taylor’s Strength Training. I believe the bench press is a Top-Down process rather than a bottom up. The bench starts with upper back tightness that eventually leads to your feet. Without solid tension in the back that goes all the way through to your feet, you will not be using your whole body for the bench… yes bench is a whole body movement. Here are my top cues for benchpress

  1. Driving Upper Back Into The Bench

Driving the upper back into the bench to start the initiation of the bench press is key for your shoulder health and overall benching capabilities. By driving the upper back into the bench it creates an arch. Everybody’s arch is different and some people have really good arches (i.e exorcist arches) whilst others do not (i.e me). Some arches are so good the bar literally travels an inch to the chest yet still being legal in compeition (maybe I’ll do a blog on this too). I wish I could do this but sadly, my thoracic spine is not mobile enough but getting the most arch you can will increase your bench. Due to the fact the bar has less distance to travel. So how do we the most optimal arch for our bench to save our shoulder joint and create optimal force for more strength? The best way, in my opinion, is thinking there is a pen in the middle of your back and think about squeezing it together.

2. Walk Your Feet Up The Bench

Another cue for some people, and what Chad Wesley Smith like to cue is “glute bridge up the bench.” This is a great cue but I prefer to walk up the bench until I feel a tightness in my quads. For first timers, they tend to really cramp up in either the lower back or in the glutes. Suck it up and get on with it, it will get better trust me. The main reason for walking up the bench is to 1. get an tighter upper back and 2. to keep tightness from your upper back to the floor. If you relax during this part then your loosing a link in the chain and wont be able to use your leg drive to aid you bench press.

3. Foot Placement

Depending on which federation you are in, for example, IPF require full foot contact on the floor whilst WPC does not, foot placement is very subjective. The most important concept when it comes to foot placement is how you can generate enough force from the floor and “transfer” it to the bar with adequate leg drive. Building your force production through the floor will only increase your bench through leg drive?

How do we create leg drive?

You want to drive your feet straight down into the floor, and at the same time, away from you.

4. Squeeze Your Pits Together

Once you have full set up as shown in the picture above and the bar is in my hand. I like to squeeze my armpits together like I am squeezing juice out of an orange. Why do I do this? I feel that I can get an extra bit of arch and tightness. Without this cue, I feel that my elbows flare out which can put alot of stress on my shoulder joint. As you can see in this video from when I was in university about 6 year ago. I kept this video because I knew this was the time I blew my shoulder out because of this benching. It was awful.

Fast forward to now, my shoulder health still isn’t the greatest but protecting my shoulders are a lot better now than what they used to be. The main differences are the full set up and proper leg drive to aid my bench press. See how before I start the lift I bring my chest even closer to the bar

5.Press UP & BACK (once it is on your chest)

I see a lot of beginners pressing out instead of pressing up & back. Once you press up/out and only up/out, you will lose all tension in your upper back. Possibly even at risk to tear your rotator cuffs right off the bone if you go heavy enough. Also, the bar path is like your centre of gravity, if you push too far forward you will fall over, its like that with the barbell. In addition to this, if you press up and only up, you will lose most of the tension from the rest of your body. This is a great visualisation of pressing up and back. Not Up & Out. Normally, I let clients have another go if they fail a lift because their execution was off, not their actual strength. A few tweaks and the rep is easy and they wonder why it wasn’t like that the first.

So there you have it, my 5 cues to a better bench press. Go try it out and get some PBs!

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