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“How much d’you bench?”: The question every gym rat has been asked in his or her time. It seems the bench press is the ultimate ego lift, but when training for a huge bench, you’ve got to leave your ego at the door.

Try to get on the bench press at your gym on a Monday evening and it’s a nightmare. It seems like Monday has become the unofficial international chest day.

Now, for an Aspiring powerlifter, you might think this is a good thing. With so many people using the bench press in a condensed period of time, you’ll probably pick up loads of useful bench pressing tips, right?

Not so much. Despite the fact the bench press is one of the most popular exercises in the gym, and the one the average gym goer associates most with strength and being the pinnacle of performance, most peoples’ bench press form is shocking.

First up, very few people perform proper reps.

When we say proper reps, that’s starting each rep with your arms straight, touching your chest, pausing briefly, then pushing back up until your elbows are lock out again. If, by some miracle, the hench dude you’re watching gets this bit right, take a look at his feet – are they on the floor? Is his butt on the bench? And does he keep his upper back and head pressed down at all times? If not, he’s not the guy you want to learn your technique from.

The bench press isn’t just a chest. Shoulders and triceps exercise, it’s an “everything” exercise. To make the most of your potential pressing strength, you need to recruit every muscle in your body. You’ve got to nail your technique, then use your newfound skill when implementing bench presses in your routine.

How to Bench Right

Here are the key tips and tricks you need to know for getting your bench form perfect. Anything less than perfect form and you’re losing efficiency, potentially forfeiting tens, or even hundreds of pounds worth of strength:

Get Tight

The tighter you can hold your whole body, the more muscles your activate. The more muscles you activate, the stronger you’ll be and the more you’ll bench.

The Set Up

Lie flat on the bench to begin with and hold the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder width grip. The wider you get your grip, the shorter your range of motion, and the more you’ll be able to lift. BUT – a wide grip requires superbly mobile and strong shoulders, so begin with just outside shoulder width, and gradually work your way toward a wider grip. Squeeze the bar as tightly as you can.

Feet, Hips and Head

Once you’ve got your grip set, bring your feet up onto the bench, and push your back and head down hard. This may look odd, but you need to get your upper back and head pushed down into the bench as firmly as you can. When you’re in a stable position, put one foot on the floor. This foot should be under your hip, with the sole flat. Just like you did with your back and head, push down hard, then take the other foot down and do the same. In this position your butt should be tight to the bench, and there’ll be a slight arch in your lower back.

The Press

Take the bar out of the rack and hold it directly above your chest. Lower it down slowly until it touches your chest. Pause for a moment, then drive it back up with all the force you’ve got. Squeeze your whole body as you lift up, make sure your elbows stay tucked in and keep going until your arms are completely straight.

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