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6 STEPS TO YOUR BEST BENCH

Not a powerlifter? No problem. This is an everyman's guide to perfecting the
bench press for more size and strength!

Ask The Super Strong Guy: How Can I Increase My Bench?

If you want a bigger bench, form is everything. Learn the best cues to put up more weight from one of the biggest pressers in the industry.

Q
I'm no powerlifter. Don't want to be one, either. But I do want to get stronger and be able to bench my bodyweight and then some. What advice can you give lifters like me?

A lot of the information circulating about the bench press is false. Or at least it's false in that it doesn't apply to everyone. Here's the problem: A lot of big, fat dudes gravitate toward powerlifting and strength sports. For better or worse, these guys give cues that apply to themselves, and not to everybody else.

When I hear cues like "tuck the elbows" or "press in a straight line" I get pretty aggravated. The jacked and tan dude, the skinny guy, and the non-powerlifter girl aren't going to have a super-short range of motion, and they're probably not going to bench like a rotund powerlifter. When you have a huge belly, your bench press technique is going to look different than that of most people. So why would everyone else want to bench like you?

If you want technique that can work for the masses, I've got it. Here are six steps so developing a better, heavier bench press. Trust me: You can put a lot more weight on the bar just by using proper form.

Mark Bell Coaches the Bench Press
Watch The Video - 14:30



Step 1 Grab the barbell evenly

This seems simple, but often when people get under the bar and wiggle, they grab the bar with a slightly uneven grip. They may not even realize they're doing it, but it's easy to fix. Use the power rings or the smooth part of the bar to measure where your grip should be. Grab the bar about a thumb's length out from the edge of the smooth part of the bar. That will give you a strong, balanced grip. It'll also be a close grip, but so what—work your triceps.

If you want to try a standard grip, place your pinky or ring finger directly on the power ring. To get the most weight up, powerlifters usually set their grip as wide as possible, which shortens the range of motion. This can be helpful but isn't critical. Nothing matters more in lifting weights than being in a good position and remaining in that good position throughout the entire lift.

Step 2 Squeeze the bar hard

Once you have a hold on the bar, squeeze the damn thing. Flex the forearm to activate your entire arm. If you were to shake somebody's hand as hard as you could, you'd notice that you tense all the way from your hand to your biceps, into the shoulder, and even include your neck. All that strength will disperse to the muscles that need to work.

Squeezing the bar can also alleviate elbow tendonitis. It won't cure it, but it will help. I know it sounds weird, but trust me on this.

"Squeezing the bar can also alleviate elbow tendonitis. It won't cure it, but it will help."

Step 3 Position your feet

I like to lock down the lower body before I adjust my upper body. This is important because you have to keep your lower body and feet planted while you move your upper body into the correct position.

Try to make sure your feet aren't pointed too far outward. It's OK if they're out a little, but not so much that we lose all hip tension. We want torque. Normally, feet go underneath your knees and toes underneath the knee cap. Drive your stomach upward and flex and drive your heel toward the ground. Your hips will be higher than your knee, which creates stabilization. This is a strong, repeatable bench press stance.

Step 4 Set your upper body

To put their body in the right position, a lot of guys grab the bar with an underhand grip and curl their body up toward the bar. If you want to do this, go for it, but remember to keep the shoulder blades down and back. To simplify the whole process, just pull your chest toward the bar and keep it there.

Step 5 Lower the weight with your elbows in

Hopefully, you have somebody to lift off for you. You don't want to unwind yourself and screw up before you even start. Learn to bring weights out and over the largest part of your upper body, which should be about where your sternum is.

From here, slightly bring the elbows inward. If you don't bring elbows in, you can't bring them out very well. Keep the chest up and try to get your wrist, elbow, and barbell in alignment, or at least close to it. Bring the bar slightly below your nipples and touch on the sternum. Some people like being higher—that's fine, but make sure you're not flaring your elbows out. If your elbows are too far out, you'll get stuck.

A good cue is to keep your chest hidden beneath the bar. You don't want to go full-frontal. Your forearm should touch your biceps and your triceps should touch your lats.

Step 6 Press by driving elbows out and up

At the bottom of the lift your elbows are in. Now you have to bring them out again. Press the barbell by driving the elbows out and up, but don't let them get too far away from your body. At the end of the press, the weight should be locked out above your chin or nose. The travel pattern of the bar will be in a slight arc.


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About The Author

I used to be known as JackAss from my days at elitefts.com, or Smelly from the feature film documentary 'Bigger, Stronger, Faster.'

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mthurston0001

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mthurston0001

I'm going to remember these on next chest day. I've only been lifting a little over a year, but once I learned to really put my legs into it I noticed a huge improvement.

Sep 18, 2013 5:55pm | report
 
wingking

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wingking

Great coaching from Mark. I have always been a pirates dream "sunken chest". Tomorrow in the gym I' am going to GET AFTER IT !!

Sep 18, 2013 6:53pm | report
 
itsJustAROD

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itsJustAROD

I need to get back on the mat in powerlifting. Been off season way too long

Sep 18, 2013 8:45pm | report
 
Saltus

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Saltus

Mark Bell is the boss.

Sep 18, 2013 11:27pm | report
 
lynch0617

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lynch0617

Chest day today, and the 1 day of wendler, I am pumped to see how this goes!

Sep 19, 2013 6:54am | report
 
IronMachine

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IronMachine

Nice article, Smelly.

Sep 19, 2013 11:38am | report
 
Linus6

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Linus6

Probably a silly question, but can these principles also be applied when using dumbells?

Sep 19, 2013 11:41am | report
 
Mudvayne24

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Mudvayne24

To a degree.... Obviously number 1 would not take hold. Number 2, 3, and 4 most definitely. Number 5 and 6 are very useful when using dumbbells, but it'll be a slightly different type of stress than using a barbell. Your elbow positioning will probably be a bit different, but it's still a great overall tool to remember to keep your elbows somewhat close to you. I personally have had experience benching with flared out elbows and it'll totally ***** your rotators. Practice form with elbows closer in, put a little more stress on the pecs and triceps, and alleviate a lot of that shoulder pain.

Sep 19, 2013 2:56pm | report
MrCharles12

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MrCharles12

Debunks alot of the broscience associated with Benching. Worth every minute of learning

Sep 19, 2013 1:30pm | report
 
travis132

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travis132

I'd say every bro I've talked to has recommended pretty much every tip listed here. Broscience is usually right about lifting tips and wrong about supps and pretty much everything else.

Sep 19, 2013 1:57pm | report
XxmetallicaxX

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XxmetallicaxX


I wanna know what technique puts less strain on the AC joint, as of right now im only able to do incline bench and have a little inflammation afterwards but flat or decline kills my shoulder, I had a bad contact injury in bball and its been lingering for 9 months now but I don't want it to get bad again

Sep 19, 2013 2:42pm | report
 
Mudvayne24

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Mudvayne24

If you don't already I would say keep on number 4 and 5. Keeping your shoulder blades back and down will keep more of the stress off of the delts and joints of that area and on the areas that you want.

Number 5 is also huge. Benching with elbows very flared used to kill my shoulders to the point of where I couldn't even lift anything up to eye height laterally.

Sep 19, 2013 3:01pm | report
jwethall

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jwethall

I often did the same until I tore my pec. It was really a result of flaring out my elbows. Its hard, and you'll lose isolation on your chest, but then again the bench press isn't an isolation movement. As Mudvayne reiterated; Keeping the chest high and shoulder blades together really helps, as does keeping elbows in.

Sep 20, 2013 5:13am | report
steelchic

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steelchic

I want to lift my bodyweight. I'm making all the progress of a snail thus far. However, I will keep at it!! Thanks for the tips. :)

Sep 19, 2013 7:01pm | report
 
racks11479

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racks11479

I wish everyday was chest day...

Sep 20, 2013 10:06am | report
 
fredzz1003

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fredzz1003

great article,goona do this before benchpress :)

Sep 20, 2013 11:09am | report
 
shanleef

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shanleef

He is so funny! I loved the tips. I am excited to try them.

Sep 21, 2013 10:17pm | report
 
LtheChase

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LtheChase

One of the best articles ive had the pleasure of seeing on here.

Sep 27, 2013 12:15am | report
 
Pejmonster

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Pejmonster

Fantastic video, and a lot of valuable tips, thank you Mark :)

Oct 18, 2013 8:31am | report
 
MarkFleming44

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MarkFleming44

Solid advice

Oct 22, 2013 12:28am | report
 
lsugal

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lsugal

What would be some suggestions for a slight "hitch" when bench press? I'm a female and have no problem going down...when pushing the weight up, my right arm hesitates and stalls...the right shoulder seems to drop and I lose all momentum or I am able to recover with much struggling to finish the lift.

Apr 21, 2014 2:44pm | report
 
woitw1

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woitw1

I try to add 5 lbs every week to the bar. I still can't lift my body weight (212). but I'm trying

May 6, 2014 3:47pm | report
 
Showing 1 - 22 of 22 Comments

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