Improving the BIG THREE: Part 2 Bench Press Drills

Improving the BIG THREE: Part 2 Bench Press Drills

Everyone wants to move big weight on the bench. Add these exercises to your workout routine to do just that!

The bench press is, without a doubt, the most popular weight training exercise on the planet, and with good reason. There may be no better test of absolute strength for the entire upper body.

But, if you walk into any commercial gym you’ll see a variety of bench press exercises, and most of them aren’t any good! Whether it’s half reps, bouncing weights, or extremely rounded back, it’s not pretty! The truth is, most people just need to learn how to bench properly.

The first major point to learn is proper elbow and shoulder position. The elbows should be “tucked” in towards the body at the bottom of the press and the upper arm should form a 45 degree angle with the body. Typically you’ll see upper arms form a 90 degree angle with the body (keeping the elbows out), creating a lot of stress on the shoulder. Not where you want to be when trying to throw up 315! By tucking the elbows, you’ll reduce the rotation of the shoulder and reducing stress on the joint when going through a full range of motion.

It’s also worthwhile mentioning that the bench press is a total body exercise, and we’re not just looking to isolate the “pecs” here. Our goal is to build maximize upper body strength and power, so we want to be as efficient as possible. These then are the drills to teach you proper form to aid you in your quest to move real kilos:

Bench Press with RNT

We often use a band around the wrist to teach proper pressing technique, as bands force the wrist together causing the elbows to “flare” out. By spreading the band apart you’ll activate the muscles in your upper back and press more efficiently. Bands help you feel the stabilizer muscles in the upper back “turn on,” and can be used to illuminate what it feels like to properly tuck the elbows in when benching. This is another form of RNT (Reactive Neuromuscular Training) for it forces you into the problem to have you correct yourself.

It’s important to also think about “bending the bar,” or “pulling the bar apart,” when pressing to activate the upper back and keep the elbows tucked. If you don’t have access to a short band you can double up a longer band for a similar effect.

When watching the video, notice how the lifter “tucks” his elbows as he lowers the band to his chest, and “flares” them out as I push the band away from his body. Again, this style of pressing will greatly reduce the stress on your shoulders (versus a typical “body building” style bench) and increase your overall stability in the lowering phase of the bench press.

Reverse Band Bench Row

In addition to tucking your elbows on the bench, it’s also important to set up properly to activate the lats during the movement, and Reverse Band Bench Rows are the best way to teach this.

The lats are an important stabilizer for all pressing movements. You should always think about “pulling” the bar down and keeping your “belly up” when benching. This will allow for greater control of the press and eliminate any of the bouncing typically seen. The larger and thicker the upper back and lats are, the more stable your base to press from is.

When you set up properly, you’ll create tension throughout your entire body, making it much easier to get the bar down and into your natural bench bar path. For set up, put the bands on top of a power rack as if you were performing a reverse band bench press. The bar should sit right about where you would lock out a bench. Keep your shoulder blades pulled down, your back flat, and your feet and legs set tight on the bench. Grab the bar with your normal bench grip, focus on pulling the bar down, and keep your belly up.

Drive your heels down into the floor and suck in big air to the belly to create tightness throughout the entire body. Doing this will leave you even tighter through your lats, abs and glutes.

Reverse Band Bench rows will improve pressing technique and doing them consistently will help you become rock solid in all of your pressing attempts!

If you’d like, you can even combine these drills to create an even more effective training method. But, regardless of whether you decide to do these drills separately or together, just do them. You’ll experience a large increase in your bench strength while reducing your chances of injury.

To help increase your bench numbers, 1R would also recommend the following supplements:

  1. Optimum Nutrition 2:1:1 Recovery - The carbs and protein will help you recover and build lean muscle faster after tough workouts
  2. Cytosport Creatine - By increasing your body's ATP production creatine will help you become more explosive, more powerful, and more athletic when taken before or after workouts
  3. Optimum Nutrition ZMA – The combination of natural minerals in this supplement will help you get a better, deeper sleep so that you’re back to 100% the next day
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About the Author

Coach John Gaglione is a Sport Performance Specialist out of Long Island New York. He is a certified "Underground" Strength coach who specializes in training combat athletes. An avid strength sport athlete, John also competes in powerlifting and kettlebell strong sport competitions. If you would like to learn more about John you can reach him at www.gaglionestrength.com or e-mail him at gaglionestrength@gmail.com.