“How much do you bench press?” This is the most often asked question in the gym and in bodybuilding circles. The bench press is the most popular weight training exercise. Go the gym on any Monday night and you’ll see the bench press area populated by those who want to build a bigger chest.

“Why would you want to increase your bench?” If you’re goal is to build a bigger chest, you should look no further than the bench press. The bench builds the muscles of the chest, shoulders, and triceps. If any of these areas are weak, you won’t be able to lift to your full potential. Handling heavier weights in the bench press will lead to increased size in the aforementioned muscle groups.

bench press

There are three components that make up a big bench press: technique, programming, and supporting muscles. The technique is the manner in which you execute the lift. The programming is the bench routine you will use to increase your bench press. The supporting muscles are all other muscles that contribute to the bench press. Technique is the one component that can improve your bench press almost immediately.

There are many bench press styles and your goals will dictate what type of technique you will use. There is the power technique that powerlifters use and the bodybuilding technique. The goal of the powerlifter is to lift the most weight possible from point A to Z. He is not worried about feeling the chest muscles working or stimulating growth. He will use his legs to help him power the bar off the chest. He will also utilize an arch in his back to shorten the distance between the chest and lockout.

The bodybuilder has the ultimate goal of building a bigger chest. He wants to bench press heavier weights but not at the expense of stimulating the muscles of the chest. If your goal is to build muscle, you still need to increase your bench press but utilize a technique that will stimulate the chest muscles while pressing the most weight. Here are some points to remember while bench pressing.

Feet

Your feet should be planted firmly on the ground. During the bench press movement, you should be pushing down with your heels. This will give you a stable base. There should be no excessive foot movement.

Butt and Upper Back

If you compete in bench press contests, your butt must remain in contact with the bench. However, it should still remain on the bench whether you compete or not. Your butt coming off the bench is a sign of excessive leg drive which will take stimulation away from the chest, which is what we don’t want. Your butt should be squeezed tight and in contact with the bench throughout the entire lift.

Your upper back should be tight if you want to increase your bench. The best way to do this is to squeeze your shoulder blades together and “dig” them into the bench. This will give you a solid launching pad from the chest.

Grip

Your grip is the manner in which you grab the bar. You should grip the bar as tight as possible. This will activate the triceps. Grip spacing is how far apart your hands are from each other. Generally, a closer grip involves more triceps and a wider grip involves more shoulder and chest.

The best grip spacing for a big bench press is high individualized. A triceps dominant lifter will prefer a close grip while a shoulder/chest dominant lifter will prefer a wider grip. To find the best grip spacing for you, you will need to experiment with different positions.

Execution

Once you’ve found your proper grip spacing, it’s time to execute the lift. Go through your mental checklist: feet planted firmly, butt squeezed tight, shoulder blades squeezed and dug into the bench, and bar gripped tight. Many lifters are tempted to start the lift immediately after taking the bar out of the hooks. Don’t do this! Take the bar out of the hooks and let the weights settle for a few seconds. You will feel your upper back really start to press into the bench.

Pay attention to your arms, in relation to your body, when you start bringing the bar down to your chest. Many lifters bring the bar down with their arms flared out and almost perpendicular to their body. This causes shoulder strain and short benching careers. You should be tucking your elbows closer to your body where your arms and body will form an almost 45 degree angle. This position also brings your lats into the picture allowing you to handle more weight. Once the bar touches your chest, push the bar back to the starting position.

If you want to increase your bench press, you need to improve all the components including programming, the supporting muscle groups, and your technique. Technique improvement is the one thing that can give you almost instantaneous results but is the least discussed. Improving your technique will give you a better bench press and bigger chest.

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