The bench press is one of the greatest exercises we can perform, and often seen as the ultimate test for strength when working out. Although the bench press seems like a super simple exercise in which you simply lower the bar down to your chest and push it back up, it’s much more than just a simple movement. The bench press engages a few muscles including pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, triceps brachii, and even stabilizer muscles such as the trapezius and serratus. So when it comes to the bench press, many people often perform the exercise with some sort of error that is easy to fix in a few simple steps.
Lacking adequate range of motion. Most often, the number one mistake that many people who perform the bench press make are simply lacking or having too little of a range of motion. What this means is that the amount of travel distance in which the bar moves from its starting height to be lowered is very minimal. This doesn’t allow the pectoralis muscles to be properly engaged fully and create a great amount of stimulation. Drop the weight load on the bar and focus more on the movement of the exercise. The movement is far more important over how much weight you can simply push.
Too much engagement of the leg muscles. I know this may sound strange but for many lifters who perform the bench press, often times you will be using too much of your leg muscles to help with the lift. Many people will force their legs into the ground with so much force and effort that it will make the glutes rise off of the bench in part of this. Your legs shouldn’t be helping you lift the bar at all, and instead should just be helping you get set up into the proper position for the exercise. Proper leg placement helps set tension onto your traps and upper back for support for the chest. Drive through your toes to help keep your feet properly on the ground with feet directly below the knees at the bend.
Insufficient control over the bar. Many lifters who perform the bench press simply lower and raise the weight during the exercise. What this does is it makes the barbell to be lowered far too quickly to the chest and simply bounce off of the chest back up the starting position. When the weight gets lowered too fast and bounced, you fail to engage and actually use any muscles. If you really want to build strength, you will need to fix this. The best method to fix this mistake is to lower the bar in a slow and controlled fashion, usually about 2-3 seconds from the starting position to lower until the bar touches your chest. Once the bar touches your chest, pause for 1-2 seconds to remove all inertia and prevent bouncing of the bar. Push the bar back up while keeping back and glutes grounded to the bench. Once at the top of the motion or movement, pause for 1-2 seconds before lowering to perform the next rep.
The improper grip of the bar. Many times I have seen people grip the bar with thumb placement being entirely wrong. I see the thumbs placed in an outside grip pointing outwards from the bar and not actually wrapping the bar as it should. Make sure you wrap your thumbs around the bar as it provides a great deal of security and stability when you are holding and controlling the bar. This can be a great factor between simply dropping the bar by accident or not. Although it may seem silly, you will most likely find a time in which you are exhausted and don’t realize it until you are pushing the bar upwards and you no longer have full control. At this point a simply error as improper thumb placement to secure your grip could be the deciding factor in which the bar will remaining above you and stable or possibly be dropped onto your chest. Secure the bar and use proper thumb and hand placement for control.
Although these 4 simple tips may sound silly and stupid, these are common errors that many athletes and weightlifters make when performing the bench press. Fix these errors if you are guilty of them and you will notice a great improvement in strength and results over time, even if it means using a much lower weight compared to what you previously could perform with. Proper form with training is the goal and sacrificing weight for the form is something everyone should be able to live with, one should never sacrifice form in order to lift more weight. Poor form can result in many possibilities of injury.