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Bench Press Technique
The Perfect Barbell Bench Press, My Way

By: Aj DiCaprio

The Joke:

I'm going to share a little inside joke with: "Dude, how much can you bench"? A question I am asked either face to face or in an email. I am sure that most of you who may have achieved a certain body type and a certain look are asked the same question. Men are obsessed with "how much" they can lift and some gain a certain amount of self worth by telling a room full of people how much they can bench. Yet, on the other hand, some are embarrassed to tell and have to follow it with an excuse like one of an injury. I say the joke is really on them. Unless you are going to wear your maximum weight bench press on your t-shirt, no one will really know how much you can lift, and honestly, no one really cares.

The real punch line is the guys who need to create a drama in the gym when they are on the flat bench. The stage is usually set with a straight bar loaded with plates, a few buddies spotting at each end and deafening screams as he pushes up one rep before the bar bends at the center. Again, I say who cares. What is even funnier than the sideshow is the form. Their feet are flat on the floor of flat at the end of the bench and their body is arched into an Olympic Gold Medal back bend. I always wanted to ask them, "Do you feel good about yourself now?"

What these guys fail to realize is that all the dramatics and the loud screams spotlight their lack of proper form and their deeper emotional problems and insecurities. Not to mention how inconsiderate it is to other members who are concentrating on their workouts. Sure, you might draw a crowd, but so does a head on collision on the freeway. Now, I have no medical studies to back up my emotional claim but I do for the injuries. Like the accident on the freeway, poor form in the gym and an obsession with weight rather than form can prove fatal to your lifting lifestyle. Many have blown out shoulders, elbows, backs, and suffer torn peck muscles. How tough will you look when you can't even pull yourself out of bed?

Here's a question that might make you think. Would you go to a dentist with rotten teeth? No, you wouldn't and my point is that most of these guys and girls that engage in such improper form are not the bodies we all admire anyway, so ignore their poor gym etiquette and poor workout techniques. Forget about impressing the gym with how much you can lift and impress them with your mind and your body. Stay true to form, and once the form is perfect then go for the weight.

2 things, heavy weight with proper form, and a good body impress me; besides, you'll get more attention in the long run with your shirt off when you do it the right way.

Types of bench presses, grips and muscles used:

We have the all-popular flat bench; incline bench, the decline bench, and an argument as to which "bench" develops which part of the chest. Then we have the preferred grips, hands wider on the bar or closer. I am going to make this very easy to understand, mainly because all of the medical terms and studies bore me as well. The bench press is and has been the most universal measurement of strength among athletes, mainly because it is a true measure of over-all upper body strength not just the chest. Although it will develop the chest, and it does workout the chest, it also uses front shoulders, triceps, and your latissimus dorsi or "lat muscles" when you perform a proper bench press. Many are unaware of the lats being used, but studies show and common sense would back it up that your lats are used to first help move the weight off your chest and up for the finish. All of these other muscles are active for a short period. So, your pecs or your chest muscles are not doing 100% of the job when performing a flat bench press. This is why it is very important to use proper form to gain full benefit from a bench press.

Incline verses decline:

Honestly, I have rarely done a decline press. I have personally found my best results with either the incline bench press or flat bench press, using either the straight bar or dumbbells or both.

My grip usually varies as well. I found that going a little wider on the bar I work the outer portions of the chest and surprising to most I can also work the lower portion of my chest with a wider grip. The closer I put my hands the more I am working upper chest and triceps. Let me say for the record, that when I describe further out or closer in terms of a grip, that means that my adjustment either in or out is slight. To far out will stress your upper shoulders, too far in will work your triceps. Remember, this is an upper body exercise, meaning more than one body part. The grip can be determined by first observing the straight bar provided at the gym. Most professional gym equipment will have notches etched into the bar. Your body should be centered under those notches. A neutral grip is with that notch dead center on your palms. The variation in grip comes in whether you move your hands slightly one way or the other, slightly meaning an inch to an inch and a half depending on your hand size.

The Bench Press My Way:

First, as I say in every video, stretch! Warm up and focus your mind on the body part you are working in this case chest. Although, as I said, the bench press does work other body parts I do it on my chest days and either start with it or end with it.

After stretching, set yourself up with a flat bench, and put the lightest weight first on the bar. Now position yourself first by sitting on the end of the bench, then lying back with your back flat and your shoulder blades touching the bench. Now, lift your feet off the floor, cross them at the ankles and put your feet in the air keeping your back flat on the bench at all times. Envision this, the position you should be in right now is one where by if you were strapped in a seated position on a chair and someone pushed your back. Your knees remain bent. This will always insure that your back is flat and will avoid you cheating by pushing up off the bench, or the floor and arching your back.

So in this position, ankles crossed, knees bent and back flat, I'll repeat that "back flat", reach up and put your hands in position as described above. I start out first with the line in the bar at the center of my palms. Lift the weight off the bench, feel the weight, and be conscious of your form. Slowly lower, the weight down to your chest. This uses the negative motion do not let it drop; the word is control.

More Funk, something special:

Apart from the way I position my feet in the air, I use another technique that insures me getting full benefit from this exercise. Rather than bring the bar to the center of my chest like most, I bring the bar higher up to just under my throat at the collarbone. There are many reasons for this method and the madness. First and most obvious, as we discuss proper form this will avoid you cheating by bouncing the weight off your chest and using your ribs as a springboard to lift the weight up. Secondly, this method has eliminated my need for a decline bench. This small variation and huge special technique will make the difference between nipples that point up or nipples that point down. This, along with a slightly wider grip on the bar will really work your lower chest on the upswing of the weight, and your upper chest on the down swing.

Once you have lifted the weight down to your collarbone, pause for one second and lift up. Repeat this movement for 8-10 reps and then rest. Do about 4 sets the first being a warm up and a way to familiarize you with the technique. If you need another warm up take it. Please keep in mind that even the most advanced bodybuilders have had to lower their weight considerably when doing a flat bench my way. It forces you to use proper form and you will soon see how weak you really are when you use proper form. Once you master this exercise and you will, you should increase your weight gradually. You will notice that by doing it this way you will actually increase your bench press and enjoy the benefits of a strong well defined, lean mean upper body. I will be impressed when you can push up some heavy weight and do it with out cheating, do it with proper form.

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