Mastering the Bench Press For Powerlifting Success

Mastering the Bench Press For Powerlifting Success

The bench press is a fundamental lift in powerlifting, often seen as a measure of upper body strength. Perfecting your bench press technique is crucial for lifting heavier weights and preventing injury. Whether you’re a seasoned powerlifter or just starting, refining your bench press can lead to significant improvements in your performance. This guide will delve into the key aspects of bench press technique, offering tips to help you lift safely and effectively.

Understanding the Bench Press

The bench press involves lying on a bench and pressing a barbell from your chest to full arm extension. This compound movement primarily targets the pectoral muscles, triceps, and deltoids, but it also engages the core and upper back muscles. The bench press is one of the three main lifts in powerlifting, alongside the squat and deadlift.

Key Components of Bench Press Technique

  1. Setup

    • Position on the Bench: Lie flat on the bench with your eyes directly under the bar. Your feet should be flat on the floor, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
    • Arch Your Back: Create a slight arch in your lower back by lifting your chest and squeezing your shoulder blades together. This helps to engage your upper back muscles and create a stable base.
    • Grip: Grip the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Your wrists should be straight, and the bar should rest in the base of your palms.
  2. Foot Placement and Leg Drive

    • Feet Flat: Ensure your feet are flat on the ground to provide stability and support.
    • Leg Drive: Engage your legs by pushing your feet into the floor. This helps to generate force and stabilise your body during the lift.
  3. Unracking the Bar

    • Lift Off: With a spotter’s help if necessary, unrack the bar and position it directly above your shoulders. Your elbows should be locked out, and your wrists should be straight.
  4. Lowering the Bar

    • Control: Lower the bar to your chest in a controlled manner. Your elbows should be at a 45-degree angle to your body.
    • Touch Point: Aim to touch the bar to the lower part of your chest or upper abdomen. This ensures optimal muscle engagement and reduces shoulder strain.
  5. Pressing the Bar

    • Drive Up: Press the bar back up to the starting position by driving through your chest and triceps. Your elbows should extend fully, and your wrists should remain straight.
    • Bar Path: The bar should follow a slight arc, moving back towards your shoulders as you press up.
  6. Lockout

    • Full Extension: Ensure your arms are fully extended at the top of the lift. Avoid locking your elbows too aggressively, as this can strain your joints.

Common Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

  1. Flared Elbows: Flaring your elbows out too much can increase shoulder strain. Keep your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body to protect your shoulders and enhance muscle engagement.
  2. Poor Wrist Position: Allowing your wrists to bend back excessively can cause discomfort and reduce pressing power. Keep your wrists straight and the bar in the base of your palms.
  3. Bouncing the Bar: Bouncing the bar off your chest uses momentum rather than muscle strength, increasing the risk of injury. Lower the bar with control and touch your chest lightly before pressing up.
  4. Lifting Hips: Lifting your hips off the bench to generate momentum can lead to back strain and reduced stability. Keep your hips firmly on the bench throughout the lift.

Tips for Improving Your Bench Press

  1. Strengthen Supporting Muscles: Incorporate accessory exercises like tricep dips, chest flyes, and shoulder presses to strengthen the muscles involved in the bench press.
  2. Improve Shoulder Mobility: Good shoulder mobility can enhance your bench press form and reduce the risk of injury. Incorporate shoulder stretches and mobility drills into your routine.
  3. Use Paused Reps: Practicing paused reps, where you briefly hold the bar on your chest before pressing up, can improve strength and control.
  4. Work on Technique: Regularly practice your bench press technique with lighter weights to focus on form and make necessary adjustments.
  5. Seek Professional Guidance: Working with a coach or experienced lifter can provide valuable feedback on your technique and help you make necessary adjustments.


The bench press is a critical lift in powerlifting, requiring a combination of strength, technique, and stability. By focusing on proper form and addressing common mistakes, you can lift heavier weights safely and effectively. Remember, the bench press is not just about raw power; it’s about precision, control, and coordination. Keep these tips in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving powerlifting success.

Recommended Gym Accessories

When incorporating Bench Presses into your workout routine, having the right gym accessories can enhance your performance and comfort:

  • Lifting Gloves: Provide grip support and prevent the dumbbells from slipping during the exercise, ensuring a secure hold.
  • Elbow Sleeves: Offer compression and support to the elbows, reducing the risk of injury and providing stability during the bench press movement. SBD elbow sleeves offer a premium choice for this.
  • Wrist Wraps: Provide additional wrist support, particularly for individuals with wrist discomfort or mobility issues, helping maintain proper wrist alignment. Our wrist wraps come with a choice of flexible or stiff options.
  • Bench Pad or Cushion: Place under your upper back for extra comfort and support, especially if the bench is hard or uncomfortable.

FAQs About Bench Press Technique

1. How wide should my grip be on the bench press?

  • Your grip should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. This helps engage the chest muscles more effectively and reduces shoulder strain.

2. How often should I bench press?

  • Frequency depends on your training programme and recovery ability. Generally, bench pressing once or twice a week is effective for most lifters, allowing adequate recovery time.

3. Should I use a spotter for the bench press?

  • Yes, using a spotter is recommended, especially when lifting heavy weights. A spotter can assist you in unracking the bar and provide safety in case you struggle with a lift.

4. Can I use a bench press shirt for training?

  • Bench press shirts are typically used in equipped powerlifting competitions and provide extra support. While they can be beneficial for heavy lifts, training without a shirt helps build raw strength and technique.

5. How can I avoid shoulder pain during bench press?

  • Ensuring proper form, particularly keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle and maintaining a slight arch in your back, is key. If you experience persistent pain, consider consulting a coach or physical therapist to assess your technique and address any underlying issues.

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