I hate the bench press. It takes forever to see any kind of significant gain. I have always had a hard time gaining weight and putting on (non-fat bastard, actual functional mass) size. This makes any and all typical “hypertrophy” and “bodybuilding” almost a total waste of time for me. Couple this with being 6’2” with an 84” wingspan, and I am the perfect genetic storm of bench press mediocrity.
Now that I have used every excuse I can think of to validate my shitty bench press, it has been getting better recently. Sure, training is going well and being consistent over a long timeline is literally all that matters in getting stronger. Success in any individual strength sport, or life in general, can be summed up in one equation:
Time Invested Measured in Years x Consistency Measured in Your Ability to Actually Do the Shit You Need to Do On a Regular Basis = The Outcome You Actually Want and Deserve
Commitment to practicing the skill of strength in the bench press needs to be priority one. Since you’ve found your way to this post in the first place, I’ll just assume you have this aspect already dialed in.
So, onto the cues and what the hell they actually mean:
Bend the bar and pull, don’t push it out of the rack.
The bench press is an open kinetic chain exercise… but it is a closed torque exercise. What this means is the hands are fixed on the bar (unless some kind of catastrophic accident is happening) and it creates a high amount of torque, as well as power and stability, in the shoulders, wrists, and elbows. This drastic increase in torque potential is the reason you can bench press more than you can dumbbell press at the same range of motion. Dumbbell bench work is open chain/open torque. To get the most out of this, you have to understand that pretty much all movement of the human body happens in a circumvential pattern. Everything moves around a joint to either increase or decrease the joint angle. The purpose of “bending the bar” in your hands before the unrack basically “screws” your humerus into the back of the shoulder capsule and depresses the scapulae. This position will feel very, very tight. Once in this position, “pulling the bar out of the rack” correctly will get the lats under tension. Which is incredibly important for the next cue:
Row yourself into the bar.
The goal of the eccentric phase of a bench press is to set yourself up for the shortest concentric phase possible. With your scaps and lats set from the previous cue, you want to imagine you are doing the heaviest, most strict barbell row you have ever done. The elbows should be actively pulling the weight down. This will ensure the lats are staying engaged while simultaneously making sure your thorax/sternum is staying as high as possible, or even actively rising during this phase of the lift.
Violently throw yourself away from the bar.
With all the other cues set in motion, the easy part should be locking the weight out. You should be in a position now where the bar is touching your chest and you have accumulated a pants-shitting amount of tension in your entire upper body. This cue is just to remind you to press and flare hard while actively driving your whole body into your middle/upper traps. The combination of the flare of your elbows and driving your whole body down and back will create the shortest possible pressing distance.
I really have no right writing anything related to bench press training. But, these cues have been really helping me not suck at it so bad lately. Hope this helps.
Solum Per Exitum. Don’t actually shit your pants.