In this post, I will present you a couple of ways to increase the involvement of the chest muscles in the bench press.
1. Lower the weight
Your ego may hate it, but learning proper form requires a reduction of the load. You can’t make effective changes to your technique with heavy weights. The body needs time to adapt to the new groove. When your focus is on lifting more weight, your strongest body parts take over. This could potentially diminish the involvement of the chest in the movement.
2. Grab the bar and crush it
When you hold the bar as hard as you can, you form a strong base and increase the muscle tension in the whole upper body chain. You will feel tension going down from your forearms, into your biceps and even into your chest by just holding the bar tight. Squeeze!
3. Lower the bar under control
Don’t let the bar crash on your chest. Hold it tight and lower it under control. Many people only care about the lifting part, but the negative (lowering) is just as important since it prepares you for the actual pushing phase. If you are not tight, you are losing strength. In addition, any amount of bouncing and instability will increase the stress on the joints tremendously. Be in control of the weight as much as it allows you to.
4. Stick your chest out, arch your back
Excessive arching of your spine is counter-productive. However, you still need an arch to stretch your chest and pre-load it. Stick your chest out, keep your shoulders pressing against the bench and flex your lats to stabilize the shoulder blades.
5.Don’t keep your elbows too close to your body
You shouldn’t keep your elbows too close to your body. Flare them to the sides a little bit. This will increase the involvement of the chest in the bench. If your elbows are tucked too close to your body, you are shifting the stress onto the anterior deltoids and the arms.
However, don’t flare your arms too much either because flared elbows and ultra-wide grips place a lot of stress on the rotator cuff and the chest tendons. Somewhere in the middle is best.
6. On the way up imagine that you are trying to bring your arms together
While all other points are important, this one makes all the difference. When you are pushing the weight up, imagine that you are trying you bring your hands together. DON’T ACTUALLY DO IT! Just imagine it. It helps if you visualize a spring being squeezed between your hands. If you do this technique correctly, it will give you a great chest pump. You can use the same technique during other exercises such as push-ups and dumbbell bench presses.