On paper the bench press is supposed to be a chest, triceps and shoulder exercise. However, since it’s a compound movement that involves many muscle group, sometimes one of the muscles will be lagging and performing less work. Often that’s the chest. Many people develop bigger arms and shoulders from bench presses alone, but there chests remain flat and underdeveloped. In this article we will show you how to activate your chest when doing the bench press.
1.Lower the amount of weight you are lifting
You ego may hate it, but in order to learn proper technique you need to lower the weight. If the weight is too heavy, chances are you will focus mainly on lifting the barbell in anyway possible. This is called ego lifting and is the reason why your dominant body parts take over. Lower the weight and start working on your bench press technique.
2.Grab the bar really hard
When you hold the bar as hard as you can you are forming a strong base and increase the muscle tension. In this case that’s good because unlike sports such as swimming lifting weights is about strength, and tension is required. When you hold the bar harder you immediately improve your strength because less of it is lost in the nothingness when you push-up. You will feel tension going down from your forearms, into your biceps and even in your chest by just holding the bar tight.
3.Lower the bar under control
Don’t just let the bar crash on your chest. Hold it tight and lower it under control. A great deal of 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 and don’t lower the weight under control, you are losing strength. Your joints are also compromised. Be in control of the weight as much as it allows you.
4.Stick your chest out, arch your back
Excessive arching of your spine is counter productive. However, you need some of it to stretch your chest and sort of pre-load it. Stick your chest out, keep your shoulders pressing against the bench and flex your lats in order to stabilize the shoulder blades in place. Keep your shoulders tight all the time. If you let your shoulder lose its tightness, you are putting it in a compromised position where it’s separated from your torso. That’s weakness and possible injury may occur. If you do the bench press correctly, you will feel your lats working really hard to stabilize the weight, keep the arch and reduce the unnecessary mobility of the shoulder joint.
5.Don’t keep your elbows too close to your body
You shouldn’t keep your elbows your elbows too close to your body. Flare your elbows to the sides a little. This will keep the stretch of the pectoral muscles. If your elbows are tucked too close to your body, you are sort of reducing the tension on your chest muscles and placing more of the load on the front deltoids and upper arms. However, don’t flare your arms too much either because flared elbows and wide grip will kill your shoulders in a heartbeat. Somewhere in the middle is the 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 even do it when you are performing other exercises such as push-ups and dumbbell bench presses.