Bench press; one of the most primitive and effective exercises you can do in the gym. The bench press has a fascinating history, but this lift is also regularly performed incorrectly. In this blog we discuss the 5 most common mistakes made during the bench press and we talk about the origin of this powerful lift.
A movement that has evolved to meet the needs of many athletes. Although the history of the bench press can be traced back to Greco-Roman times, when soldiers performed push-ups and weight exercises, the 'real' history of the bench press began around 1899 when the Russian George Hackenshmidt discovered the floor press.
Lying on his back, he rolled a 100-pound barbell over his face and pushed it upward. Unbeknownst to him, this move was the start of the now wildly popular bench press. Compared to the bench press on a bench, the floor press is very difficult. This move requires a lot of upper body strength and you can hardly "cheat". Heavyweight Georg Lurich did a floor press of no less than 200 kilos a few years later. Unlike Hackenshmidt, Lurich had used a 'belly throw' technique rather than a strict press. The belly throw technique became wildly popular soon after this moment, as it allowed athletes to press heavier weights The belly throw technique remained popular for most of the 1920s and 1930s.
Placing the barbell over their abs allowed lifters to explode upward in a hip thrust-like motion, "throwing" the barbell overhead. Not necessarily very pretty, but very effective.
As the 1920s turned into the 1930s, criticism of the belly throw method began to rise. By the mid-1930s, athletes began to use wooden boxes or benches to lie on and press dumbbells up from their chests. Unlike the belly throw, this form of lifting isolated the pectoral and deltoid muscles to a much greater extent. In addition, it helped minimize the use of momentum to lift the weight. It was the Amateur Athletic Union that formally ended the belly throw in 1939. From then on, bending your legs, lifting your glutes or back off the bench or even lifting your heels meant disqualification from the competition. The belly throw became a thing of the past and the bench press as we know it today was born.
5 most common bench press mistakes
Today, the bench press is still an important exercise for anyone serious about building muscle, strength and size. Besides being one of the three powerlifts (together with the squat and deadlift), it's also one of the most effective chest and triceps exercises you can do. With the bench press you train more muscles in one movement compared to any other chest exercise. However, this exercise is regularly performed incorrectly, which makes it not only less efficient, but also increases the chance of risks. Below we discuss the most common mistakes and the solution.
1. Elbows that go out
Make sure to actively pull the bar down as you pull your elbows to your sides. Initially, you will not be able to lift as much weight with this technique. As you learn the technique and build your triceps and back strength, you can put more weight on the barbell without hurting your shoulders. Pull ups and exercises for developing the triceps will help you improve your bench press. Since your biceps have a stabilizing role during the bench press, you should not forget to train these as well. So do some insulating biceps work as well, possibly in combination with the triceps exercises.
2. Wrists bend back
The wrists are usually a problem with newer lifters and don't get the attention they deserve. Relaxed wrists are problematic in the bench press for two reasons: it causes loss of strength and is uncomfortable and can lead to pain. For the recreational lifter, it's a good idea to aim for a barbell that rests in the "meat of the hands." The wrists are not too far back, but also not dead straight. This allows the barbell to sit above the elbow joint when it is at the bottom of the movement, improving efficiency and reducing the risk of injury.
3. Shoulder Pain While Bench Pressing
Because the front of your shoulders is only a small muscle group and it is heavily loaded during the bench press, it is important to relieve it as much as possible. After all, your goal during the bench press is to strengthen your chest muscles. If you feel shoulder pain while doing the bench press, chances are you're extending your elbows out too much when the barbell is at the bottom of the lift. This puts a lot of pressure on the shoulder and rotator cuff complex and can cause pain. Keep your elbows about 45 degrees from your torso throughout the movement. Don't let them swing out. To improve this, you can add push-ups in sets of many reps to your workout.
4. Loss of tension during the movement
Create tension in your back, push your feet down and as the barbell moves down, focus on pushing up from the chest. If you take a big breath by pushing your chest up and locking it in place, the barbell's movement will be steady and controlled. Only exhale when the barbell has passed dead center, so that you maintain sufficient tension during the entire lift. By doing a lot of reps with little weight and focusing purely on your technique, you can solve this problem
5. Failing Lockout
If your lockout fails, it could be due to a lack of explosiveness during the lift. When the speed decreases, you come to a point where you can no longer keep the barbell in motion and thus stagnate and stand still. You can improve your explosiveness by bench pressing with resistance bands, doing fast reps with less weight, and adding pushups to your workout. Also watch your feet. A common mistake is keeping the heels up and only the toes on the floor. For a solid foundation, press into the ground with your feet flat.
Are you looking for the right equipment to effectively bench press? On our website you will find benches, racks, barbells, and plates, so you can get started right away. Do you have questions about our products? Please contact us.