Ways to Screw Up Your Bench Press


Mondays are universal chest day. And what is a better way to build impressive chest than bench press?

Bench press is an amazing compound exercise that not only targets your chest, but works your shoulders and triceps as well. As with most compound exercises such as squats and deadlift, involvement of multiple joints and muscles allow you to lift large amount of weight. This exercise is good to build strength as well as to help the chest grow in size, but do this wrong and you are going to end up with misbalanced chest, broken shoulder, collapsed vertebrae or even broken chest bone. So, here are top 4 ways you can screw up your bench press.

Flare the Elbows

I have often seen people flare out their elbows while doing bench press. Flaring of elbows means that when you lower down the weight till your chest, the elbows move away from the body. Moving the elbows way out is a danger sign. This puts your shoulders under extra stress specially the rotator cuff muscles, which can be severely damaged.

Here is what to do:

When you lower the weight, make sure that your elbows are close to your body. The angle between the elbows and the body should be about 70 degrees (anywhere less than 90⁰ and more than 30⁰). This will reduce force on your shoulders and put maximum stretch on your chest.

Stoop Shoulders

Another common mistake people make in bench press is they bring the shoulders forward in order to lift the weight up. This draws the load from the chest and puts extra load on the delicate shoulders. This is the main reason why most people have well developed anterior deltoids but the chest lacks definition. This is also the reason why some people have stooped posture. Because the well-developed deltoid pulls the shoulders forward.

Here is what to do:

Before you even lift the bar, retract your shoulder blades and try to bring them as close together as possible. This will automatically depress your shoulders and keep the chest in pre-stretched position.

Feet Off the Ground

It is common to lift the feet of the ground when the weight becomes difficult to lift. This will make lifting the weight even more difficult. Moreover, it will put extra stress on shoulders and lower back.

Here is what to do:

Remember that bench press is a compound exercise. Before you even lift the bar, plant your feet firmly on the ground. Spread the legs and use lower body strength if needed.

Bouncing the Weight

Many people bounce the weight off of their chest. This can result in damage to vessels and bone in the chest. It is not uncommon to see fracture of chest bone due to weight crashing over it.

Here is what to do:

Lower the bar slowly, under control, till your nipples. As soon as the bar touches your chest, lift the bar back up. This will keep your body safe and increase time under tension for chest muscles resulting in better results. It is also recommended to keep a spotter when lifting heavy weights.

Arch Your Back

Many people bend their lower back while doing bench press. This increases the curvature of the vertebrae abnormally putting it under excess stress. This can even result in damage to the vertebrae and spinal compression.

Here is what to do:

Do not stress over the lower back, do not arch it up. Instead, lie flat on the bench with normal curvature of the spine intact.

Widen Your Grip

The wider the grip you use, the more stress it puts on your shoulders. As already mentioned, shoulders are small muscles which cannot lift heavy weights as much as chest can. Putting them under extra stress is a road to injury.

Here is what to do:

Firmly hold the bar with true grip, only slightly wider than your shoulder width. This will help divert stress away from shoulders and more on the chest.

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