Bench Press Mistakes
The bench press is the most popular lift in the gym. Everyone is doing it and most doing it wrong. In my previous article I explained how to ‘Bench Press to Impress’ and detailed how the bench press should be performed.
This article is about the bench press mistakes a lot of people make and what to do about it! I bet you have made at least one of these mistakes in the past or are still making them now, I know I have.
Bouncing the Weight
Bouncing the weight off the chest is probably my biggest mistake and the one I see most often. As the bar touches the chest you should pause briefly before the pressing motion to avoid injury. The pause also keeps the tension in your body and allows for a more powerful press.
Going too Heavy
This is an ego mistake and can be caused by many things, a good looking girl working out nearby, your lifting partner getting through a sticking point and overtaking you or a newbie you want to impress. However, going to heavy is a big mistake and can actually put your training back. A weight that is too heavy can throw your position out and make you unstable on the bench thus risking injury and even worse a failed lift! Stick to completing your 1 rep max lift just once in a while and do not make it a regular thing.
Maxing Out Every Week
This is similar to ‘Going to Heavy’ only this time you are literally working yourself into the ground every week. This breaks and tears down the muscles which causes your bench to drop which is opposite of your goals. Max out your workouts every couple of weeks to keep up the pressure to improve without the dangers of injury and burning out. The rest of the time work hard but within limits.
Incorrect Benching Position
Gripping, lowing and pressing correctly can add huge weight to your maximum lifts so obviously the opposite is also true and an incorrect set up can dramatically damage yourpress. Make sure you lock you shoulders, glutes and feet in position and keep them locked. See my article ‘How to Bench to Impress’ for a more detailed explanation.
Benching too Often
Why, oh why, do I see people bench pressing every workout? This does not make you stronger, in fact, completely the opposite. Your chest does not have time to recover and thus the muscle never has time to repair, grow and strengthen. Once a week please!
Touching the Chest too High
This is closely linked to ‘Incorrect Benching Position’. When at the bottom of the lift the bar should touch around your sternum. This keeps the forearms as vertical as possible and is the strongest possible position. Higher up the chest takes away the power and can cause injury to the shoulders as the wide, flared elbows separate the joint.
Not Warming Up Properly
Probably the hardest mistake to correct. Too many warm ups and you are too fatigued for the top sets, too few and you are risking injury to cold muscles. I try to complete at least four warm up sets usually based on 20, 40, 60 and finally 80% of my working set. For example if I was going to complete 8 sets of 3 reps with 160kg my warm up might look something like:
15 reps with 30kg.
10 reps with 60kg.
8 reps with 100kg.
5 reps with 130kg.
This is nearly 30 reps to warm up the muscle but only 5 reps with any significant weight.
Any of these mistakes can stall your bench press progress and stop you reaching your goals. Drop the ego, drop the weight, get the technique right and increase your bench press now. In 2005 I could bench press what I though was a very respectable 120kg and then I met my friend Dave ‘Bulldog’ Beattie and he changed my perspective of what I thought was a good bench press. Watching him bench press close to 300kg made me realize I had to improve. He taught me the above principles and in 2009 I finished second in the WPC World Powerlifing Championship and benched 285kg just six months after injuring my pectoral muscle in a raw competition. My best ‘raw’ bench press in competition is 225kg in 2008.