Bench set up

Discussion in 'Strength-Specific Training (SST)' started by Aaron_F, Aug 9, 2004.

  1. Aaron_F

    Aaron_F New Member

    I got asked the other day to write up how one should set up on the bench, for a PL style bench, but with flat feet.

    Having your foot flat on the floor is one of the rules for certain federations, including the IPF.

    Basically this is how it should be done. (raw lifters first)

    1) lie down on the bench, take an underhand grip on the bar
    2) pinch the shoulder blades together and tighten up the whole upper back.
    3) use your arms to lift you upper back into postition then PIN it in place while arching the upper and lower backs to the maximum.
    4) Place hands in correct position for benching, lock the upper body in place.
    5) put feet on the ground, and bring them as far underneath you as you can, you may have to spread the feet out wider to get as far in as possible
    6) rotate your pelvis towards the bench (try and touch your groin onto the bench), and push with the legs
    7) big chest/abs, and breath in as tightly as possible.

    this entire postition should be rock solid.with the only areas on the bench being the upper traps and the butt/upper thigh area. Legs should be driving back towards your traps to pin them into the bench.

    Shirted benchers have to be more careful when pinnign the shoulder blades back and the way they position their arms becuase this can influence any movement of the shirt on the body.

    If your in a federation that allows just the ball of the feet on the ground, the arch can be maximised by driving the feet right under the bench, and balancing on the balls. This can make the bench harder to balance, especially when combined with the shirt causing enough problems by itself.
  2. Aaron_F

    Aaron_F New Member

    When benching with a shirt, the groove should also be different than raw. The shirt alters everything
    1) Basically start with the hands as wide as possible (81cm mark in PL)
    2) to lower hte bar, pretend you are bending it towards your toes, and bring your elbows in against your side as tightly as you can. This will change where hte bar lands on your body (upper abs, lower chest) and will set you up to throw the bar back up. It also allows the lats to control the decent of the bar better, and allows you to pull it slightly if needed to get the bar to touch.
    3) after pausing, the initial drive should be backup towards over the shoulders
    4) at half way or a little higher, the elbows should be turned outwards, and you should be trying to rip the bar apart with your arms. This will get the tris hammering the weight.
    Raw benching can be done very similar (as doing it this way gives a lot less stress on the shoulders) but hte tuck doesnt have to be as tight as when wearing a shirt.

    WIth a shirt, when comming down in the perfect area you can feel a large amount of resistance building in the 'sweet' spot. When here there can be a bit of a desire to let the bar chose its own course to make touching the weight easier. You should resist this and make the bar travel the correct, hardest course. However this may require a larger amount of weight to touch, but maintaining the groove allows to better technique, and easier weights.
    Some people have the problem of letting the forearms tilt towards the toes to allow it to touch. This makes it easier to touch, but when you drive, the weight is away from its leverage which makes it easier to throw the weight over your stomach, and once there the lift has to be stopped. If you do this you are also more likely to allow the elbows to come out from the side of the body, this will give you the ability to drop the bar down, but also remove the ability to give it maximal force in the opposite direction.

    If you let the forearms come back to your face to touch, you are basically doing a heavy sorta JM press, with the weight not being in the correct area
    This basically is why there is so many people having issues with shirts (myself included) and why it is so utterly important to train in the shirt, and to train full range in the shirt.
    Good luck
  3. mikeynov

    mikeynov Super Moderator Staff Member

    Thank you sir =)
  4. EctoSquat

    EctoSquat New Member

    Good article.
  5. OneMoreRep

    OneMoreRep New Member

    very good article. i'll try to improve my form... this style might prevent injury as well i'd imagine?
  6. Aaron_F

    Aaron_F New Member

    It takes a lot of strain out of the movement. Control and maintenance of opposing muscle groups is also important for some
  7. Chthonian

    Chthonian New Member

    Doesn't a PLing form of benching take away from the pecs and place more emphasis on the triceps and deltoids?

    If so, wouldn't benching in this manner (an extreme arch) be suboptimal for hypertrophy of the chest?
  8. Aaron_F

    Aaron_F New Member

    1) not really. If you are doing it right, your using the chest, delts and triceps to their maximum
    2) we are in the strength forum, so hypertrophy isnt really the goal. But in the end you are doing a decline bench. It doesnt appear to make much difference. I havent done many incline benches over hte past 4 years, and my chest is developed pretty much the same shape as it ever was, but now is thicker due to hte increased benching.
  9. Chthonian

    Chthonian New Member

    Good to hear, Aaron. I know vicious opposes the flat bench due to the stress it places on the rotator cuffs. Could it be that people with longer limbs, or just taller people in general, have problems with the bench? I know you said you were 5'8" or so, which could explain why you don't have benching problems.

    Then again, maybe there is something else I'm missing. It's a classic exercise, and although there are other great ones out there, I have a hard time dropping it. What say you about rotator cuff injury prevention and susceptibility with the flat bench press?
  10. Aaron_F

    Aaron_F New Member

    Im more along hte lines of genetic predisposition. I have known short stocking guys with short arms getting all sorts a problems, others who are the classical anti-benchers never getting any.

    Technique, training and other factors also play into how the RC copes with training. Tucking the elbows and touchingg the bar at the nipple line or below will help majorly compared to the standard bodybuilding placement of upper chest area.
    I have had a 1 recent injury benching, and it was generally because i put the bar too low and stirred something up, then never let it heal.
  11. Chthonian

    Chthonian New Member

    Aaron, the goal of a powerlifter is to increase the total of their big three. They care about getting the best leverage in the lift, and putting up as much weight as possible. This is my understanding, anyway. You say that benching with an arch is almost like a decline. I could kind've see this to be true, but it's a very slight simulation of one. I tried it last night to get a feel for what you said.

    Regardless, you said the position utilizes your chest, delts and triceps to their maximum in the benching movement. To be honest, though, my chest feels worked more during a flat-backed flat bench press, with legs out in front of me. You know, a normal style bench press with no leverage advantage. Can one still train without the arch (I'm not a powerlifter, just so you know) and have a big bench press? I'm sure it helps, but probably not by much. Then again, what do I know? :D
  12. Aaron_F

    Aaron_F New Member

    Depends on how good you are at arching. If you are not good, it will be like a mild decline. If you are great, then it will be closer to a deep incline..



    Unfortunately 'feeling' is not muscle activity. You dont feel your back in a decline bench, but its active.

    You can still get a big bench without an arch.
  13. Chthonian

    Chthonian New Member

    Holy hell, that's a crazy arch! I wasn't doing anything close to that.

    I know feeling doesn't mean much of anything in exercise, because the deadlift manages to bring a lot of growth without you feeling much. The thing is, when I bench without an arch, I do feel something, yet with an arch I stop getting that feeling. That's what bothered me.

    Also, if I use dumbbells, as opposed to barbells, I feel my chest contracting more. Is there a reason for this? Perhaps dumbbells would be the way to go if I wanted to hasten chest development? What say you?

    Oh, and thanks for all the replies. It's appreciated.
  14. Aaron_F

    Aaron_F New Member

    Using the paper shown below, the dumbell bench press appears to use slightly less chest and almost the same delt.

    However the differences were not significant, and the subjects used their 3rm for bench, db bench and db fly, which means the loads are different.
    Seeing as dumbell bench usually allows less loading, the amount of stimuli to the muscle (of interest) is less. bench allows more loading, which means maximal activation.

    within the results section, teh authors mention "The relative times of muscle activation were significantly different amongst all three lifts for both pectoralis major and anterior deltoid. The lowest time of activation was the db flie, with the greatest being the barbell bench press.

    Electromyographic activity of the pectoralis major and anterior deltoid muscles during three upper-body lifts.

    Welsch EA, Bird M, Mayhew JL.

    Exercise Science Program, Truman State University, Kirksville, Missouri 63501, USA. [email protected]

    The purpose of this study was to examine the differences in activation levels and times of activation for the pectoralis major and anterior deltoid when performing the concentric phase of 3 upper-body lifts. Twelve college-age men and women with various degrees of lifting experience performed 3 repetitions using the 6 repetition maximum in a barbell bench press, dumbbell bench press, and dumbbell fly while being monitored for electromyographic activity in both muscles. Motor unit activation of both muscles was not significantly different during all 3 lifts. However, dumbbell flys had significantly less relative time of activation than did barbell or dumbbell bench presses. Therefore, dumbbell flys may be better suited as an auxiliary lift, whereas barbell and dumbbell bench presses may be used interchangeably in training programs. The compatibility of the barbell and dumbbell bench presses may aid lifters in overcoming training plateaus by alternating exercises for the same muscle groups.
  15. Joe G

    Joe G New Member


    What are your feelings about the position of the thumbs while benching? I feel more comfortable with my thumbs not wrapped around the bar. Is there any disadvantage or advantage to this technique?

    Joe G
  16. Aaron_F

    Aaron_F New Member

    Disadvantages = pain, lots and lots of pain.
    Advantages = not many

    Using the thumbless grip means if you get the bar to the correct position (which is near the bottom of the plam) there is not a lot of room before the bar rolls off the hand and onto you. Its far easier to drop with the "false" grip than the fully enclosed.

    They dont allow false grips in competition
  17. Joe G

    Joe G New Member


    I havent had any problems with the thumbless grip so far. Do you think it is because I havent used any heavy weights yet (the most I've done so far is 205 for 5). Do you think that the thumbless grip will start giving me problems as I get stronger? If so I should probably try to change that habit right?

    Joe G
  18. Aaron_F

    Aaron_F New Member

    You can run out onto the road so many times and not have any problems until that car finally hits you :D
  19. psycho

    psycho New Member

    Hi guys I have been lurking here for sometime and have run a few HST cycles with good success, but I am going to do single factor training for a while to see if I can increase my strength. In Bill Starr's program, the bench is a huge part of the program with it being done mon and fri, but would there be any issues if one were to substitute dips for flat bench? While reading Aaron's description of setting up the bench he likened it to a decline bench when set up correctly. I am not entering any lifting competitions, just wanting to increase strength and usually do inclines and dips for chest when doing normal HST cycles. Thanks!
  20. Joe G

    Joe G New Member

    In most of the Bill Star and Single Factor articles I have read they are real touchy about changing the routine around. If you are looking to pick up strength I really dont see why you would not want to bench press. I'm not sure if you misunderstood what Aaron said or if I am misunderstanding what you said but, what Aaron meant was that the press becomes a decline because you are arching your back so much. He didnt actually mean to adjust the bench to an incline.


    What do you think about the "flaring" of the elbows while benching? I have read that it is very traumatic on the shoulders doing this, and I have also read that keeping your elbows tucked in to your body is a more "power" form of bench press. Would you mind describing the proper way to bench press concentrating on elbows?


    Joe G
    Joe G

Share This Page