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The Official Bench Press Check List (AVOID MISTAKES!)

The Official Bench Press Check List (AVOID MISTAKES!)

What’s up, guys? Jeff Cavaliere, ATHLEANX.com. Today we’re going to talk about the bench
press. Classic exercise. Now, it’s probably one that you’ve done a
million times, but you’ve got to make sure you’re doing it right all the time because
one bad rep on a bench press could lead to a lot of problems. A lot of times, in your shoulders. Sometimes in your elbow. Sometimes in your wrists. Sometimes in your chest, with a torn pec. You’ve got to make sure you’re doing it right. So I’ve put together a checklist, and we’re
going to go through it step by step and make it really, really simple so we’re making sure
you nail each portion of this. The first thing, when you load the bar, ideally
you’re doing it in a cage here. Secondly, you’re putting a clip on the bar
for safety. However, I will point out – as someone that
has learned this from experience if you’re training at home – you may not want to use
the clips. Why? Because if you get stuck and there’s no one
around to spot you, your only option to really get out from under that bar is to dump it
and if the clips are on here, you’re not going to be able to do that. So again, not something I advise. I would rather you setup in a rack to do it. Now, the next thing. This is stupid simple, but look over my shoulder
here. What is the placement of the bar in the rack
itself? Is it centrally located? Because a lot of times you’ll come up and
find them kind of like that. All of a sudden it’s already throwing off
your alignment and it’s really easy – again, stupid easy to do – but make sure you do
it because it’s important. So once we get that lined up, then we look
for the placement of the bench in relation to the middle knurling of the bar. You can see here that we’re lined up perfectly. You want to make sure that you’re doing the
same thing. Now I come in here, and I want to know how
far under the bar the bench should be. You have to understand that when we lay back
down here my eyes are going to want to be looking straight up at the bar. Which I’m going to cover in more depth in
a second. So in order to accommodate that, I have about
this much room between the top of my head and my eyes. So it should be at least that much room beyond
the bar with the bench that can accommodate my head. So I’m not leaning my head off the back – which
I’ve already done. So now you lean back. Now we sit here, and we position ourselves
now under the bar. So come up on top and you can see. As far as the bar in relation to my body on
the bench, you literally want to be staring right up at the bar and you can see that my
eyes are literally lined up with the bar in this position so that it sets up my liftoff
position – which I can explain more from the side here. Take note now of what we’re doing from here. As far as your grip, you want to know how
wide your grip should be, and you want to know the type of grip you should be using. When you look at the width of the grip you
have to come down to the bottom to understand where it should be. Now you start down here – I will cover,
again, the fact that the elbow position is going to be key. You don’t want to bench with your elbows
all the way up here in this guillotine position. If you’re doing the guillotine press, that’s
a different thing, but you want to make sure you’re using a much lighter dumbbell, and
not trying to load up, as I’m showing here for the classic bench press. What happens is, in this top position you’re
leaving yourself no room for the rotator cuff to really operate. Of course, if the weight gets a little heavy
and the bar path starts to go forward a little bit you’re going to get internal rotation
that’s going to really, really destroy the rotator cuff in this position because your
elbows are too high. Your elbows should be more about 75 degrees
away from your body here. So if you know that, you set this position
up like this, you get your elbows at 90 degrees bent, and you have your forearm perpendicular
to the ground, pointing straight up toward the ceiling. Wherever that is for you – because again,
arm length is going to vary between persons – you then reach straight up to the bar
from here. You can see that mine kind of ends with my
ring finger on the non-knurled part of the bar. So that’s what my width would be, so that
when I’m on the bottom I have a fully supported bar with my forearm pointing, and supporting
the bar underneath. Which brings us to the next question: the
grip itself. What is the right grip? There’s a thumbless grip that some people
will use because they want to look cool when they do it. That’s all set, but what happens if the bar
slips out of your hands forward? You’re in trouble. So what you want to do is, you always want
to have your thumb wrapped around the bar, but how you approach the bar is really important
for getting that right. If I come down – which a lot of times people
will do, they’ll come this way. Okay, I just said my ring finger is where
I need to be. I come this way and I grab the bar, and then
I go and I grab around, or I grab this way. Around my thumb. Whichever is more comfortable for you. This is stronger, but if I come this way,
the issue is that the bar is too high on my fingers. So now when I lift off, automatically the
bar is going to roll backward and look what I’ve done to my wrists. So now I don’t have the support of my forearm
under the hand anymore. The bar is about 2″-3″ behind that and it
weakens my pushing power. It also increases the likelihood that I’m
going to screw up my wrists. So what I want to do is, I want to come from
underneath. So if I come from underneath, now the bar
is lower on my hand, and I can wrap around to the right position. But now you can see when I lift off I have
a fully supported bar because my forearm is now directly underneath this and I’m using
the support and strength of my bones to actually allow that to happen. Now, when we get ready to lift off, where
are we lifting from? These things better allow you to have bend
in your elbow because – look at the position I’m trying to lift from. I’m trying to lift, again, with a bar that
is placed over my eyes. So it’s a little bit behind my body here. So if I try to lift from here – essentially
it’s like a pullover – I don’t have much strength here. So if I have a fully straightened out arm
and I have the catches of the bar too high, I have no lifting power at all to get that
off. None. So I need to have at least a little bit here
that I can actually push because my elbows can still have some straightening left in
them to actually push off of. Same note. If I were to lower it too low, now I’m also
putting myself lower to the sticking point where I lose some strength as well. So for me, it’s roughly about this amount
of bend in my elbows that makes it really comfortable for me. So now, as I get ready to lift, the next thing
– I promise you, I’m actually going to lift this bar. This is what I’m talking about. All the setup that’s really important here. It’s as I go to lift the bar, the bar path
is now going to be my major concern, okay? Because I want to make sure that this thing
comes down, not over my eyes as I talked about, but it winds up over my chest. So that means that the bar path is going to
have to come forward a little bit. It’s going to have to come down, and forward
a little bit. Again, if I have my elbows high and I hit
the bar path right, that’s even worse because now I’m really internally rotating the shoulders. That’s how you blow an AC joint. That’s I hurt this shoulder on my other side
here. You can see that it’s always sticking up for
the rest of my life because I actually popped my AC joint on my left shoulder. I got down to the bottom of a rep, my bar
path was good, but my elbows were too high. The internal rotation popped down, and the
AC joint was popped. So you want to make sure you’ve got elbow
positioning and bar path properly lined up. Again, with the bar path we’re targeting the
chest. The lift off is going to be straight up, get
it over your shoulders, and then move it down. Technique: there’s only two things you need
to focus on, guys. That’s it. Number one: foot position, believe it or not. Start down at the feet. These feet should be under your knees so they
can actually push. If I were to push through my feet right now
my butt lifts off the bench, or at least I can contract my glutes and my butt lifts off
the bench. You’re not going to want to actually lift,
but you’re going to want to be able to push into the ground to give me that counterforce
to be able to push the bar away from me. So you can see, if my feet were out here too
far I have no pushing power there. I can’t do anything from that. I need to have them underneath. The next thing is the chest itself. You can’t bench with a flat chest. You’ve got to get your chest up. So what we do is, we pull our shoulder blades
down and back, which again, creates a stable base that I can actually push off of. Same thing as I always talk about. You can’t fire a cannon from a canoe. You don’t want to try and jump from a canoe,
or jump from sand. You want to jump from a hard surface. You want to be able to press from a firm surface
on the other side. So we pull that together. Then lastly, we tighten the abs. Just make sure that you have a good tightening
of your core because you don’t want to have any of these leaks – energy leaks – throughout
the entire body here. Press through the feet, press through the
back, tighten the core, lift off, up, overhead, right here, grip is good, feels nice and simple,
and it is simple. It’s 135lbs, but the idea is, I’m right here. Now I’m going to lower it down to the chest. From here, and again from here I’m going to
just push back up, and up strong, okay? Again. And again. I mean, super simple because I’m squeezing
the glutes, pushing through the floor, all the things I told you to do, and then when
we go back to rack it – again, don’t try to rack it in one fail swoop from here, and
up, and try to rack it. Try to come up to the top. Once you’re there, let your arms go back,
engage the rack, and land it straight back down. All right? So guys, it’s not that it’s the most complicated
lift that you’re going to do. Again, you’ve probably done it a bunch of
times, but it’s the fact that it’s one of the most dangerous exercises to do because
there’s so many places that you can go wrong. And having injured my shoulder already doing
it, and seeing other guys injure themselves doing this lift and god forbid, drop the bar
on themselves; you need to know what you’re doing. If you have a routine and a checklist that
you follow each time, it can go really quick. Mentally you’re going to blow through that
and know exactly what to do, but at least you’ve mastered this. All right, guys. We’ve put the science back in strength because
it’s important. All these angles, and all these little details;
they do matter. They matter to not only your performance staying
safe in the gym, but more importantly to the gains that you see from doing the lift. If you do it right you’re going to see that
your performance on this lift will go right through the roof. As a matter of fact, maybe you’re missing
some of these points. When you do what I just said you might see
some of your bench presses increase by a lot of weight in just a short period of time. Guys, if you’re looking for a complete step-by-step
training program that doesn’t overlook the little things because they all matter, head
to ATHLEANX.com and get our ATHLEANX training program. In the meantime, if you’ve found this video
helpful – I know it’s comprehensive – but it’s worth it. Leave your comments and thumbs up below, and
I’ll be back again in just a few days to do the videos that you want me to cover. Tell me what else you want me to cover. If you want me to break down another lift,
I’ll do that as well. All right, guys. See ya.

48 Replies to “The Official Bench Press Check List (AVOID MISTAKES!)”

  • Hey Jeff I haven't watched this video yet but I just wanted to tell you that my arms have really gotten bigger from your bicep and tricep workouts thank you sir I've been working out for 15-20 years almost thank you again it's fun!

  • Damm it!!
    I'm having a really hard time
    trying to correct my form, well just the part when You need to get your shoulders blades behind i can't Even make a full set in that possition help me please!

  • Thoughts?


  • There are only 3 major mistakes to make with the bench press: 1) Too much weight 2) Fatigue and no spotter 3) Lowering the bar onto your neck.

  • Been trying to go up in weight and just seeing if anything I can do to get better. My feet are too short to reach the ground and I have been muscling it up for now. Any tips?

  • I exclusively use guillotine style to develops big pecs. You simply deload half the weight you normally do, do a slower negative, and dont put the bar forward and internally rotate and you wont get should problems it's simply. I have been using that form for 18 years and never had an injury

  • When I’m high, late at night and watching Jeff, I sometimes zone out and forget that it’s not Ross from friends talking to me about fitness.

  • Jeff, I love your videos and I have learned a ton from you. One comment on this particular video however, is the grip comment you made in regards to thumbless. You said it was because people want to look cool. I going to explain why I use that grip and let you mull it over and see if you want to reconsider your opinion. I'm 46 years old, stand 5 foot 10.5 inches tall and currently weigh 180lbs, still working on losing fat, and started lifting weights at the age of 14. I lifted pretty consistently all throughout high school, missed two years while I served a church mission, then started up again after I was 21, but I worked out off and on throughout my life with about a 7 year gap since between my last and now. I have now been working out consistently again for 5 months. That was just a bit of background on me.
    I have used the thumbless grip from as far back as I can remember. It was never a conscience choice, it just feels better. I feel like my leverage and load of the weight is better distributed using that grip. I have never come close to having it slip even a little. My life time max bench press weight is 265lbs and no issues at all. The most similar thing I can think of to compare it to is the way we carry the bar on squats. It just rests up there on the shoulder, similar to how the bar rests on the palm with the thumbless grip. For some reason the times I try to wrap my thumbs around the bar on bench I feel weaker in the movement. Hard to explain. Similarly when I work out my lats on the machine I grip the lat bar with the exact same grip and its the same thing, I feel stronger with that grip on lat pull downs. I don't know maybe its all mental. I just thought you should consider why someone might use that grip as something other than trying to "look cool".

  • I dropped the bar one time on my stomach 😩 60KG but I contracted my abs quick so I didn't got any pain but it made me scared now I'm gonna use bench machine more…

  • I took this advice and adjusted my bench press by ensuring my shoulder blades are flat and chest is pumped up ect. Ended up fucking with my shoulders more than when I was benching beforehand.

    Not hating on this dudes advice but to anyone else trying to perfect their form, listen to your body above all. Make sure you aren't injuring yourself because you're trying to stick to a certain form

  • Why powerlifters lift hip in the air to make back arch? What is the reason behind it? And can we do without lifting hip in the air?

  • Never clip on a bench press
    If you're in a rack with properly set spotter bars, you dont need to dump it
    If you work with a weight you can handle and dont be going for maxes, you definitely dont need to dump it

  • Lol I found out what not to do the hard way and someone came to spot because by the end of the set I was trying to push it up with pure will power which was working very slowly

  • I’ve always had trouble with my wrist when doing bench presses and how it keeps pushing my wrist backwards instead of keeping straight

  • Bar right above eyes when racked.
    Elbows about 75 degrees from body.
    Forearms 90 degrees to ground.
    Foot under knees.
    Bar path curved and not straight ( from upper shoulders to chest.)
    Squeeze shoulder blades to give a curve in chest and tight core

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