Zach Homol – @ZachHomolPower
I wish I knew how many times I’ve heard, “My shoulders hurt when I bench press” or “I can’t flat bench press anymore because it hurts my shoulders too bad.” I absolutely hate hearing these words. Let me first start by saying, feelings of aches and slight pain is absolutely unavoidable when training at the highest level. Being “beat up” is truly just part of the game. Now this doesn’t mean INJURED because there is a huge difference in having a little bit of elbow pain and having a dislocated elbow. The information I am going over in this article won’t magically heal your shoulders from months or years of incorrect bench pressing, BUT if you apply the information correctly into your positioning I am more than certain your shoulders will be and stay much, much more healthy!
Use these 3 steps below to create a more optimal and powerful bench WHILE keeping your shoulders healthy!
Step 1: Create an Arch
Work on creating an arch by tucking your SHOULDERS and TRAPS into the bench while walking up the bench. The arch is very misunderstood. Our focus should be on creating an UPPER BACK arch, not a LOWER BACK arch (often what we see on social media is an over exaggerated arch)
Step 2: Hip and Knee Placement
Now that we have created an arch, it’s important to get our hips and knees in the most optimal position to press the most weight possible. Work on digging your heels into the ground- benching on the heels (IMO) is always more optimal than benching on that balls of the feel. While both styles are beneficial, I suggest feeling out which is best for you. When doing so, be sure to have the quad mobility needed. If you do not, expect your lower back to “cramp.” If this happens, lower the arch for the time being and continue to work on lower back mobility. Now that we have dug our heels into the ground our arch should be similar to the picture above with the green check mark. In this arched position you will see that my hips are higher than my knees, with my heels firmly on the ground. My legs are loaded and ready to help balance support, and shift the load of the bar back off of my chest!
Step 3: Elbows TUCKED Prior to un-racking- Elbows STAY tucked!
Prior to un-racking the bar, squeeze the bar tight and act as if you are trying to pull the bar in half. Now slightly turn your elbows “IN” – do it now, even without a barbell… Do you feel your lats engage? If your answer was no, you might need bigger lats to activate (Seriously, no joke). If your answer was YES, THAT is the position we want to load. By externally rotating the shoulders, we take the load of the bar and distribute the weight into our lats. This is the exact reason I do so…. many rows! Once you are able to incorporate more lats into your bench press and LESS shoulders, the weight begins to feel lighter and lighter. Also, not mentioned, by proper lat engagement you will gain MORE and MORE confidence in your PAUSE presses!
As always, I really enjoyed writing this article. While there are dozens of more cues on the bench press these 3 cues will get you more 100% in the right direction!
Take advantage of the Comment section below if you have any question regarding this article!