The Lift Off – Jeremy Clevenger

Jeremy Clevenger – @Jeremy_Clevenger

The bench press is arguably the most technical lift when it comes to any type of training. There are so many key factors that go into the movement, along with the steps in your set up. Many people have the basic steps mostly correct but are neglecting one of the most important of the actual start of the lift… THE LIFT OFF!

And now I’m sure you are thinking, “How is that the biggest problem with people’s set up?” Well here is the reasoning behind it. You spend anywhere from 30 seconds to 1 minute setting yourself up on the bench. From walking up the bench and making sure your traps are dug all the way in, to making sure your feet are planted as far back and as flat as possible to ensure that your quads are loaded for the leg drive, to making sure you maintain your upper back arch going into the lift, all of this may be going completely to waste if your lift off is incorrect.

When you go to lift off the bar from the bench, you are supposed to externally rotate, thus engaging your lats, and getting just enough of a lift to bring the bar over the lip of the rack and set it in your “sweet spot.” However, I’ve been noticing a lot of people doing tiny things wrong that throw off the bench from the very beginning.

The first thing that I have noticed, is people not rolling the bar to the front of the rack to begin the lift. This adds another at least 1-2 inch difference in the distance that the bar has to travel throughout the lift. Not rolling the bar to the front of the rack also makes your traps untuck from the bench because you are pushing up and back, instead of pulling down to keep your lats tight and traps tucked in.

When your traps come untucked, it causes a variety of problems. The first is that you have no stopping block for your leg drive. This often causes your butt to come up off the bench, which in competition equals “No Lift.” The other problem is when your traps come untucked, your shoulders will tend to flare on the way up, which increases your risk for injury, as well as potentially not being able to finish the lift because your form is off.

Another thing that I have noticed from watching people begin their lift off is that even though they do roll the bar to the front of the rack correctly, they are still pushing the bar back and up instead of down and up. This is wasting energy, along with adding extra distance for your lift and pulling your traps out of position. This is pretty much the same issue as not rolling the bar to the front, except it may also be a bigger issue because you are essentially pushing the bar up, moving it back, and then pulling it down to set into position and engage your lats.

The issue here is that when you push back with the weight even before you have started your lift, you are losing the tightness in your lats and the “sling shot” effect of having your lats engaged and ready to fire when the bar hits your chest. And as I’m sure you have heard before, “Use every muscle possible to avoid you in every lift.”

Every inch matters in the game of lifting, and every extra second that you are bearing the weight, you are losing energy that could be put into the lift, and in the end, could cost you the lift.

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