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Bench Press Technique

Posted: Wed Nov 14, 2007 12:42 pm
by ctopherb
I have a question about bench press technique. Should you pull your shoulder blades together behind you when you bench? I would consider myself an intermediate lifter and have researched this topic quite a bit. Most books and websites do not mention pulling the shoulders together. But I have found a few (3-5) that do. They claim this gives a more stable platform to press from. I agree with them on that point because I have tried it, but does it take away from the true motion/purpose of the lift? Pulling your shoulders together does minimize the travel of the bar which makes the lift easier, but I'm not sure it allows you to go through the correct ROM. I recently injured my shoulder while I was benching. One chiropractor said I had microtears in my infraspinatus and another chiropractor said I pulled a rib somewhat out of place. All I know is it felt like someone stabbed me in the back when it happened and now I constantly feel like I have a bone out of place in my back (probably the rib as the chiro said) I was not using the method of pulling my shoulders together, but now I'm thinking maybe I should have been to give my shoulders a platform? Please help?

Posted: Wed Nov 14, 2007 1:08 pm
by stuward
There are lots of writers out there with conflicting opinions. Eric Cressey is well respected by people who know so I have confidence in recommending his articles:
1. Line up on the bench so that your eyes are about 3-4 inches toward your feet from the bar (in other words, the bar is almost directly above the top of your head). From there, retract your shoulder blades hard. Next, push yourself back up until your eyes are directly under the bar; at this position, your scapulae should still be retracted, but also depressed down toward your feet as well. If you do it right, your rib cage should pop right up.


Posted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 1:22 pm
by Halfbreed
Personally, I think that one should pull his or her shoulders together when benching, but not exaggerated. That is, just keep your shoulders back and against the bench and your chest out. Don't let the shoulders come up, it actually destabalizes your rotator cuff and can lead to injury, since the bench is generally a heavy lift. I knew this ex college football player who didn't go pro because of a shoulder injury. He was an offensive lineman, and so you could imagine he was hitting some big weights. HIs shoulder injury was attributable, so he says, to doing a lot of lifts that were hard on the rotator cuffs without, (1), developing the smaller muscles around the rotator cuff that secure it in it's socket, (2), doing lifts that were stressful on the rotator cuffs such as behind the neck pulldowns, and (3), not keeping his shoulders set, (back) when doing lifts such as the bench press. You can isolate your chest very well and get a good range of motion with your shoulders back and your chest out in a powerlifting type benchpress without the unnecessary risk of a shoulder injury. I'm banking quite a bit on his experience and the experience of his trainers and physical therapists, as well as on my own personal experience with hitting the bench and experiencing different ranges of motion. I know that he always stresses keeping the shoulder "locked in" while doing many exercises. When hitting lighter weights, you can develop the muscles of the rotator cuff and in these often you will want to take it out of the locked position and extend it forward, pushing the actual shoulder forward with your arms, as with box step ups with the arms locked.

A little off the subject, he was telling me that it was pretty much required that they had to run 40's around 4.7, 4.8 or better as an offensive lineman. He played for ASU several years ago when they went to the Rose Bowl. Can you imagine a guy near 300 lbs who can push a 450lb or better bench running a 4.7 40? let alone hitting you at that speed and weight? I'm strong, but at 205 lbs, my ass is getting run over.

Posted: Thu Nov 15, 2007 3:48 pm
by ctopherb
Thanks to both of you! Stuward for the webpage with a lot of useful help...even had exercises to strengthen all the rotator cuff muscles. Halfbreed for the good advice...makes a lot of sense what your friend and you recommend. (And for me at only 160 lbs. I'm gettin the heck out of the way!) Thanks again!!!