The bench press is one of the most commonly performed strength exercises. It is a great way to build upper body strength, specifically in the chest and shoulders. Because it involves a pushing movement, it targets the anterior (front) part of the body. Performing the bench press is relatively simple when compared with many other free weight exercises. That being said, it is often performed incorrectly due to a lack of coaching. The following are three common issues in reference to the bench press. The first issue that needs to be addressed is the habit of lifting your hips off of the bench. This is an extremely common mistake. You actually can lift more weight when you lift your hips, because it gives you a biomechanical advantage when pressing the weight. The problem is that when the hips are lifted, the vertebral column is placed in a position of hyperextension, leaving you susceptible to lower back injuries. The compressive forces placed on the lumbar spine can cause serious injury. (Warpeha)
A second issue deals with the misconception about placing your feet on the bench while pressing. Some say that by placing the feet up on the bench, you can better isolate the chest and get more out of the exercise. That is false. The lower body shouldn’t be contributing to the lift in any capacity whatsoever, so switching the position of the legs isn’t going to make any difference at all. It can, however, place the back flat against the bench, which is commonly thought to be the safest way to bench press because the back is in a neutral position. (Warpeha) A third mistake that applies to both the bench press and just about every other lift is a lack of progressive overload. Progressive Overload refers to the practice of progressively adding weight to an exercise as your body becomes stronger. For instance, when benching you should pick a weight that you can handle, but that is heavy enough to prevent you from completing all sets and reps. For example: If you plan to perform the bench press at 185 lbs for 3 sets of 10 repetitions and you succeed in getting all 30 reps, you should add weight next time. Whenever you master a given weight, you must either add weight or increase the repetitions in order to progressively overload the muscles. If you always use the same weight and rep scheme, you will not get any stronger. Keeping these simple tips in mind, the bench press can be a very good exercise for increasing strength.
Warpeha, J. Five Common Bench Pressing Mistakes. NSCA Performance Training Journal,5, 6-8.