IA Pro Tip: Bench Press
If you've been inside of a gym for any amount of time you've heard "I can't do X Y Z because I hurt my shoulder during bench" or "I can't squat because I sneezed wrong when I was 14." The latter will be a topic of discussion later.
Here are a few tips that will stop you from becoming one of those guys.
1. Set the j-hooks to the appropriate height. You want a slight bend in the elbow when you reach up to grab the bar. Then all you have to do is lock your elbows out to clear the j-hook. You shouldn't be in a half press when the bar is racked.
2. See the bar. Now that the height is set lay down on the bench, roll the bar to the front of the j-hook. Now adjust your body and bench so that you are looking directly up at the bar. By doing this you won't have to worry about hitting the j-hook when you press. It will also give you room to keep the bar stabilized in the proper up position and not have to have a slight lean forward with the arms.
3. Retract your scapula and keep it there. Now that you are looking directly at the bar, retract your scapula and pin them down. By doing this it puts your shoulder in a more stable and protected position. This also allows you to push against the bench and utilize your shoulders more effectively. An added benefit is the reduced rom since your chest is further off the bench now that your scapula are nice and tight behind you.
4. Keep your elbows tight. As you lower the bar keep your elbows tucked and close to your ribs. This will keep you from placing excess torque on your shoulders. The bar will make contact lower than what you see with traditional bodybuilding style bench with the elbows flared.
5. Squeeze the bar. This will help you keep your wrist straight and your lats tight. Which will keep the bar directly over the forearm. That translates to a better mechanics and more effective use of the tricep. Imagine bending the bar in half.
6. Squeeze that booty...and abs. Taking in a nice deep diaphragmatic breath and performing a valsalva maneuver will help create greater internal pressure. This will stabilize the spinal column and create a better connection between the upper and lower body. Make sure to take your breath before you unrack the weight. It'll be a lot more difficult to get a full breath with your shoulders and chest loaded for bear.
7. Feet flat. Place your feet flat on the ground with your legs spread and almost straight. By doing this you won't be able to overextend your lower back if you keep your hips on the bench. You will still be able to drive through your feet which will drive your shoulders into the bench. This will make you more stable and help keep the bar in the groove.
Now go out there and practice safe bench techniques. Let me know what you think!