I love the bench press, and you should, too, if you want to snatch big

originally Posted on Tuesday, September 18, 2012 11:27 PM
The bench is the lift that got me, and many, many other people, involved in lifting weights.  in HS, only a couple of us squatted, and fewer deadlifted; but man, we all benched.  In retrospect, if we all squatted and did cleans as often as we benched, we'd have been better athletes.  But, Padwan, do not despair of the bench press and its variants for the athlete or the Olympic lifter.  

When I came back to lifting in 2001 after a significant layoff (seven years), I started to bench again.  I hit 315 after a few weeks, and 405 after a few months.  I started to focus on the bench two days a week, my bodyweight was at the time heavier than it had ever been (about 295), and after about 10 months I hit 500 raw (I wore a belt and taped my wrists.  Sorry, it may not have been raw according to your standards, but I don't care about your standards).  That bench hurt my Olympic lifts.  My shoulders were tight, my back didn't balance out my chest, I was front dominant, etc.  But it wasn't the 500 pound bench that hurt my O lifts, it was focusing on the 500 pound bench to the exclusion of good programming and athletic balance.  This, dear readers, is the key to why we should bench, and why we must also not bench too often or too much.

The bench press should be included in the programming for Olympic Lifters, especially early in their career or cycle, because it will help you stabilize your shoulders; Glenn Pendlay has also said that lifters should bench early in their careers (though he did not mention the shoulder stability).  I find the bench carries over directly into the snatch, and have always treated it as a snatch assistance exercise.  I find that the shoulder stability that proper benching, using a moderately heavy weight, brings an athlete is invaluable.  

So, apparently, do these folks:

http://www.allthingsgym.com/2012/01/dmitry-klokovs-home-gym/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I-Ixa38U9x0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0gE-2TjH8U

And on the Ironmind Polish Video Kolecki benches 180 kg with a hip heist.

I'm sure that some of the smaller O lifters bench, too, but vids of small lifters don't please the women in my house.  

The technique of the bench press I recommend is as follows:

Sit on the bench.
Tuck your feet under you, as far back as they can comfortably get with your toes still on the ground.  
lay down on the bench
arch your back and walk your shoulders down so that your back is arched and tight. 
keep your upper thighs wrapped/ squeezing on the bench
put your heels on the ground, keeping your feet wide (receiving position/ front squat stance), FEET FLAT HEELS ON THE GROUND, and push with your feet like you're squatting 1,000 lbs
take the bar with your jerk grip or slightly narrower and squeeze the bar.  

Okay, you have the set up.  Now, make sure you get a lift off.  Yes, a lift off.  Your shoulders love you, and a proper lift off will keep them loving you forever.  If you can't get a lift off, don't bench.  Do some floor presses instead.   
The lift off merely helps you load your shoulders correctly; the person lifting off should carry the bar for you until your traps are down (not shrugged up) and lats engaged.  This position protects your shoulders.  

I teach people to tuck their elbows in when they pull the bar down to their chest.  LOAD THE ORGANISM.  Tuck the elbows in (really flexible lifters need to tuck only so far; the elbows should always remain away from the body; tucking them helps to engage the back on the eccentric movement, which, in a raw bench, helps you control the bar), touch the bar ideally right above the solar plexus/ bottom of the boobs and then drive it back up so hard that, with light weight, your body comes OFF the bench.  

A few basic key points here:  
feet flat
arched back
tuck elbows
leg drive
explode off the chest

Okay, there is the technique.  

How do you program it?

I like to bench more often for beginners. They should bench or floor press 1x/ week for as long as they need to.  

For the intermediate lifter, I like to press 2x/week.  One time for reps one time for strength.  The strength lift will be either a bench variation or the push press.  I do not like push pressing heavy and benching heavy the same week.  So, we will do 5x5 bench and then another day light military presses, or 4x6 bench and heavy push presses, etc.
Basically, we push press every week forever.  The second day of the week we rotate, on a three to six week schedule, the following:  flat bench, incline bench, military press.  
I train the same way we squat heavy, but with a rep count slid up.  So, 3-6 sets of 2-4 reps instead of 1-3, and I follow with a heavy drop set of 10-20 reps.  

Do some basic shoulder prehab or rehab, either I Y T stuff, the diesel crew shoulder warm-up, or similar things.  You should be doing these anyway for your lifting.

And watch this video:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPQJNrm9-_o&feature=related

Michael McKennaComment