Big Bench Tip #2 – Chest Up

A few years back I was reffing a powerlifting meet, and a kid benching got crushed by his second attempt. He was going to pass on his 3d attempt, I wouldn’t let him. I made him put in his attempt, and gave him these CHEST UP tips, and he killed it on his third.

Chest Up

Keep your chest up throughout your bench, from the moment you unrack, until you lock out each repetition. Keeping your chest up does a number of things for your bench:

  1. It reduces the range of motion you’re lifting. As a powerlifter, a shorter range of motion increases the amount of weight you can lift. That being said, for most lifters keeping your chest up limits your range of motion to a useful range of motion. In other words, you could move the bar farther, but the additional motion is not effectively building power or mass.
  2. It increases the stability of your bench. Driving your chest up and keeping it there throughout your repetitions significantly increases the stability of your upper body. When done right (and in conjunction with my other Big Bench Tips), your entire upper body will be tight, you will control the weight to your chest, the bar touches your chest without sinking in, and drives explosively off your chest.
  3. Keeping your chest up expands the area over which your pecs stretch as the bar comes down. This can increase the power of the stretch reflex*, helping you drive the bar more powerfully off your chest. As a muscle stretches out, it has a reflex in which it tries to contract. You can take advantage of this stretch reflex by driving the bar up powerfully in conjunction with your pectoral and triceps muscles attempting to contract involuntarily giving you more explosive drive off your chest. If you let your chest collapse, you lose some of this energy with your chest sinking as you attempt to drive the bar up.

Driving your chest up and expanding the area over which your pectoral muscles must stretch can increase the power of the contraction, increasing the drive off your chest (this is purely my own observation, but check it out).

What does keep your chest up mean?

I’ve covered a bit of why you want to keep your chest up. Now how exactly do you do it?

  1. Chalk your shoulders and plant them firmly on the bench. This will help keep your shoulders from sliding as you drive your chest up.
  2. Plant your feet firmly on the floor. Drive through the balls of your feet and push your hips towards your shoulders. This will result in an arch in your lower back. Maintain this pressure and arch throughout the lift.
  3. Take a huge breath of air before you start bringing the bar down and hold it – don’t breath in as the bar is coming down, this will prevent you from filling your lungs completely. Hold the air in your lungs until the bar passes your sticking point on the way back up, and exhale through lockout.


Keeping your chest up, a simple technique you can use to add pounds to your bench press even without increasing your upper body strength.


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