Positioning the Bar for a Bigger Bench PressPosted: January 16, 2012
Although it appears a very simple exercise, there is a lot more to the bench press than lowering the bar to your chest and pressing it back up. Applied correctly, small tweaks in your lifting technique can have a much greater impact on your bench than the workout routine you follow. Often overlooked during the bench press is the bar position.
Notice two problems with the bench press shown in this photo?
If you said the issues are that I couldn’t get the spotter to get his dang hands off the bar during the lift, and there is a world class powerlifter training in a flashy ‘fitness center’ (Beverly Crawford, two time high school national powerlifting champion, two time USA Powerlifting national champion and silver medalist at the International Powerlifting Federation world championships), you are correct…however not what I was going for.
Notice her right hand, circled in red. It appears that her wrist is bent sharply backwards. This is something I see done by the vast majority of bench pressers in the gym. To improve your grip on the bar, you want the bar to rest directly over your wrist and forearm. You do this by rolling your wrists forward, and letting the bar rest in the base of your palm, not up in the middle of your palm. The weight from the bar should travel directly down through your wrists and forearm, not suspended over…air.
If you use wrist wraps when you bench, use them to improve the stability of your hold on the bar. When you’re wrapping them, bring the wrap up around the base of your hand. When done right and tight, they act like a cast, and make it difficult to bend your hand backwards. This forces you to support the weight over your wrist and forearm.
If you look at Beverly’s left arm, circled in blue, look at the way her forearm is angled downward toward her feet. To get the most power, as mentioned above the bar should be positioned directly over your forearm. Now that we’ve fixed your grip on the bar, move the bar position up your chest so that your forearms are perpendicular to the floor as the bar touches the chest. You can also tuck your elbows in tighter to your body. This will allow you to bring the bar down lower on your chest and still keep the weight over your arms.
By making these two changes, you keep the weight of the bar directly over the supporting structure of your arms and chest. This should reduce strain on your wrists, elbows and shoulders, and also allow you to add lbs. to your bench press.
If you’d like more tips on bench pressing, check out my article, Powerlifting Basics: Tips to Increase Your Bench Press.