Chest Training – Bench Press Lockout

Bench press lockouts are crucial to building a big bench press. This exercise will prepare you to move some big iron.

Exercise Purpose

Bench press lockouts help you build significant strength and stability at the top end of your bench press. For the competitive powerlifter, this exercise provides a number of benefits:

  • Builds significant stability at the handoff of the weight while you are waiting for the ‘Start’ commend for your lift.
  • Particularly if you are an equipped lifter (use a bench press shirt) a strong lockout is a must, since your bench press shirt will help you press larger weights off your chest.

For the general strength trainers, lockouts are also useful:

  • Since you are handling significant amounts of weight, this exercise helps to strengthen connective tissue, preparing your body physically to handle heavier lifts.
  • Feeling weights that are much higher than your one rep max (1RM) prepares you mentally to lift heavier weights. When you’re performing the bench press with a lighter weight, you will have much greater confidence with your lift.

Exercise Technique:

Bench press lockout technique is very similar to bench press technique.

Equipment Setup

  • Lockouts are performed in the power cage (or squat rack provided it has adjustable safety pins).
  • Place a flat bench inside the power cage and set the safety pins to the desired height.

Exercise setup

  • Lie down on the bench just as you would if you were to perform a bench press. Your head, buttocks and shoulders must remain stable on the bench throughout the exercise.
  • Position your feet flat on the floor. For more leg drive, pull your feet up under your body.
  • Grip the barbell at the width you would grip it for a bench press. The barbell should rest in the base of your palm so that when you are pressing the barbell, the weight is suspended directly over your wrist and forearm. If you allow the bar to rest higher in your palm, you will place unnecessary strain on your wrists – not a good idea given the weights you want to be moving with this exercise.
  • Tighten your entire upper body before beginning the exercise. You do this by squeezing your shoulder blades tightly together, and flexing your latissimus dorsi (lats). Maintain this position throughout the entire set.


  • Press the bar explosively off the safety pins and continue pressing until lockout. Pause in the locked out position holding the bar stable for up to one second.


  • Lower the bar back to the safety pins with control. Allow the barbell to come to a complete stop, reset and press for your next repetition.
  • Maintain your starting position throughout the exercise: head, shoulders and buttocks planted on the bench, feet flat on the floor, shoulder blades squeezed tightly together, and lats flexed and tight. Drive through the balls of your feet for leg drive, pushing your body toward the head of the bench.

Training program recommendations

  • This exercise is meant to be performed at very heavy weights. Repetitions performed should be 3 – 5 reps per set for 3 – 4 sets.
  • Perform the exercise at various rack heights. Start with the safety pins set at the midpoint in the bench press. Each week raise the pins to the next higher setting. Depending on the rack you are using, there may be 2 – 3 usable settings.
  • Sets performed at approximately the mid-point should be with a weight at or near your bench press 1 rep max (1RM).
  • Sets performed at the top end (2 inch range of motion) should be performed with well above your 1RM (example: my raw 1RM is about 400-425lbs, at the top end I use up to 600lbs).

Don’t be afraid to pile on some weight and make some noise. 500lbs crashing back onto the safety pins makes quite a racket, but that is how you get the most out of this exercise!

Common Mistakes

  • Failing to pause at lockout: Pausing in the locked out position builds lockout stability and strength.
  • Bouncing the bar off the pins: Failing to bring the bar to a complete stop, resetting in your starting position for each repetition reduces the effectiveness of this exercise.


  • Performing the exercise at the top end of the exercise:

Lockouts for top 2″ of the press

Additional Chest and Tricep Exercises


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