Chest Training – Dead Bench Press

The Dead Bench Press is designed to build power off the chest. Because you begin the lift from the chest with no eccentric portion, you have no stretch reflex to help you initiate the drive upward. This lift requires much greater work out of your pectorals to start the lift from a dead stop.

Muscles Used for this Exercise

Exercise Classification

Exercise Technique

The key to the dead bench is to channel as much instantaneous power as possible without the assistance of the stretch reflex. You do this by tightening your body using your bench press technique, and press up with everything you have got. As the weight gets heavy and you tire it is common that the bar may not budge initially. Keep pressing up for at least 3-5 seconds to overcome inertia before giving up on the attempt.


  • Equipment:
    • Squat Rack/Power Cage – Set the safety pins so that when set up on the bench to press, the bar is at or near the chest. You won’t need the j-hooks because you will begin with the bar on the safety pins.


    • Flat Bench – Set up a flat bench in the center of the power cage.
  • Stance/Foot Position: Place your feet flat on the floor. You may have to try different foot positions based on your body mechanics. Start with them underneath your hips, toes pointed outward.
  • Hand Position: Your hand position will be dependent on your body mechanics (width of your shoulders, length of your arms, etc).
    • Use the 81cm rings on the bar as landmarks so you can place your hands evenly on the bar, and use the same placement for every set.
    • Set your hand placement so that when the bar is on your chest your forearms are perpendicular to the floor.
    • Thumbs should be wrapped around the bar. Rest the bar in the base of your palm so that when holding the bar it lies directly over your wrists and forearms.
  • Sets/Reps/Rest Period:
    • Reps – Sets will be limited to 1 repetition. Because the stretch reflex lasts to some degree for around 7 seconds, performing multiple reps defeats the purpose of this lift.
    • Sets – Because you’re only completing 1 rep, increase the sets to hit the desired number of reps. Depending on your specific goals, sets should generally be limited to 10 at the most.
    • Rest Period – Again due to the limited volume, keep your rest period relatively short, 1-2 minutes maximum.
  • Lie on the bench and position the bar over your chest at the point you typically touch with a standard bench press – between the nipple line and base of the sternum.
  • Grip the bar tightly using the hand position established earlier. Once your grip is established, don’t release the bar or loosen your grip until your set has been completed.
  • Set your shoulders into the bench. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as if you’re trying to pinch a coin between them. Continue squeezing them together throughout the full range of motion (ROM) of the lift.
  • Plant your feet on the floor using the stance determined above.
  • Drive through the balls of your feet pushing your hips toward your shoulders. This will push your back into a slight arch and tighten your entire body from your toes to your traps. Keep your buttocks on the bench as you apply leg drive. Continue driving throughout the entire set to help you keep your chest up and stay tight.
    • If you have lower back injuries, discuss using an arch while benching with your physician before employing this technique.
  • Keep your head, shoulders and buttocks in contact with the bench and your feet flat on the floor throughout the lift’s full ROM. Stay tight and do not shift position during the lift.

Executing the Lift

    • Take a deep breath into your lungs and abdomen and hold it. Push the air down into your abdomen and block it to increase your stability.
    • Drive the bar explosively off your chest using your pecs and lats. Drive the bar hard through the sticking point maintaining good bar speed all the way through lock out.
      • Concentrate on locking your elbows, not pushing the bar up. This will help you lock out strongly and alleviate the tendency to lift your shoulders off the bench.
      • Begin exhaling as the bar passes the sticking point, snaking the air out through lockout.
    • Bring the bar to a complete stop, fully locked out before returning the bar to the pins.
      • You may also perform a static hold, holding the bar in the locked out position for 2-5 seconds before lowering it.

Sets should be performed with a single rep; second rep in the video is noticeably easier using the stretch reflex

Strength Standard

  • Because you cannot use the stretch reflex to overcome inertia and drive the bar up, you likely will be unable to press the same weight you can with the normal bench press.
  • Weight used should be relatively high, a good starting point is 80% of your 1RM and adjust it up or down as necessary.

Common Mistakes

  • Not tightening up before the press: Set up as you would for a normal bench press. You should be completely tight from your traps down through your feet before beginning the press.
  • Allowing your chest to collapse as you press the bar: Keep your chest up to maintain stability through your upper body as you execute the lift.
  • Failing to keep your shoulders tight: Continue squeezing your shoulder blades together and keep them planted on the bench through lockout. This will help you keep your chest up and maintain stability.
  • Lack of leg drive: Leg drive will help you develop full body stability. Without driving through your feet you will be unable to generate the most power possible for your press.
  • Setting the pins too high: For the Dead Bench Press the safety pins should be set at or near the chest. Pin Presses/Lockouts are a slightly different lift.

Exercise Safety

  • Keep the weight over the lower part of the chest as you initiate the press to reduce shoulder strain.
  • Weight should be relatively heavy, but make sure you maintain strict form throughout the full ROM.


Additional Chest Exercises

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