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Common mistakes and issues with the bench press

Freeweights is beneficial for everyone and a natural progression that should be followed in the gym from the resistance machines. But without teaching there are a lot of improper techniques that can result in injuries, postural problems and not gaining the full benefit of the exercise.

1 – Firstly we will start with the correct technique. Depending on your goal as to how many sets and reps but choosing the correct weight for this you should fatigue on the last set, the first few times you perform the exercise this will be a feeling out process then it is just about progression thereafter.

2 – laying back, feet up or down is dependant on the natural curve of the spine, you should be able to get tips of your fingers inbetween your lower back and bench, if you can get your whole hand you will find you have a lordotic curve, if your core is not strong enough to flatten it slightly and keep form putting your feet up on the bench will help this.

3 – I beloieve the starting point is with arms straight with a slight bend in the elbow, dumbbells or barbell roughly over your chest (nipples).

4 – engaging the core and shoulder stabilisers properly ( if you do not know how to do this we should do another article on that)

5 – then it is just a case of lowering the weight slowly bending at the elbows keep wrists straight and forearms upright, until elbows are in line with the shoulders or at most inch or 2 below not too far thought.

6 – the push through back to the beginning is going into a point bringing the dumbbells together if it is a barbell this will not apply. But you go to full extension.

Now common mistakes made are as follows

  1. to heavy weight to perform correct full range technique
  2. the shoulder stabilisers not in correct place so the anterior deltoid does too much work, thus over time resulting in a posture like a caveman rolled forward shoulders and tight pectoralis minor
  3. arch in the lower back, this could be because of the lordotic curve as explained earlier or the person having to heavier weight thuis resulting in an arch, the lower part of the pectoral is stronger but for long term general populations this is not a good idea, you will notice powerlifters on bench press do arch but that is what they do.
  4. reps being performed too quickly, a good speed is 2 seconds up 2 down, or even 2 up and 4 down. But not speedy gonsalez style.
  5. early extension of the elbow resulting in the dumbbelss flicking out and not meeting at a point inline with the middle of the chest
  6. “chicken neck” this is where as the weight is pushed up the person lifts there head off the bench, put your tongue on te roof of your mouth and try to relax this will again not do any favours for your posture in the long run and help towards forward head carriage.
  7. going too deep in the press, some people belive they need to go as deep as possible to get the fukl range, this is actually a bad thing, by going too deep you will start to damage rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder due to the heavier weight.