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What's up, guys?
Jeff Cavaliere, ATHLEANX.com.
Today we're going to talk about the bench press.
Now, it's probably one that you've done a million times, but you've got to make sure
you're doing it right all the time because one bad rep on a bench press could lead to
a lot of problems.
A lot of times, in your shoulders.
Sometimes in your elbow.
Sometimes in your wrists.
Sometimes in your chest, with a torn pec.
You've got to make sure you're doing it right.
So I've put together a checklist, and we're going to go through it step by step and make
it really, really simple so we're making sure you nail each portion of this.
The first thing, when you load the bar, ideally you're doing it in a cage here.
Secondly, you're putting a clip on the bar for safety.
However, I will point out – as someone that has learned this from experience if you're
training at home – you may not want to use the clips.
Because if you get stuck and there's no one around to spot you, your only option to really
get out from under that bar is to dump it and if the clips are on here, you're not going
to be able to do that.
So again, not something I advise.
I would rather you setup in a rack to do it.
Now, the next thing.
This is stupid simple, but look over my shoulder here.
What is the placement of the bar in the rack itself?
Is it centrally located?
Because a lot of times you'll come up and find them kind of like that.
All of a sudden it's already throwing off your alignment and it's really easy – again,
stupid easy to do – but make sure you do it because it's important.
So once we get that lined up, then we look for the placement of the bench in relation
to the middle knurling of the bar.
You can see here that we're lined up perfectly.
You want to make sure that you're doing the same thing.
Now I come in here, and I want to know how far under the bar the bench should be.
You have to understand that when we lay back down here my eyes are going to want to be
looking straight up at the bar.
Which I'm going to cover in more depth in a second.
So in order to accommodate that, I have about this much room between the top of my head
and my eyes.
So it should be at least that much room beyond the bar with the bench that can accommodate
So I'm not leaning my head off the back – which I've already done.
So now you lean back.
Now we sit here, and we position ourselves now under the bar.
So come up on top and you can see.
As far as the bar in relation to my body on the bench, you literally want to be staring
right up at the bar and you can see that my eyes are literally lined up with the bar in
this position so that it sets up my liftoff position – which I can explain more from
the side here.
Take note now of what we're doing from here.
As far as your grip, you want to know how wide your grip should be, and you want to
know the type of grip you should be using.
When you look at the width of the grip you have to come down to the bottom to understand
where it should be.
Now you start down here – I will cover, again, the fact that the elbow position is
going to be key.
You don’t want to bench with your elbows all the way up here in this guillotine position.
If you're doing the guillotine press, that's a different thing, but you want to make sure
you're using a much lighter dumbbell, and not trying to load up, as I'm showing here
for the classic bench press.
What happens is, in this top position you're leaving yourself no room for the rotator cuff
to really operate.
Of course, if the weight gets a little heavy and the bar path starts to go forward a little
bit you're going to get internal rotation that's going to really, really destroy the
rotator cuff in this position because your elbows are too high.
Your elbows should be more about 75 degrees away from your body here.
So if you know that, you set this position up like this, you get your elbows at 90 degrees
bent, and you have your forearm perpendicular to the ground, pointing straight up toward
Wherever that is for you – because again, arm length is going to vary between persons
– you then reach straight up to the bar from here.
You can see that mine kind of ends with my ring finger on the non-knurled part of the
So that's what my width would be, so that when I'm on the bottom I have a fully supported
bar with my forearm pointing, and supporting the bar underneath.
Which brings us to the next question: the grip itself.
What is the right grip?
There's a thumbless grip that some people will use because they want to look cool when
they do it.
That's all set, but what happens if the bar slips out of your hands forward?
You're in trouble.
So what you want to do is, you always want to have your thumb wrapped around the bar,
but how you approach the bar is really important for getting that right.
If I come down – which a lot of times people will do, they'll come this way.
Okay, I just said my ring finger is where I need to be.
I come this way and I grab the bar, and then I go and I grab around, or I grab this way.
Around my thumb.
Whichever is more comfortable for you.
This is stronger, but if I come this way, the issue is that the bar is too high on my
So now when I lift off, automatically the bar is going to roll backward and look what
I've done to my wrists.
So now I don’t have the support of my forearm under the hand anymore.
The bar is about 2"-3" behind that and it weakens my pushing power.
It also increases the likelihood that I'm going to screw up my wrists.
So what I want to do is, I want to come from underneath.
So if I come from underneath, now the bar is lower on my hand, and I can wrap around
to the right position.
But now you can see when I lift off I have a fully supported bar because my forearm is
now directly underneath this and I'm using the support and strength of my bones to actually
allow that to happen.
Now, when we get ready to lift off, where are we lifting from?
These things better allow you to have bend in your elbow because – look at the position
I'm trying to lift from.
I'm trying to lift, again, with a bar that is placed over my eyes.
So it's a little bit behind my body here.
So if I try to lift from here – essentially it's like a pullover – I don’t have much
So if I have a fully straightened out arm and I have the catches of the bar too high,
I have no lifting power at all to get that off.
So I need to have at least a little bit here that I can actually push because my elbows
can still have some straightening left in them to actually push off of.
If I were to lower it too low, now I'm also putting myself lower to the sticking point
where I lose some strength as well.
So for me, it's roughly about this amount of bend in my elbows that makes it really
comfortable for me.
So now, as I get ready to lift, the next thing – I promise you, I'm actually going to lift
This is what I'm talking about.
All the setup that's really important here.
It's as I go to lift the bar, the bar path is now going to be my major concern, okay?
Because I want to make sure that this thing comes down, not over my eyes as I talked about,
but it winds up over my chest.
So that means that the bar path is going to have to come forward a little bit.
It's going to have to come down, and forward a little bit.
Again, if I have my elbows high and I hit the bar path right, that's even worse because
now I'm really internally rotating the shoulders.
That's how you blow an AC joint.
That's I hurt this shoulder on my other side here.
You can see that it's always sticking up for the rest of my life because I actually popped
my AC joint on my left shoulder.
I got down to the bottom of a rep, my bar path was good, but my elbows were too high.
The internal rotation popped down, and the AC joint was popped.
So you want to make sure you've got elbow positioning and bar path properly lined up.
Again, with the bar path we're targeting the chest.
The lift off is going to be straight up, get it over your shoulders, and then move it down.
Technique: there's only two things you need to focus on, guys.
Number one: foot position, believe it or not.
Start down at the feet.
These feet should be under your knees so they can actually push.
If I were to push through my feet right now my butt lifts off the bench, or at least I
can contract my glutes and my butt lifts off the bench.
You're not going to want to actually lift, but you're going to want to be able to push
into the ground to give me that counterforce to be able to push the bar away from me.
So you can see, if my feet were out here too far I have no pushing power there.
I can't do anything from that.
I need to have them underneath.
The next thing is the chest itself.
You can't bench with a flat chest.
You've got to get your chest up.
So what we do is, we pull our shoulder blades down and back, which again, creates a stable
base that I can actually push off of.
Same thing as I always talk about.
You can't fire a cannon from a canoe.
You don’t want to try and jump from a canoe, or jump from sand.
You want to jump from a hard surface.
You want to be able to press from a firm surface on the other side.
So we pull that together.
Then lastly, we tighten the abs.
Just make sure that you have a good tightening of your core because you don’t want to have
any of these leaks – energy leaks – throughout the entire body here.
Press through the feet, press through the back, tighten the core, lift off, up, overhead,
right here, grip is good, feels nice and simple, and it is simple.
It's 135lbs, but the idea is, I'm right here.
Now I'm going to lower it down to the chest.
From here, and again from here I'm going to just push back up, and up strong, okay?
I mean, super simple because I'm squeezing the glutes, pushing through the floor, all
the things I told you to do, and then when we go back to rack it – again, don’t try
to rack it in one fail swoop from here, and up, and try to rack it.
Try to come up to the top.
Once you're there, let your arms go back, engage the rack, and land it straight back
So guys, it's not that it's the most complicated lift that you're going to do.
Again, you've probably done it a bunch of times, but it's the fact that it's one of
the most dangerous exercises to do because there's so many places that you can go wrong.
And having injured my shoulder already doing it, and seeing other guys injure themselves
doing this lift and god forbid, drop the bar on themselves; you need to know what you're
If you have a routine and a checklist that you follow each time, it can go really quick.
Mentally you're going to blow through that and know exactly what to do, but at least
you've mastered this.
All right, guys.
We've put the science back in strength because it's important.
All these angles, and all these little details; they do matter.
They matter to not only your performance staying safe in the gym, but more importantly to the
gains that you see from doing the lift.
If you do it right you're going to see that your performance on this lift will go right
through the roof.
As a matter of fact, maybe you're missing some of these points.
When you do what I just said you might see some of your bench presses increase by a lot
of weight in just a short period of time.
Guys, if you're looking for a complete step-by-step training program that doesn’t overlook the
little things because they all matter, head to ATHLEANX.com and get our ATHLEANX training
In the meantime, if you've found this video helpful – I know it's comprehensive – but
it's worth it.
Leave your comments and thumbs up below, and I'll be back again in just a few days to do
the videos that you want me to cover.
Tell me what else you want me to cover.
If you want me to break down another lift, I'll do that as well.
All right, guys.