Oct 19, 2017
Better at the Bench

When an athlete engages in an exercise incorrectly, the chances for possible injury increase and they lose some of the benefits. That’s why, as a coach, you want to teach athletes the correct technique and movements for each workout. In a video for Elitefts, Dave Tate, CSCS, describes some of the biggest mistakes that athletes make when doing the bench press, as well as how to fix them.

The first mistake athletes make is not staying consistent in the tightness of their grip throughout the entire movement. According to Tate, many times athletes loosen their grip over the duration of the press. On the other hand, some tend to squeeze and loosen their grip on the bar multiple times. For these athletes, it is important to learn to keep their grip firm until the bar is back in its rack.

“You want to make sure, whatever grab you use, you are grabbing the bar as tight as you possibly can. And throughout the whole movement, you squeeze the bar as hard as you can,” says Tate. “… That’s going to help activate and keep the whole body tight.”

This tip leads into the second mistake, which is not keeping the overall body tight. For example, athletes should not move their legs as they carry out a bench press. Instead, they need to find the correct position and keep their legs, as well as the rest of their body, stable.

“You want to make sure that your entire body is tight on the bench, and that you are trying to push your body away from the bar as you push up,” says Tate. “If your body is loose, then all of the energy and strength from your legs isn’t going to transfer over through to the bar.”

Another common error is incorrect placement of the bar in relation to the wrists. As Tate explains, some athletes are prone to holding the bar either behind or in front of their wrists. To do the bench press correctly, athletes must make sure that the bar is centered with the wrists and in line with the elbow. They should then make sure to carry this alignment throughout the movement.

One of the most frequently made mistakes Tate sees is an athlete bringing the bar out and going through the bench press movement too quickly. Instead of doing this, athletes should take their time and engage in what Tate calls “setting the weight.”

“You’ve got to take the bar out, let the bar settle, and then bench and then [move the bar] back up again,” he says. “… That gives your upper back, your lats, your triceps, and everything time to stabilize and to get set so you will be able to have more pressing power.”

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