The Core and Heavy Pressing
You often hear about core activation for lower body, but it also works just as well for improving upper body strength, including pressing.
The "deadbug" exercise is a common lower-body activation drill. Unlike a sit-up, it forces you to have great core and pelvic control while creating a ton of tension in the abs.
Now let's take the deadbug one step further for upper body activation.
Movement Specific Prep
Recently there's been some debate about whether sport specific exercises really improve sports performance compared to simply improving overall force production via regular lifts (squat, bench, deads, etc). Well, it depends on the exercise itself and the sport or specific movement you're trying to improve.
In this case, we use an exercise that's known to be highly effective for the anterior core and add a specific movement that promotes lat engagement and a proper bar path.
By engaging your core and pulling the bar down against the J-hooks you create a huge amount of tension in the lats and the core.
- Keep the spine neutral on the bench.
- Brace your core (abdomen specifically).
- Use your upper back and lats to "pull" the bar down, locking everything tight.
- Maintain the upper back tightness while you extend and flex your legs one at a time.
This exercise helps improve your ability to create tension in the upper back and lats while dynamically moving your legs. This is more important than you think.
"But your legs don't move when you bench!"
That's true, but that's not the point. Learning to maintain tension and stay tight is crucial for any lift.
Many lifters lose tightness in the upper back after their first rep on the bench press. Doing these bar iso-deadbugs engrains the pattern of upper back tightness while another part of your body moves. This will help you stay tight throughout the set, saving your shoulders and making you stronger.
Your core is important in the bench press. It transfers energy from the ground to your upper body. A weaker core means lost energy and a weaker bench.
Your upper back and lats are very important when it comes to benching. Sure, they're not the prime movers, but they function to stabilize and provide a strong base to press from so you don't lose energy during the movement.
Give these a try during your next bench session.