Tip: The Bench Press is a Whole-Body Exercise

To get the most out of the bench, you must make it a whole-body lift. Here are four ways to do it.

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The bench press is a staple. However, one point to emphasize is that you should make the bench press a whole-body lift, not just a chest/triceps/delts lift. This is important for performance and safety, but also for milking the lift for all it’s worth!

Here are the key points to turn the bench press into a whole body effort:

  1. Squeeze the bar as hard as possible. This makes everything more stable, gives you a better bar path, and creates more shoulder stability via the irradiation principle. It’ll also make the bar feel lighter.
  2. Squeeze the glutes and hamstrings hard. The glute squeeze is easy to understand. For the hamstrings, your feet must be firmly on the ground as you actively try to “pull the floor toward you.” It’s trying to do a leg curl against the floor. This will create a more stable foundation to push off from.
  3. Keep a tight upper back. Try to bring both shoulder blades together. Imagine pinching a pencil between them. Keep that super tight. But more importantly, this tight upper back needs to be maintained throughout the whole lift.
  4. Engage the lats. To do this you will need to create what’s called “spiral tension.” Basically, while grabbing the bar as hard as possible, externally rotate at the shoulder joint while raising the chest. You’ll feel your lats and teres contract. This must also be maintained throughout the whole lift.

The hard part of the exercise isn’t actually lifting the barbell; it’s maintaining whole-body tightness. That should be your main focus.

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Christian Thibaudeau specializes in building bodies that perform as well as they look. He is one of the most sought-after coaches by the world's top athletes and bodybuilders. Check out the Christian Thibaudeau Coaching Forum.