The bench press is one of the most common exercises to see people doing in the gym. It is the base for many chest workouts and has been one of the most popular displays of strength for many years. When you say you go to the gym the most commonly asked question is “how much do you bench”?
However there are some problems that usually occur with the bench press. The most common problem that I come across is people letting their ego pick the weight. The amount of guys that bench a weight far too heavy for them to press with good form is unreal. It seems that the ethos of “heavier is better” overrides the common sense that dictates proper form must be applied to the lift. This can lead to injuries, joint pain, torn muscles or even serious risks if you don’t have a spotter.
This is not the only mistake I come across when I see guys doing the bench press. Here are 3 common mistakes to watch out for when you’re performing the bench press.
Bouncing the bar! This is without doubt the most common mistake I see. Guys bouncing the bar off their chest in order to get some momentum before the press back up. The bench press should be a controlled descent, followed by an explosive concentric contraction to press it back up. My recommendation to avoid this happening is to pause for a second at the bottom of the rep. Don’t rest the bar on your chest and take the strain off your Pecs but just hold it in order to get rid of all the rebound momentum.
Another common mistake is guys not using full range of motion. Now I’m not talking about not locking out at the top as this can actually be beneficial in keeping tension on the chest. I mean when I see guys pick up a heavy weight and lower it to within about 6 inches of their chest then press it back up. This is NOT a rep. The most important part of the bench press rep to stimulate the pectorals is the bottom half. From the chest to about 4 inches off lockout the chest is being worked as the primary muscle. At the lockout the shoulders and triceps tend to take a lot of strain. If you are not going right to your chest with the bar you are conning yourself out of a chest workout and kidding yourself into thinking you are actually completing a rep at that weight. Make sure you always go right to your chest with the bar.
The final most common mistake I see with the bench press is when a spotter practically deadlifts the weight off a guy trying to bench way more than he should. I see guys pick a weight far too heavy then go about repping about half of the weight whilst the spotter strains to lift it off them each time. If you can’t perform all but the last couple of forced reps on your own then the weight is too heavy!! The worst example of this was in my gym a few weeks ago. I saw a big guy go to bench 180kg. I could tell he was strong and was impressed by the weight. He managed 2 reps on his own then got one with the spotter help. I thought that was very good benching. He then put an extra 20kg on the bar so it was at 200kg. I assumed he would go for 1 rep as its possible he could get it. He just about got the 1 rep on his own but then went on to do a further 2 reps where I could see his spotter straining to lift the bar. Then to my astonishment he put ANOTHER 20kg on the bar and sat back down on the bench. I thought there is no way this lunatic is going to try 220kg when he could barely do 200kg. But to my amazement he went for it. Not for one rep, but 3!! I felt sorry for his spotter because it looked like his back was about to give in on the first rep. When he went for the second and third I was sure his spotter was going to pass out from straining so hard. I thought that this was ridiculous but didn’t say anything as if that’s what he wants to do fair enough. I only annoyed me when I got to the gym next day and everyone was talking about this amazing guy who could bench 220kg for 3 reps! I quickly told everyone the truth but clearly this guy had been bragging about his incredible lift which was actually a 2 man performance.
So if you are going to do the bench press please remember not to fall into the trap of letting your ego get in the way of proper lifting. Lift right and avoid these common mistakes.