When it comes to exercise, maintaining the correct form throughout your routines is an important concern. Far too many people hit the gym with as much fervour as they can muster only to injure themselves due to incorrect form. The bench press with barbells is one such exercise that, in being quite a common one, is often attempted with little to no understanding of how it should be done. This often results in wasted energy, ineffective results and worst of all, injuries.
What makes the bench press so dangerous when done incorrectly? The fact that incorrect form can put a staggering amount of pressure on your rotary cuffs and other joints. Injuries sustained here can cause a lifetime of problems, and are also incredibly painful.
So before you hit that bench and start pushing yourself, follow these tips to make sure that your form is working for you, and not against you.
Setting Up the Flat Bench and Barbell
Let’s get started on the foundations; setting up. It may not seem complicated, line the bar up with the bench, slap some weight on and use the clips. What could be simpler, right? Wrong. Setting up correctly will ensure that the bar is lined up properly with both the bench and your body, and is a crucial first step.
First make sure that the appropriate weights are affixed to the bar and that they are secured with clips. (While I wouldn’t always recommend this, if you are lifting at home and have no one to spot you, you may want to leave the clips off in case you are in trouble and need to dump the weight without injuring yourself). Next, make sure that each end of the bar is correctly lined up with the bench, so that you will be lifting even weight on either side.
While lying on the bench, make sure that your head is given adequate support and that your eyes are in line with the bar. Once you lift the bar it will be in line with your chest, so make sure that your elbows are around 75 degrees from your body, so as not to put unnecessary strain on your rotary cuff while lifting.
Get a Grip
Get your thumbs involved for additional support. Grip the bar with your hands at the bottom and your thumbs coming around the top so that your wrists are straight and supported. The bar, while in a resting position on the bracket, should not be too high or too low as to rob you of some of your lifting power. If your elbows are bent at around 90 degrees while gripping the bar, you are doing it right.
Bend your knees so that your feet are resting on the floor beneath them. This way you will be able to create more counterforce during the lift, using your feet.
Now, lower and flatten your shoulder blades, forcing a slight curve in your chest (you never want to lift with a flat chest). Tighten your core and perform your first lift by raising the bar directly up over your chest. While lifting, keep the same form as when the bar was in a resting position, but shorten the depth on the lift. Overextending puts unnecessary and dangerous strain on your joints.
Racking Back Up
Once you have finished your set you will need to get the barbell back on the rack. It might be tempting to do it in one swift movement, but doing so may result in injury. It is much better to lift first and get into a stable position. Once the bar is stable, secure it carefully in the rack.
As is the case with all forms of fitness, there is more to the bench press and barbell than meets the eye. Form is crucial for performance and avoiding injury, so be sure to concentrate on it.
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