In powerlifting, a bench press is considered the act of lifting a barbell while laying on your back, bringing the bar down to touch your chest or abdomen, pausing, then pressing the bar away until your elbows are locked and you are back in your starting position. In most federations, your upper back (traps), buttocks, and feet must remain in contact with the bench and floor at all times, and in some federations, your head must remain in contact with the bench as well. One key aspect most powerlifters utilize to aid them in the bench press is the coveted arch. Some lifters are naturally good at curving their back to form a huge arch, while other lifters struggle and perform their bench press with a rather flat back. I myself have been credited with having a great arch, with many lifters asking me what I do to get my arch so tight. Below, I’ve laid out the steps I use every time I set up for my bench press. This setup puts me in the same position every time, resulting in practically the same lift every time.
The key words here are every time. The more you do this, the better, faster, and easier this setup becomes! Practice this for every set you perform, including warm ups and max effort sets. Do not slack on setup just because the weight is lighter.
So without further ado, here are the steps I take to set up the perfect bench press arch, every time.
1) Retract the scapula – up, back, and down.
2) Grip the bar – in my case, pinky on the rings, bar in bottom of palm, over wrist.
3) Dig in traps, start arch formation.
4) Feet on ground, and force them back as far as I can. Butt planted. The further back my feet, the tighter my arch. Also, this keeps my knees way below my hips, and stops my butt from ever leaving the bench.
5) USAPL rule – heels down.
6) Squeeze the bar hard, Squeeze glutes hard. Get bar handed to you. Pull the bar apart. Engage lats. Brace. Start lift.
Start to finish, takes about 30 seconds.
To see this in action, here is a video in which I perform this routine 3 times in a push/pull competition in 2015. Take a look:
Give this a try. Bench pressing is a lot more technique driven than meets the eye, and this set up has dramatically increased the amount of weight I can move.