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Bench Press: 5 Points of Contact

Press for maximum strength, size, and safety by following these key technique cues.

bench press 5 points of contact

Regardless of how experienced you are, you should always be reanalyzing the basics, particularly on staple exercises like the barbell bench press, one of the best strength- and size-builders for the upper body.

One of the biggest misconceptions about the bench press is that it’s a “dangerous” exercise. Sure, if you do it improperly, you could get hurt. But you can get hurt crossing the street if you don’t pay attention to the crosswalk lights and oncoming traffic.

The bench press is no more dangerous than any other upper-body pressing exercise you do with dumbbells or even a machine. There are ways to do things dangerously and there are ways to do them safely.

When it comes to bench pressing safely, follow the below “5 Points of Contact” and you’ll be poised to make great gains in upper-body size and pressing strength, minus the injuries.

1) Feet

Your first point of contact on the bench press isn’t your hands on the bar – it’s your feet to the ground.

If you’re wondering what your feet have to do with a bench press, the next time you train, try to do the exercise with your feet up off the ground and your knees bent like some people do on crunches. Trust me, you won’t be nearly as strong this way, because not having a solid base beneath will rob you of power and strength, even in the upper body. The force you produce to press the bar up is not just coming from chest, shoulders, and triceps. Force is distributed throughout the body, moving from your feet, through your legs and hips, through the spine, and up to your shoulders and arms.

So where should your feet be? Most people say they should be flat on the floor beneath you, and this advice would seem to make sense for having a solid base. But if you really want to maximize your strength and power and push as much as weight as possible, you need to move your feet back as far as possible, somewhere below your mid-thighs or even your hips.

As for keeping your feet flat on the floor versus heels up, this depends on the length of your legs and the height of the bench. If you have long legs and/or the bench is relatively close to the ground, you’ll probably want to keep your heels on the floor; this is how I do it on the bench press station at my gym.

Point of Contact Take-Home Tip: Pull your feet back on the floor. 

2) Glutes

After your feet are set as far back as possible, your next point of contact is the glutes. This is a very important element of the bench press, and the key is this: Your glutes should be in contact with the bench the entire time, with your lower back NOT in contact.

You should have an arch in your lower back at all times when doing the bench press. There should be a space created so that someone could slide a hand freely between your lower back and bench. This arch will not only help protect your lower back, but it will also provide a more stable abdominal and spinal area from which to press from, thus maximizing pressing strength.

Powerlifters, in fact, really exaggerate the arch to raise the torso that much more off the bench and literally create a shorter range...

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