This tool is an occasional assist that can help promote correct form and provide a small mechanical advantage in the weakest point of the Bench Press lift.
Basic Principles of an Effective Barbell Bench Press
The optimal way of Bench Pressing for maximal and safe lifting is a little more complicated than you initially think. We’ll cover Bench Press form in other articles and podcast discussions, but at a high level you need to think about:
#1: 5 points of constant solid contact – Your shoulders and butt should be firmly planted onto the bench at all times. Same goes with your feet to the floor. It’s all about force transference from a solid foundation (bench and floor) to the barbell.
#2: Shoulders back and down – Think about your shoulder blades being squeezed together and dragged down to your back pockets. This engages your lats and prevents your shoulder from rolling forward as you press the bar up, causing undue stress on these muscles.
#3: Pull ‘the bar apart’ at the top – This cue helps engage the lats and stabilise the movement, plus safely loading the pecs.
#4: Arch you lower back – Arching your lower back will create a more solid connection between the bench and behind your chest (as in your upper back). More importantly, it changes the angle and trajectory of the press – allowing for less horizontal movement of the bar as you press which makes it safer for the shoulders.
#5: Touch down just below nipples – As you hold the bar above you, it will be squarely above your shoulders so your shoulders are not unnecessarily working in this ‘rest’ portion of the lift. As you lower the bar, it’s important the bar moves horizontally down to just under your nipples. The reason being shoulder safety and getting the most out of your lats. You can cause all sort of shoulder impingement and rotator cuff issues if you try and flare your elbows out to keep the bar closer to your shoulders as you lower the bar.
#6: Forcefully up, Lower with control – The sticking point for most people in the Bench Press is at the bottom, as you look to press off from your chest. If you’re weak in this position, you may be strong in the latter half of the lift, but you won’t be able to complete full reps, which will limit muscle growth/strength. The idea generally is to elicit as much force as possible and move the bar quickly off your chest, followed by a controlled and slower descent. Think one second up and two seconds down.
How the Bench Blaster can help train good form
As it relates to the above principles, the Bench Blaster helps most with Point 5 and 6. The tightness it creates around your chest and upper arms does the following:
[A] Forces you to tuck your elbows in and lower the bar to just below your nipples, due to the pressure that increases from the band as you lower the bar.
[B] Provides some extra stability and confidence at the bottom of the lift. It helps you feel more solid and in control, as it provides a tightness in this most vulnerable position of the Bench Press.
[C] Just like a coiled spring, at the bottom of the Bench Press the Bench Blaster has maximum tension. At lower bar weights, it can provide a noticeable assist in pressing the bar off your chest. As the bar weight increases, it’s assistance is naturally lowered. That said, even at heavy loads, it provides a psychological and small mechanical advantage to get momentum in the bar in those critical two inches off your chest.
Remember, it’s a training tool, not a replacement for strength
The reality is, you need to be strong throughout any lift, and not rely on crutches and tools to get you out of trouble. That won’t help with maximal gains in strength and muscle development. So look at the Bench Blaster as a tool you use occasionally to train the correct recruitment and movement patterns. It’s critical you have good form before you start reaching to new heights and PR’s.
I also use the Bench Blaster occasionally if I am going for a new PR on my bench, say for the first 1-2 sets. It provides me with the small psychological edge and mental support to fully commit to the lift, knowing I have a little mechanical help in my weakest part of the lift.
To be clear, it’s an aid I use infrequently, but it is a great tool that has helped my Bench Press progress over the last few months, where my strength had previously stalled.
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