While the most efficient path for a lot of exercises is moving a bar or weight in a straight line, the bench press is an entirely different beast. For the bench press, moving the bar through a straight up and down movement can actually work against you, especially if you’re looking for strength gains.
Think of it this way – swinging your golf club faster won’t make a difference in the distance your ball travels if the path of your swing isn’t fine-tuned. The same can be said for your bench press. If you’ve tried everything from high volume with lighter weights to low volume with higher weights to speed work and you’re still hitting a plateau in your bench press, chances are your bar path is a big factor in your lack of progress.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Your start and finish position of the bar should be the same and remain consistent – directly over the upper back and shoulder joint with vertical arms => This is your strongest base of support.
- The second position of where the bar meets your chest is going to vary slightly with each person and the width of grip you’re using.
- As a guideline, aim for your mid-sternum. Your forearms to be perpendicular to the bar at the bottom position.
- Don’t keep your elbows 90 degrees from your body. Slightly tucking in your elbows should feel more comfortable and it will put you at less risk for future shoulder injuries.
To get an idea of where the bar aligns with your chest, cover the center of the bar with chalk so that after a set of bench presses you can see if you are consistently lowering the bar to the same position.
While proper programming and accessory exercise work is still important, developing proper bar path technique is key for you to make progress. Long story short: if you’re looking for a stronger chest, fix your bar path!
If you have any questions about the bench press bar path, or any strength training related questions in general please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.