3 Keys to a Stronger, Pain-Free Bench Press

This will be my first ‘learn to lift’ guide. I picked the bench press because if you’ve trained in a gym the bench press is somewhat a rite of passage. ‘How much do you bench bra’ while relatively unimportant in the scheme of things could be on the most common gym related questions on the planet.

Thinking of the bench press as a ‘full body movement’ will be a complete game changer for you. The more tension we can create throughout the body the heavier and safer our lifting will be (if you can maintain good form of course). Learning these techniques is also going to save your shoulders and make sure you can press PAIN FREE.


Warm Up Routine


If you want injury Prevention and increased Performance it’s imperative we get this part right. Our main focus will be mobilising the thoracic spine while activating our upper back to create stability. If you want to read more on how you should warm click here to see our bulletproof warm up article.


Our warm up is a 3 step process. 






I recommend 2-3 sets of 10

Now time for the good stuff…



These three points of contact are going to give us the most optimal set up position and will be our foundation for a solid, pain-free bench press.

  1. Active FeetYou need to actively PUSH your feet in to the floor, squeeze your glutes as hard as you can and drive your knees out slightly while bracing your abs.
  2. Active CoreSqueeze your glutes and drive your knees out slightly. Take a big breath in before you lift and BRACE your abs as if someone was going to punch you in the stomach.
  3. Active Upper BackProbably the biggest game changer for me personally. Retract your scapular (squeeze your shoulder blades together as hard as you can and maintain that throughout the lift. 




How do I decide my hand position?

For beginners, I have them to think what would there hand position be if you were trying to push someone as hard as they could. That is usually a good start and once you get the hang of it you can start playing with hand position to target different muscles. Going too wide will generally put stress on the shoulder joint.

Where should my elbows be going as i’m lowering the bar?

Many people make the mistake of bringing the bar straight down to their chest and having their elbows flare out. Read next question to get an idea that is going to help your elbow position. Notice in the image below the armpit is covered.

Where should the bar touch on my chest?

The bar should touch your chest at nipple line or slightly below. This is ensure to make sure your elbows don’t ‘flare out’ to the side

My low back is arching slightly, is that bad?

Your low back will have a natural curve during the bench press. Nothing to worry about unless you are experiencing pain.

I see people arching their low back HEAPS. What’s the deal?

The big arch is a powerlifting technique used to decrease the range of motion needed. If you’re not a powerlifter then no need to worry about learning it.

Why can’t I increase my bench press weight?

Too many people only bench press once a week and don’t understand why their strength has stopped improving. You should look at upping your bench press frequency or strengthening muscles that will assist in the bench press (covered below).

I have trouble feeling my pecs during the bench press?

I struggled with this for years. Once you have nailed the upper back set up of squeezing your shoulders together throughout the movement you can start to think about DRIVING YOUR ELBOWS TOGETHER as you press the bar off your chest.

What are some bench press variations?

Incline Bench Press
Flat Bench Press
Floor Press
Decline Bench Press

What other muscles can I work on to improve my bench press?

Rear Delts
Anterior Delts

Register your interest for our FREE Bench Press workshop by emailing me at geoff@lordoftherig.com or texting on 0409 518 088.

As usual if you have any questions or if there is anything at all I can help with please get in touch.

Happy lifting.