This may shock you, but the Bench Press is not all about the chest. Powerlifters know that a big Bench is only possible when you involve the lats, and even the glutes. That's why they tell you to grind your feet into the floor—an instruction that is particularly difficult to execute properly.
Picture this: you're under the bar, and you want to use your strength to get that weight up. It's easy to forget about your feet and driving through the floor; instead, you're all arms and chest, with your glutes wiggling on the bench. All of this leads to a break in efficiency and power, and you won't be able to lift as much weight.
To address the functional void between the upper and lower body during this movement, it's crucial to engage the core (trunk), which acts as a bridge. To build chest strength in my athletes, I use the following approach:
- Use purposeful and strategic movements to challenge the athlete to build strength and resiliency.
- Integrate the core in multiple movements to increase efficiency.
- Focus on injury prevention, ensuring joints are given the appropriate complete range of motion (ROM) for adaptations.
The Fascial Slingshot exercise below integrates these three points to enhance your Bench Press technique. Indirectly, it will help you build a chest that can crack a walnut. It challenges the diagonal core pattern for a better and more efficient Bench while allowing your shoulder blades to move rather than pinning them against the bench. You'll give your shoulder blades the opportunity for some nice protraction, which will assist in a cleaner upward rotation during overhead movements.
- With dumbbells or kettlebells, lie on your back on the bench and move your body over to one side until your spine is slightly over the edge of the bench. This will ensure your shoulder blade (scapula) is free to move. This will be the side you will be pressing with.
- Your glute on the same side will be off the bench as well. You will feel this glute firing! It will be on in a way you've never felt, especially if one of your weaknesses is driving that foot into the floor to generate more force.
- Push your foot directly into the floor, driving it into a slight external rotation (what Stu McGill calls "spreading the floor.")
- Keep your upper body flat—don't allow the side of your body that's off the bench to lean toward the ground. Keep it straight. That will ensure that your core remains activated in a diagonal "X shape" pattern.
- Shoulder: Full range of scapula is great for injury prevention and strength throughout an entire ROM (full retraction and protraction).
- Glute/Hip/Foot: Forces you to drive your foot into the floor to activate your foot/leg/thigh/and hip muscles.
- Core/abdominals: Forces you to brace throughout the movement; ensures the core is working to keep the upper and lower body bridged dynamically rather than statically.
- Anti-rotation: Challenges you to resist being rotated by the load, working that anterior/posterior sling.
- Less weight: A new and humbling challenge, as you need to adapt to new environments and stressors.
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