- Set up the weight. It is worth practising a few reps with a broom handle to really develop good form.
- Lie on your back. If using a rack, the barbell will be behind the head and set at a height so it can be just lifted off – ie don’t set it too low.
- I advise settling the back into the bench and planting the feet firmly on the ground.
- Grab the bar with the hands shoulder width apart and unrack the weight.
- Keeping wrists straight and the elbows pointing roughly towards the knees, lower the bar for a count of 2,3 or 4 until it just touches the chest just below the pecs. It may just land on the nipples – but lower is better.
- Straighten the arms for a count of 1 or 2.
- The bar will move in an arc. As it is pushed upwards, it will naturally drive towards the rack.
It is harder to achieve good form with the close grip bench press – but when good form is achieved there are huge benefits to shoulder stability and chest strength. Yes, it involves the triceps more than the classic wide grip bench press, but this is a piffling price to pay for what can be gained.
Things that go wrong:
- As the bar lowers to the chest, the shoulders roll forwards which engages the pesky Pec Minor and will lead to injury. Keep the chest broad throughout the movement.
- The wrists bend. This shows that form is less than optimal. Practise with a light weight or broomstick to sort that out. Then try again.
- The elbows widen too much. This shows that the shoulder stabilisers are not engaging properly and eventually will lead to injury. When the lift is performed well, there is a sense that the push comes through the ribs and not from the tops or front of the shoulders.
- As we tire, the back starts arching or the bottom lifting off the bench. Strongly engage the abs to prevent this happening or injury will result. It is better to stop the exercise than to be injured.