#338 – Why You Should Be Pausing Your Bench Press


Coach Matt and Niki explore a common issue with the bench press — losing tightness at the bottom of the eccentric portion of the lift. This error presents in a number of ways, such as the elbows flaring out or “chicken winging” on the way up, the chest and/or sternum sinking during the eccentric portion, or the bar visibly bouncing or rebounding off the chest.


Matt and Niki first attempt to fix this problem by having the lifter slow down the eccentric or lowering part of the movement, bringing attention to where exactly the lifter is touching the bar on his or her chest, elbow position, and encouraging the lifter to exert conscious control over the speed of the bar (which is closely tied to how tight they can keep their shoulders pinned together during the lift). Sometimes slowing down the lift is not enough, however, at which point they ask the lifter to pause the lift at the chest for a second or two before driving up.


The pause forces the lifter to use his lats to maintain shoulder position, and brings attention to leg drive, as both will suffer if the lifter has been relying on rebound to initiate the concentric, upward movement of the lift. As Niki points out, the shoulder is a ball and socket joint with a large range of motion, meaning the bar path has a lot of room for error if the lifter cannot consciously control his shoulder position.


So, if you’re struggling with losing tightness during the bench press, with your arms doing the “chicken wing” while driving up, then start pausing your bench press reps and working on establishing tight, retracted shoulder blades, solid leg drive to reinforce the arch, and a controlled descent speed.




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