website builder

Keep Your Butt on the Bench

Keeping your butt down on the bench press maintains your arch and ensures you train & grow your chest, triceps, and anterior deltoid muscles. It improves your bench press & ensures your lift counts at powerlifting meets.

Why It Matters

One of the most persistent problems in the bench press is lifting your butt off the bench. We want to keep the bench press an upper body exercise, without the lower body taking its thunder. Bridging or driving the legs up and lifting or popping the butt up off the bench incorporates the legs to such an extent that it shifts some of the stress from the upper body to the legs while not providing enough stress for the lower body to grow or get stronger.

We want to lift more weight, though, so we want to have an arch. An arch not only reduces the range of motion slightly but also brings the angle of attachment of the muscle closer to 90 degrees. This increases the efficiency of how the pecs pull the humerus up toward the top.

No one’s shoulders come off the bench because the barbell is held over the shoulders. Lifters’ butts sometimes come up off the bench, as the lifter discovers that bridging–pushing the entire hips and butt up off the bench–helps drive the bar up off the chest (especially for a paused bench) & helps you lift more weight. This causes 2 problems.

The first problem is that–like bending the knees for a push press—this removes the stress to the target muscles of the upper body. We want to strengthen and grow these muscles. You want big chesticles and meaty python arms.

Secondly, lifting the butt off the bench press disqualifies you in any legitimate powerlifting or strengthlifting federation (and many bad ones).

Bench Press Leg Drive

We build and maintain an arch–and keep the butt on the bench—by using proper leg drive.

Leg drive is not driving up and bridging so that the butt comes off the bench. Rather, the lifter drives up toward his head into the arch, which maintains the arch.

More advanced lifters, who compete in powerlifting, may use a more aggressive leg drive up the bench with their paused competition bench press. While this does not deliver the same degree of benefit as bridging would, the horizontal movement helps begin the movement of the bar off the chest. This well-timed leg drive, of course, exists in the realm of a powerlifting competition, when the point is to lift as much weight as possible within the rules of the federation.

Lastly, a quick note on the shoulders in the bench. While the shoulders are not going to come up off the bench, a few things may help maintain the arch on the other end of the arch.

Build a Bench Press Arch

The way to proper bench press form is through the arch. When you arch your back in the bench press, you are both raising your chest and the touchpoint that marks the bottom of the movement, shortening the distance vertically. You are also pulling your shoulder horizontally closer to that touchpoint, shortening the amount of horizontal travel away from the shoulder joint that is necessary for the safe execution of the movement. The arch improves the efficiency of an inherently inefficient movement.

But the arch is not easy to maintain at heavy weights. When you arch, you are concentrically contracting your spinal erectors to extend your spine into that position. You are also retracting your shoulder blades to pull them flat against the bench. And you are supporting a heavy load in your hands, requiring stability and control. There is a lot of muscular tension necessary to hold that position. The net effect is that you face the same problem as a bridge builder. The compressive force on top of the bridge disperses down the sides of the arch. If nothing were there holding the arch together at the bottom, then the sides would push apart, and the bridge would collapse. So, too would your bench press arch.

The bridge builder’s answer is an abutment. The bridge abutment resists the outward movement of the bridge’s ends with vertical force from the ground and horizontal force from supports. This holds the arch of the bridge. And you can use the same idea to strengthen the arch of your bench press. The two points that are trying to move apart are your upper back, where your shoulder blades contact the bench, and your butt, which should be firmly in contact with the bench.

At the top, you have vertical and horizontal resistance to help keep your shoulders in place. With sufficient weight on the bar, the vertical downward force of the bar pins your shoulders in place. That pressure is supported by the friction of the bench. Good benches are a bit “stickier” than cheap ones and will help you keep your upper back in place.

At the other end of the arch, you do not have the same downward vertical pressure from the bar to help hold you in place. So, while there is friction against the bench, it is less effective than at your upper back. But you can create resistance to support your arch from the ground with your legs and feet.

Your feet do not become the end of the arch. If you lift your butt off the bench, your arch now spans from your upper back to your feet. This position is a weak pressing position. Instead, your feet and legs create an abutment, providing horizontal resistance against the tendency for your butt to move away from your shoulders.

The most effective resistance is along the same line as the opposing force. If your butt moved farther away from your shoulders, it would do so along the plane of the bench. Parallel to the bench is the optimal direction to resist that movement. Your feet should be actively pushing to create a line of force parallel to the bench, pushing you toward the head side of the bench.

To practice this, grab a friend next time you bench. Lie down on the bench without taking the bar out of the rack. Assume your normal bench press set up: arch your chest, retract your shoulder blades, and feet flat on the floor. Now, have your friend stand by your head and use their hands to block your shoulders. Their goal is to keep you from sliding upward and off the bench. Now, using your legs, push into their hands. What you should feel is a squeezing and supporting of the arch in your back. If your shoulders cannot move, you will be using your legs to squish yourself into a more supported, arched position. Take note of how your legs feel in this position and try to maintain that squeeze.




twitter2 twitter2 instagram2 facebook2


©2024 Barbell Logic | All rights reserved. | Privacy Policy | Terms & Conditions | Powered by Tension Group

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?