Out of the big three lifts, bench press is the lift done most frequently by average gym goers, yet probably the most misunderstood. To most, it is simple, it is a chest movement. In reality, when benching efficiently, it will require strong lats, rear delts, triceps, core and even legs. In this article we are going to look at the use of leg “drive”.
I think using the term leg drive actually confuses people, and causes them to put too much emphasis in the “drive”. Watch a handful of people bench and I guarantee you will see someone’s hips flying off the bench while they are trying to press the weight. In a powerlifting meet, this is an automatic failed attempt. But more than that, it is a sure sign of improper technique and poor leverages. Below, I will share some tips on how to prevent your hips from shooting up.
Get yourself set up under the bar, shoulders and back squeezed tightly together with your feet planted firmly.
Unrack the bar, maintaining the tightness in your upper body, letting the weight settle.
As you lower the bar, you should be building tension, like stretching a rubber band. Think of it like a row or band pull apart, this will help keep your elbows tucked and in proper position.
As the weight approaches your chest, use your legs to stabilize yourself and absorb the weight of the bar, building tension in the quads..
When it is time to press, this is where it all comes together. This is the point where people usually make a mistake, resulting in their hips coming off the bench. Instead of “driving” the weight up, make a slight shift towards the rack, and use the tension you have built up to essentially slingshot the weight up.
The best thing I ever did for my bench was to rethink it entirely. Instead of focusing on drive, focus on stability, and keeping tight. Use your legs to absorb the weight of the bar, keeping yourself stable and allowing tension to build, as I always say tension is your friend. After you unrack the bar, nothing should really move except for your arms. If you are not staying tight and keeping your feet planted, you are losing power, plain and simple. If your feet are moving throughout the lift, or your butt is coming off the bench, the weight is beating you.
To maximize your stability, there are a few details that will help.
First, make sure your knees are lower than your hips when benching. When you do use “drive”, this will help you to drive back towards the rack, rather than straight up, resulting in your butt shooting up.
The second, is to work on getting your heels to the floor. I know many people bench on their toes, but it is not as stable as your entire foot. If you lack the mobility to get your heel to the ground, check out the tips by Kris Nign in the link below to increase ankle mobility and get that heel down.