2 Common Bench Press Mistakes (And How to Fix Them!)

by Jordan Syatt March 30, 2015

This isn’t your normal bench press article.

I’m not going to post a picture of a half nekked, freshly spray tanned male model bench pressing an obnoxiously large set of foam weights to grab your attention. 

And I’m also not going to tell you correcting these 2 common bench press mistakes will instantly add 50lbs to your bench press.

So why should you read this article?

1. Odds are you’re making at least one, if not both, of these bench press mistakes

2. Correcting these bench press mistakes will not only help you get stronger but will also keep your shoulders safer and healthier in the long-run.

3. Understanding these bench press mistakes (and how to fix them) will make you a better coach.

Sound good to you?

Sweet, let’s talk bench press.

2 Common Bench Press Mistakes (And How to Fix Them!)

Just in case you chose to skim or skip the video entirely, below I’ve outlined a summary of both common bench press mistakes. 

Bench Press Mistake #1

Protracting the Scapulae (Shoulder Blades)

bench press mistakesBy protracting the shoulder blades (i.e. allowing your scapulae to drift apart as you press the bar upwards as shown in the picture above) you increase the lifts range of motion (ROM) and your risk of shoulder pain or injury. 

In other words, protracting your shoulders is a big bench press no-no. 

Instead, what you want to do is keep your shoulder blades retracted (i.e. pinched towards one another) throughout the entire ROM. 

While you don’t need to pinch them together as hard as possible, maintaining your scapulae in a retracted position holds numerous benefits:

1) It reduces the lifts ROM, essentially minimizing the total amount of work necessary for you to complete the bench press.

2) It keeps your shoulders in a safer (more stable) position throughout the entire ROM which, needless to say, will help you stay stronger and healthier in the long-run.

What Do Retracted Shoulder Blades Look Like?

Screenshot (126)See how my shoulder blades are pinched together and, relative to the picture above, my hands are much closer to my chest? 

This is what retracted scapulae look like during the bench press and how they should stay throughout the entire ROM. 

Mistake #2

Not Keeping Your Elbows Under the Bar

bench press mistakesOne of the most common bench press mistakes I see on a daily basis, not keeping your elbows directly beneath the bar will drastically inhibit your bench press strength and performance.

As shown in the picture above, when you allow your elbows to drift away from underneath the bar you essentially turn the lift into a pseudo tricep extension which puts you at a huge disadvantage.

How Do You Fix This?

The major bench press rule of thumb I tell all of my clients is keep your elbows, wrists, and the bar in-line with one another throughout the entire ROM.

bench press mistakesIn keeping these three points in-line, you maximize the amount of force you can transfer directly into the bar which, obviously, will allow you to bench press heavier weight. 

Where most lifters go wrong is by exaggerating the “elbow tuck” which we so often hear is “absolutely essential” for a strong and safe bench press.

And while, personally, I’m not a huge proponent of an exaggerated tuck for lifters with healthy shoulders, you should almost always keep your elbows, wrists, and the bar in one line regardless of whether or not you tuck your elbows.

Because as soon as your elbows come out from underneath the bar, you’ll be limiting muscular contribution from both the pecs and delts while simultaneously putting yourself at a mechanical disadvantage.

Bench Press Programming Considerations

deadbug ab exerciseFrequency: 1-3x/week

Intensity: On a scale of 1-10, difficulty should range between a 6-10 on a regular basis.

Sets & Reps: 2-5 sets of 1-10 repetitions per set is sufficient to accomplish the desired training adaptations. 

Workout Placement: Near the beginning of your workout (the 1st or 2nd exercise) prior to getting fatigued so you can focus on using perfect form while generating as much force as possible.

Want to Try My 12-Week Program to Boost Your Bench Press?

bench press mistakesRaw Strength for Powerlifting is the program I’ve tried and tested on countless lifters and even used myself on my road to becoming a world record powerlifter. 

If you’re looking for a complete 90-day program to drastically boost your bench press (and your squat & deadlift), I have no doubt you’ll see huge success with Raw Strength for Powerlifting.

Did You Find This Article Helpful?

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