You’re gearing up, wrist wraps are packed and your eyes are set on the closest bench.
“Jack3d is flowing like a river.”
In T-minus 20 minutes, you will be in full-swing. There may be one simple thing that you’ve forgotten on your trek toward Mt. Gainserest…
If you guessed supersets, you better leave my site! Its mobilization! Healthy shoulders and strong mobile thoracic spines build the foundation to a solid bench press.
If you’re asking, “Rob, what does a strong back have to do with a strong bench?”. I can tell you that it’s all about stabilization.
“Eccentric portion of the bench press is all driven through subscapular retraction and all of the tissues engaging the shoulder blades.”
One huge cue I use for my athletes is to row to the shoulder like your trying to reverse hug the bench. Posterior delt, rhomboid, trap, and sub-scap maintain this ROM as a smooth and controlled movement. Now, you are probably asking… “Hey Rob, how do I strengthen my Subscapular Region?!” Well, I have a simple answer. Grab the resistance bands!
- Sit on a bench, spine neutral and head facing straight forward.
- With outstretched arms, hold a light band end to end parallel with the floor.
- Pull each end away from each other, staying parallel with the floor and generating tension throughout the posterior delt to the sub-scap region.
- Pretend like you are trying to pinch a quarter between your shoulder blades as you’re pulling the band apart and drawing the scapula together.
- Avoid overextending the lumbar or rounding the T-spine.
Next, with the shoulder being made up of only 3 bones, (Clavicle, Scapula and Humerus), there isn’t much there to work with besides tendons, ligaments and muscle to maintain load. This is where the rotator cuff comes to play.
“A weak rotator cuff can potentially lead to issues including some rather debilitating injuries that may limit your progression with your press work.”
We need to strengthen the rotator cuff and maintain that work to keep it happy and healthy. This is where banded internal/external rotation comes to play.
- Stand at a rack, rig, or other stationary object.
- Anchor your band on said object and grip the band in your palm.
- With your arm parallel with the floor, bend your elbow to 90 degrees to your starting bench press position.
- Here we torque the arm at the shoulder, raising the wrist/forearm straight up pulling against the band, then return to starting position with a steady 2 count up and down.
- Then we repeat the same motion rotating downwards with the wrist maintaining the upper arm parallel with the floor.
The third and final end-all and be-all of the bench press is tension in the chest. Having excessive pec tension can limit range of motion, shifting leading muscles to smaller/weaker tissues and potentially lead to injuries.
“Though the pec’s action includes shoulder horizontal adduction, this can act as a limiting factor to scapular retraction if there is excessive tension through this range of motion.”
Adding T-spine assistance work can really help alleviate this, such as using the “Band Pull Aparts” as stated above but also releasing tissues trigger points across the pec using myofascial release and trigger point activation.
I always prefer to progress through trigger point objects, usually starting with a tennis ball and working up to a lacrosse ball or baseball. Seeing as the pec is lined with tons of nerve endings, it’s good to start small and work to something harder over time.
- Take your trigger point object and place it on a wall or rig column.
- Lean into that object placing the object where the pec inserts into the shoulder.
- Add pressure as you see fit and comfortable and hold in place for around 2 minutes or until you feel a release.
- From here, lightly roll the trigger point object along the pec towards the sternum breaking up the tissues along the pec.
- Avoid mashing it abusively as it will cause the opposite effect and create tension or bruising. This should be treated as a “massage” style release.
Assuming your bench press form is on point, once these details are put into place along with some strong tricep, stability and core assistance work, expect to see some gradual improvement in the range of motion for your bench press as well as better progression for this lift.
Now go on, bro… make them know how much yah bench!
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The information provided in this article, as well as this web-site blog is intended for informational and educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice for any condition. Always consult a qualified medical professional before beginning any nutritional program or exercise program. By reading this disclaimer, you hereby agree and understand that the information provided in this column is not medical advice and relying upon it shall be done at your sole risk.