Bench Press Tip: Let the Bar “Settle”

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I’ve been working my way back from a pesky back injury for the past few months, and while I’ve made some awesome progress as of late (back to full squatting 315 for reps, and just started incorporating some heavy(ish) pulling into the mix), the guy who writes my programs – Greg Robins – has been making me bench press like no one’s business.

Photo Credit: Andrew Blight

This isn’t to imply that “bench pressing like no one’s business” means I’ve been putting up some impressive numbers. To that I say:


1. I’ve never been shy to say how much I hate bench press pressing.

2. And the reason for that is because I’ve never been good at it.

3. I hate bench pressing.

Giving myself some credit – my best performance on the bench press (raw, at a bodyweight of 200) is 315 lbs. Albeit it never would have seen a white light in any powerlifting federation, unless the name of it was the NBOTB (National Butt Off the Bench) Federation.

A 315 lb bench press for a raw lifter at 200 lbs isn’t too shabby, but it’s certainly nothing to brag about. However, truth be told the bench press is a lift I’ve never placed a high priority on. And it shows.

So as it happens, “bench pressing like no one’s business” means I’ve been benching a lot lately, which has been both good and bad. Good in the sense that I’m starting to see my numbers creep up to non-abysmal territory again. Bad in that I still hate bench pressing. But like a bro, I need to persevere!

Which brings me to the topic of today’s post. A common mistake I see a lot of people make when benching is rushing into the press itself and NOT allowing the bar to settle after a hand-off. Watch this video to understand more of what I mean.

Let the Bar “Settle” Before You Press

Yes, all the same rules apply to the set up: Shoulders together and down, chest up, slight arch, drive feet into the ground, don’t destroy the back of your pants.

NOTE: Read HERE why getting a hand-off is so crucial.

But learning to settle the bar is something that’s universally glossed over by a lot of trainees.

Hope that cue helps.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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  • she-ra

    By letting the bar settle, the weight of the loaded bar is pushing your shoulder blades farther into the bench, thereby shortening your stroke, which means you can lift more weight. Added bonus: you won’t jump the “Start!” command in a meet.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Yes! Thanks for adding that in she-ra!

  • Matt Beauparlant

    do you find the settling should be done at the top of every rep, or just the initial set up when taking the weight off the rack?

    • TonyGentilcore

      I think the main benefit is at the beginning when getting the handoff.

      Something else to consider (and it’s what I discussed in the other link I provided in the article) is getting TIGHT!!!! Shoulder blades should be pinched together and down – to the point where it’s uncomfortable – in order to get the tension needed to be stable.

      When you get the handoff, you’ll lose that and that’s what letting the bar settle is so important.

  • Duey

    Hey Tony,

    what kind of back injury you battling? And how did it happen? Just curious since I’m dealing with some back issues as well.

    • TonyGentilcore

      It’s just one of those things were I live in extension, and I’ve had to tweak my programming to work around it.

      In many ways, I’ve had to work on revamping my squatting and DL’ing technique so that I don’t revert to old habits.

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