Complete Bench Press Warm-Up
I think one main reason most (not all1) people skip their warm-up is because there’s no rhyme or reason to what they do.
They’ll perform some arm circles here, some thingamabobbers there, do the hokey pokey, turn themselves around, and they’re miraculously “warmed up.”
While something is better than nothing, I do feel the more specific your warm-up is to the task at and you’re about to do – bench press, squat, deadlift, overhead press a centaur – the more “palatable” (not to mention efficient) it’s going to be.
To that end, my good friend and fellow Boston-based coach, Matthew Ibrahim, submitted the first of what will be a 4-part series on how to dial in your warm-up based on the main lift of the day.
Today, it’s the bench press.
Your bench press warm-up should be short and to the point.
It’s important to spend time priming these main areas: chest, shoulders, rotator cuff, triceps, lats and hips. Remember: the bench press is much MORE than just an upper body exercise.
Most people miss the boat when it comes to working on hip extension (think: bridges, hip thrusts, etc.) in their warm-up prior to bench pressing. Why is this important? Well, it’s important to use stability and tension in both the legs and trunk to your advantage.
You achieve this through maintaining hip extension in your bench press.
Furthermore, if you can successfully anchor the feet down into the ground, use some strong leg drive and stabilize the trunk, you will be able to bench press from a much STRONGER base of support.
Big leg drive = big bench press.
The next step is to target all of those key upper body muscles for a healthy and strong bench press: rotator cuff, triceps and lats. We want to make sure the rotator cuff muscles are ready for overall shoulder health and that the triceps are prepared to assist in arm drive. The lats are crucial in terms of being able to successfully anchor and pin down the upper back area, which forms another STRONG base to drive up from.
Lastly, let’s discuss thoracic extension.
Pure biomechanics folks – please take a DEEP breath and realize that there are ZERO shearing forces going down vertically through the spine here, since the body is positioned in a horizontal set-up on the bench.
Let that sink in.
Is the upper back “arch” slightly uncomfortable for some folks?
However, I would suggest that only a visibly excessive arch is typically one that might not feel great. A strategic arch that helps the lifter gain leverage is always welcomed for a bigger and healthier bench press, especially from a pure physics and biomechanics standpoint.
All eight exercises below provide your body with the opportunity to warm-up everything labeled above in an efficient and cohesive format.
1) Bridge w/ Alternating Reach – x5 each side
2) Yoga Push-Up – x5
3) Mini-Band Standing Short Pull-Apart – x8
4) Mini-Band Standing Chest Press – x8
5) Band Standing Pull-Apart – x10
6) Band Standing Tricep Extension – x10
7) Band Standing Straight Arm Pull-Down – x10
8) Hands Supported Tall Kneel Rockback – x8
About the Author
Matthew Ibrahim is the Co-Owner & Lead Performance Coach of TD Athletes Edge in Salem, MA. He has been an invited guest speaker nationally in over 10 U.S. states, which was highlighted by his presentations at Google Headquarters and Stanford University, in addition to guest speaking internationally in Milan, Italy. His work has been featured in Men’s Fitness, STACK Media and The PTDC. Currently, he is completing his masters degree at Rocky Mountain University with a direct track into their PhD program. He is a big fan of interacting on Instagram and regularly posts about training, performance and recovery.
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