5 Bench Press Mistakes That Will Stall Your Progress

The bench press is probably your favorite lift. At the very least, if you lift weights consistently, I’m sure you perform it often enough.

Unfortunately I have to assume that you’re doing it wrong. Every time I walk into a gym and glance over at the horde of men surrounding the bench press, I’m disappointed, if not completely abhorred. Their form tends to be horrible. And this is concerning for two reasons:

1. Bad bench press form combined with relatively heavy weights can lead to brutal injuries, like tearing a rotator cuff or pectoral muscle.

2. It doesn’t properly engage your muscles—you won’t experience increased strength or muscle mass if you’re not recruiting your muscles in a functional pattern that complements their natural movement.

I’ve sufficiently fucked up my shoulder in the past by letting my ego get in my way, and lead me to putting more weight on the bar than I could properly lift. Putting an extra 50 pounds on the bar is not even close to worth the pain and suffering it can cause. Below I’ll detail the most common bench press mistakes, and explain how to fix them. If you do this you’ll both reduce the risk of injury, and also supercharge your progress in the process.

NOTE: Always use a spotter when pressing a weight that is even remotely difficult for you, neglecting to do so could be fatal.

1. Loose body when you setup


Your wrists should be tight, as seen on the right.

When you lay down on the bench, you want to get your whole body tight. This gives you a stable base to press from, and therefore increases how much weight you can lift in a controlled fashion.

If you’re just laying on the bench like you’re about to take a rest, this will put you in a terrible spot to begin the lift. You want to squeeze your shoulder blades together so that they’re the main point of contact in between your body and the bench, tighten your midsection, squeeze your ass, plant your feet firmly against the floor, and then grasp the barbell with a tight grip.

And all of these things should remain tight throughout. Your feet shouldn’t dance around, your grip shouldn’t loosen, and neither should your ass or shoulder blades.

2. Poor un-racking of the bar

If you set up correctly but fuck up the un-racking of the bar, you immediately sacrifice the aforementioned benefits that a tight setup grants you.

You do NOT want to lift the bar straight up and then move it over your chest. This will cause your shoulder blades to loosen and separate. What you want to do, instead, is to pull the bar horizontally from the rack to over your chest, lifting it up vertically only enough to clear the rack. This will maintain that shoulder blade tightness that’s so important from this point forward.

3. Flaring of the elbows


Your elbows should be in roughly the middle position shown above.

As you perform the lift, your elbows should NOT stick out directly sideways, forming a 90 degree angle with your torso. This puts you shoulders in an extremely compromised position. Instead they should tuck in slightly so that the bar touches roughly just below nipple level at the bottom of the lift.

4. Incomplete range of motion


The bar should make contact with the chest at the bottom of every repetition. 

Once a little guy came up to me and asked me to spot him. He had 225 pounds on the bar, and told me that his goal was 8 reps. This seemed quite a lot for someone of his small stature, so I eagerly watched, curious to see if he possessed an unusual amount of strength. He didn’t. Each time he lowered he bar it didn’t even come within 3 or 4 inches of his chest. He was doing, at most, 66% of the repetition. And he only did 5 of them.

This is the most obvious mistake you see in the gym. You want each rep to continue all the way down until the bar touches your t-shirt. I say t-shirt because it should NOT rest on, or worse, bounce off of your chest. It should reach chest level, and then explode up until your arms are straight (but shoulder blades remain back).

5. Poor breathing

This is a mistake that can just as easily apply to squats, deadlifts, or any other lifts. But it will destroy your bench press just the same. You shouldn’t hold your breath. And you shouldn’t breath shallow breaths either. Poor breathing can lead to a loose body and also passing out (which could kill you if you’re holding a heavy bar over your head).

You should breathe a deep breath that fills your abdomen at the top of each repetition. This breath should be held as the bar lowers, and even as it changes direction. Once you’re on the way up, exhale as your exert yourself and finish the repetition.

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Read Next: 3 Habits That Every Man Should Practice

144 thoughts on “5 Bench Press Mistakes That Will Stall Your Progress”

  1. The pic looks like the guy is touching his chest on an incline bench. Do you agree with this? I’ve never gone fully down on incline because it’s unnatural and seems to have a higher risk for injury.

    1. It does appear like an incline bench. Look at the gap between the horizontal braces and then at the actual bench behind the guy’s head. He also appears to be touching very high on his chest which you are apt to do on an incline.

      1. Do you also have to blow out your shoulders? You’ve gotta be aware of things like your body type and flexibility. Blindly doin shit like that because it works for someone else is a way to snap something.

        1. I’ve never injured my shoulders benching. Chances are you can’t even bench the weight before you hurt your shoulders doing it

        2. Not really. I’ve got long arms and if I don’t go all the way, it doesn’t affect me.
          Look man, everyone’s different. We have different builds, different genetics, and different fitness goals. All of those things play a huge factor.

    2. If you train alone, unless you ALWAYS have spotter bars to catch the bar, always do movements full range. Seriously. Developing the strength to press heavy partials, and then accidentally let the bar slip a fraction below what you have trained for, and all your years of “saving your shoulders” literally come crashing down in one big crushing, tearing rupture…….. If you fail on a full range bench attempt in a gym, you can generally rest the bar on your chest long enough for nearbys to come to your rescue, as you have trained with a similar weight in that position before. Which, while a bit embarrassing, is at least not career ending. But if you are fail while using a weight much, much heavier than anything yo have ever worked with in the bottom position, things can easily just happen too fast.

  2. Damnit, I’m an elbow flare guy. I really work on my form but that one is the hardest to get under control

      1. +1
        Excessive flare, is often a sign of underdeveloped triceps and/or front delts. Bot of whom are hit at least as hard as the pecs in a properly executed bench press.

    1. When the bar is on your chest, push with your chest muscle first, then shoulders, then arms. It’s a trifling difference but can be important. Think of it as ‘chesting’ the bar up. If you’re shooting your arms up ahead of your chest, that’s when they flare. Keep your mind on what your chest muscle is doing and your arms just kind of are along for the ride.

  3. I’m definitely going to book mark this article. Are there any more articles like this for different weight lifting types coming out?

      1. Thanks, I’ll take a look on that site for any others that may be relevant for me.
        The weights I have are dumb bells. Figured they were a good home starter weights.

        1. Ever heard of Elliot Hulse? I’ve learned the proper form for deadlift by watching his video, I can provide you with a link if you like….

      2. Thanks for the article. I have been at a plateau on bench press for many months, while still improving in my squat and deadlift.
        Needless to say, I was making all of the mistakes you point.

  4. I read that doing the complete range movement could be bad for your shoulders ligaments on the long term. Something like “labral tear” could result of this.

    1. Everyone’s different, so it’s gonna depend on your body type. I’m the kind of guy that’s got long arms and I have problems with completing the full range of motion on the bench. I just stopped benching cuz I really don’t give a damn about how much I bench. Sitting on your back pushing a bar upward in the air isn’t really a particularly great skill anyways.
      At some point, it becomes more important to work on explosivenes, athleticism, and your physical skill set than it does on pure strength alone.

      1. I started lifting last October after a 30 year hiatus to get my self back in shape. I am single again and needed to lose fat and build muscle or join a monastery. After four months of regular workouts and cutting down on carbs (and crappy food in general) I was a changed man. My gym has basketball court and I warm-up playing a few games with the younger guys.
        Bench pressing is not a skill, it is a physical exercise. My reward is a chest I’ve never had before and it has hurt neither my jump shot or golf swing. There has been a peculiar affect on females though.
        I do 3 or 4 sets on a flat bench, then again on an incline bench. Then again on a decline bench. I super set each with bicep curls.

        1. That’s a lot of sets, imo. I did that kind of thing when I was young, but that’s a ton of reps for what is meant to be a strength lift. It’s okay to do your 3 or 4 sets of bench and call it good. Recover. Come back again stronger. Just throwing that out there. Do what you want but if you’re using a proper weight for benching, by the time you’re declining then your shoulders should be beyond exhausted and more prone to injury/scarring. At some point you’re getting into a conditioning approach to a strength lift and you’re cancelling out your efforts. I’m not scolding or trying to direct you, just giving you something to consider. 3 sets of 5 on the bench is good enough. I know it sounds crazy easy but it’s enough to damage your muscle, then let it grow. Don’t get into a state of half-strength/half-cardio where your muscle just kind of goes into an overused state of shock instead of steadily recovering.

        2. Thanks for the advice. I think you are on to something. I have had good results but the recovery time seems to be getting too long. Thanks again.

  5. Great article Jefe. I’m guilty as charged on #2 and I need to correct it STAT. I’m a little foggy on the explanation on how to correct it. If you could elaborate a little more on how to fix this, it would really help.

      1. Awesome!
        Also just learned another new thing: Being fairly cut and wearing a tank top/singlet if you’re a trainer is not just for showing off. It really helps with demonstrating joint and muscle movement patterns and positions compared to a baggy tshirt or hoodie…… 🙂

  6. I had to stop doing the bench press because I’ve got really tight shoulders. If I do the full range of motion, my shoulders would get blown out in a matter of months. I’ve always been a relatively long-armed guy for my height (5’11”), which is one of the reasons I’m getting problems. Everyone’s different
    I basically stopped doing barbell bench press and, quite frankly, I don’t care that much. I’m not super strong and skinny, but I’m also not weak w/ no muscle (175 and lean).
    The thing I hate about lifting weights is something you spend time talking about–you must stay tight and tense the entire time. I absolutely hate staying tense, which is one of the biggest reasons I’m not the biggest fan of lifting weights. I prefer activities where I can stay loose, as it’s much more natural for your body. I only view the use of lifting weights as building strength and once I got to a certain point, I only focused (and still do) on maintenance–about 60-80% of which is just eating properly.

  7. Jefe,
    Thanks for the information. I have never squeezed my shoulder blades together while benching. I do for stretching though. I’m going to give it a try.

  8. Everybody eventually gets hurt doing heavy barbell stuff. Guys who really know what they’re doing and have been lifting for years manage to fuck themselves up with the barbell bench/squat/press. I have to ask: Why is there reflexive dismissal about the added safety of machines? I think it’s broscience. The really good machines are better than barbells for 95% of people. Much lower odds of injury and just as much strength benefit. Prove me wrong.

    1. “Everybody eventually gets hurt…..” Subjective absolutes have a way of proving themselves wrong.
      I like both free weights and machines. And since the gyms I frequent have people using both in near equal numbers, your premise of reflexive dismissal due to broscience is flawed.

    2. I’d venture to say that machines are at least as likely to cause injuries as free weights.
      Machines give the illusion that they take the requirement of focusing on form away from the user, but in reality provide even more ways of getting away with poor form. As an example, watch guys do “machine benches.” To add the same few more pounds than they can handle with proper form, they often end up pushing the weight at an angle to the barpath towards the end of the set, instead of straight up. Which they can get away with, since the machine prevents doing this from having the bar come crashing down like it would with freeweights. But, what they are really doing, is assisting their tired target movers with structures that are designed to provide joint support, rather than work as a mover in their own right. Or they may subconsciously exploit idiosyncracies of a given machine, like a friction spot on a weight stack guide that allow them to “rest” the weight on one side of a lift while levering the other side up etc….
      If one follows good form on machines, I guess the above could be avoided, but machines provide even less feedback wrt form than barbells does.
      Another biggie: Gains come from incrementally adding weight to a fixed movement. Which requires keeping as much else as possible constant. If you spend your whole life working on the same machine, fine. But, every machine works slightly different. Meaning, it’s harder to stay focused on simple progression. Every time you travel, you have to recalibrate to a new machine, meaning a few workouts with no to negative gain. A barbell and a bench is pretty much a barbell and a bench anywhere. Making working out simpler in real life.
      Then there’s a benefit that sort of flies in the face of what this article is about, and should hence not be overused: Free weights allow you to cheat. Bench pressing is a bad example, since you’re walking a tightrope between gain and pretty nasty injury wrt form, but for many other moves, there are a range of acceptable ways to skin a cat. Particularly for back exercises, but also others.
      The reasons being,
      1) every one is built differently, with different muscular balances, muscle attachment points and limb lengths. Hence different levers. This applies both to prime movers and stabilizers. Hence, the most effective, and safest, body position and muscular recruitment pattern varies from trainee to trainee. Those who think of themselves as practicing the one, true, correct way of performing a bicep curl while standing on a stability ball on the internet may claim differently, but they’d be wrong. Some people benefit more from chinning with less back sway than others, recruiting slightly different muscles.
      2) As one progresses through a set, different muscles tire at different rates. Hence, one can keep the set going by slightly varying form. Not something to overdo, particularly when benching and squatting, but pretty much necessary in many back moves. The rise from obscurity to prominence amongst serious lifters of the dumbbell row, after seeing the results Kroczaleski obtained by varying angles etc slightly thoughout his long sets to hit every bloody muscle of the rear of his body, is probably the most obvious example. On a machine, this ability to adjust as you tire, is taken away. Rendering many exercises pretty much completely useless for anyone other than fairly new lifters. Kroc would probably need 20 different machines to fully excercise all his muscles from all the angles he achieves with such a simple move as the “outdated” dumbbell row. And then, he’d just end up a bored, broke overtrained wimp, instead of a human forklift.

      1. Yeah machines can cause all sorts of imbalances and disk problems too. People relax their trunk and push with their arms and slip a disk. Machines are a tedious bore, burning up some strip of muscle somewhere and hoping it stays ‘pumped’. So misguided.

    3. This is an interesting point actually. With free weight barbell presses and the like yeah there is potential to hurt yourself…. especially if you get too cocky…
      But the health and psychological benefits if you can do it properly are pretty high IMO. There is just something satisfying about picking up 300+ pounds off the ground that a machine wont give you.

    4. Machines isolate and don’t provide any hormonal response like the deadlift, squat, clean, bench, and standing press. Machines are cosmetic at best. Most barbell injuries are from extreme and crazy, risky intensity. It doesn’t have to be that way to have huge benefits.

  9. Biggest mistake I see is they arch their back and lift their ass off the bench. Also, half these people should be getting efficient at push-ups before they move on to heavy bench press.

    1. In order to build strength, I actually created a progressive push up program. I started off by doing 4-6 sets of proper push ups with good form. Then, keep going until you can max rep 25-30. After you hit that point, increase the elevation of your feet by about a foot or two. Then, keep going until you can max rep 25-30. Just keep repeating until you’re doing handstand push ups (or wherever you wanna end). It’s a great way to build strength.

      1. At some point pushups will stop building strength and become a conditioning exercise. That point comes quickly actually. It’s not strength training.

        1. That’s why you increase the elevation. You can do similar programs with pullups.
          If you’re capable of doing handstand pushups, you’re gonna be, at least relatively, strong. Most guys who look huge can’t do handstand pushups.

        2. Handstand pushups are great, I’m sure. I don’t do them. It’s athletic, strong, coordinated exercising but the ‘huge’ guys who can’t do them are lacking in coordination and balance but not strength. They would simply rather do an overhead press where the weight can be increased steadily (this is improved strength, full stop) I’ve gotten into it online with you bodyweight exercise guys before. Bodyweight exercise is just a different gig. It is coordination, balance, conditioning and strength combined. Straight barbell training is purely strength training and therefore better for improving strength.

        3. I do push ups with elevated feet and a rucksack full of water bottles. I’m pretty sure I’m getting stronger! I’d rather have access to a bench though.

      1. Yes, slightly arching. Not to the point where your ass isn’t touching the bench. That is dangerous and degrades the value of the lift.

  10. I find lifting weights extremely boring and all the posturing in gyms is really off-putting. What’s the use of lifting other objects if you do not have full control over your own body. Most weight lifters can not do a simple thing like a hand stand.
    Learn some game from the Bold Guy – the best pickup artist, you’ve never heard of!

    1. Most weight lifters can’t hit hard or move their hips well or virtually anything of the sort. The only thing most of them can really do is lift heavy things.

      1. Obviously you have not seen what the members of the Chinese wheightlifting team are capable of. These guys are incredibly strong and yet very agile.

        1. That’s because they do olympic lifting instead of powerlifting. To be fair he did say “most”.

        2. That remark about weight lifters is kind of silly anyway. The article is about bench pressing technique, which is not just for weightlifters but any person who does this exercise.
          And even if it were the goal of the author to convince people to become weightlifters, so what if they can’t hit hard? That is not the goal of weightlifters. And people who sit on their asses all they cannot hit hard either.
          On the other hand, lifting weights can be a great addition to the training regimen of a fighter.
          Some notable fighters who lift weights:
          Mike Tyson
          Buakaw Por Pramuk
          Mirko Cro Cop
          Alistair Overeem
          Juan Manuel Márquez
          Those guys pack a mean punch.

        3. Yea, Olympic lifting is a different ballgame. It’s a completely different ballgame. That shit makes you athletic and explosive as fuck.

        4. I don’t think Buakaw does very much heavy lifting. He’s one of my favorite fighters and I’ve seen a lot of his training videos. He’s a classic Thai fighter and one of my striking instructors taught us exactly like Buakaw fights.
          I also know that Muhammad Ali never lifted weights and I’m not so sure Juan Marquez does either. It’s actually quite common for many strikers to not lift and my striking instructor told me that lifting wasn’t necessary. From my experience, strength doesn’t really help hit harder. Hitting hard is all about weight transfer, momentum, and timing.

        5. I am not saying that any of those guys train like weightlifters, merely that they have included weight training to their programs.
          Here’s part of an interview with athletics coach Angel Heredia, who worked with Marquez in preperation for the fight against Pacquiao:
          For strength and conditioning guru Angel “Memo” Heredia, it’s all about science. And the fact that boxing still leans on a lot of its traditional methods handed down by trainers of decades past, only makes the Sports Science and Research (Health) grad stand out with his revolutionary concepts in training and nutrition.
          “Traditional boxing training involves running a lot, long distance; involves being in the weight room, doing abdominals; involves pretty much hitting the bags, whatever the old training methods suggests, which is not my area,” Heredia explained to this scribe in a recent interview to explain the difference of his methods compared to traditional boxing training.
          “But with Juan Manuel Marquez, the difference is I designed a weight lifting program, a nutrition program, supplementation program, and everything was made with scientific planning,” Heredia continued.
          A lot of eyebrows were raised after Heredia’s star pupil, Juan Manuel Marquez, brutally knocked out Filipino boxing icon, Manny Pacquiao, in their fourth clash last December. Marquez displayed punching power unlike ever before, and had the physique of a body builder, which defied common logic with the Mexican boxing legend’s advanced age. But if you ask Heredia, turning the 39-year-old Marquez’s lightweight frame into a full-fledged welterweight monster was simply the result of a combination of scientific research and training.
          “If you really take a boxer – or any human being – and you make him do scientific training, lifting weights, and feed him a diet correctly, you’re going to have a physical change,” Heredia explained. “So for Marquez, before the last fight with Pacquiao, me and Marquez, we had sat out, and Nacho (Beristain) and everybody in the team, we tried to figure out what happened in the third fight which we felt we won. I don’t know if you noticed the training for that fight, Marquez looked fit, he was very explosive, very fast, but then for the fourth fight, it was a totally different training,” Heredia continued.
          source: http://www.examiner.com/article/heredia-s-scientific-approach-to-boxing-making-believers-out-of-skeptics

      2. Oh yeah? I practice yoga 3x a week and train with the local circus for shits and giggles. Handstands, 30+ rep pull-ups, muscle ups, etc. are all things i do regularly. I’m also a drug free 6’0, 245 lbs competitive powerlifter with a 605 deadlift, 550 squat, body weight standing press, and 370 bench. Tell me again how lifters are only good at lifting. I can’t believe some of this ignorance.

        1. Impressive lifts, I was just about to call him on his bs by mentioning the Olympic lifters in the 170 pounds category that lift twice their weight above their head, but a 245 pound dude doing handstands is even more impressive 😀 . Do you maybe know how high is your vertical leap? Because I’m trying to confirm the co-relation between heavy squats and big jumps.

        2. I said most.
          I know guys that’re 200+, strong, and can move. They’re really scary.

        3. Olympic lifters are a different story man. That shit makes you explosive as hell. Being good at Olympic lifts gets you very, very explosive, but it’s very different from doing shit like bench press or military press. Olympic lifts are explosive powerful movements. There’s a huge difference between strength and power.

    2. I never get why men are so obsessed with lifting weights in the US. I live in Brussels and you’ll hear very few men bragging that they “go to the gym” and if they do, they’ll often get laughed at. I know, they must be lazy and jealous.
      I remember this discussion my best friend (who is very thin and frail) had with a guy who lifts and the guy was like “Come on man, you’ve got to go to the gym, become muscular, you’ll get girls!” My friend reply: “You know, while you waste your time 3 times a week in a gym, I’m getting girls.” It’s true, he’s slaying, even though he’s very skinny.
      I’m not bashing lifting weights, just pointing this might be a cultural thing. Personally, I prefer running and doing HIIT (High intensity interval training).

      1. Enjoy being skinny and weak. Leave the strength training to men who want to look like men.

        1. Too bad there’s plenty of skinny kids that can hit harder than most of those muscled out fuckheads.

        2. Did you type that out with your Affliction shirt on, bik boi?
          I dont give a fuck if you can fight if you look like a pussy. Neither does anyone else. Nice try though.

        3. You’ll say this kinda shit until you get your ass kicked by some 5’5″, 125 pound guy.
          I’d rather look like a 6 and be a 9 rather than vice versa. I don’t care about looking dangerous, I care about being dangerous. By the way, you’re only gonna fool people you don’t need to fool
          Also, I don’t wear (nor have I ever worn) Affliction t-shirts.

        4. I been boxing as a hobby for my entire life i knocked out a fair share of wannabe juceheads. Being all roided out means jack if you always swing and miss.

        5. Many of my friends are competitive MMA fighters, my comment was not a jab toward fighters. Why not look AND be dangerous?
          It’s awesome that you can kick a dudes ass. It’s also awesome to look like you can kick a dudes ass. Stop justifying your being skinny and lift some weights. Being big, strong, and a skilled fighter is pretty fuckin cool, no?

        6. Why not look like a 9, AND be a 9. I have been wrestling since I was 10. Being a 40 year old man now, this was long before the UFC made wrestling “cool”. 30 years ago, lifting weights was nowhere near the science it is today. Nor were the supplements as good.
          And I’ll tell you what, lifting weights does help. It does many helpful things for the body. First and foremost it helps protect against many types of injuries. This is vital. Whether one fights or not.

        7. What incredible ignorance. Lifting will help you with all your athletic endeavors. And doing a few squats and bench presses isn’t going to turn you into a 300lb lumbering muscle head, it will just make you stronger, better looking, and faster.

        8. Ha ha. 125 pounds asskicker? Now huff and puff and tell me a story about “this one guy who…”

        9. When you look and behave as a 6, you get treated as a 6, what are you gonna do, retaliate and try to knock everyone out? Look like a man before you hope to be treated as such.
          Also, while combat sports are a great activity, the “I care about being dangerous” is laughable, real dangerous people aren’t skinny guys who learned martial arts.

        10. You are completely correct Casinobox.
          Go muscle not show muscle. That said, I have had my ass handed to me by smaller guys and I have knocked out bigger guys. I love to fight muscle men because, ironically, I know they will be weak.

        11. I have to disagree. In certain of the striking combat sports lifting weights, outside of very light weights, makes it impossible to train effectively. You can’t do heavy squats and deadlifts and then come in and start kicking pads. Its impossible and you simply won’t be able to move. Spoken from experience.

        12. Sorry man you’re way off base here. I’m a weightlifter too. On and off since I was a teenager. In fact at age 60 I broke all of my personal records, and am now coming back at age 63 after nursing some injuries. Yeah I lift but it doesn’t necessarily make you tough. Marius Pudzanowski, 5 time winner of the World’s Strongest Man contest is just a so so MMA fighter. I find that guys who throw the hardest punch are usually thin, with slightly longer than average wingspans and big bony hands. Think of boxers like Alexis Arguello and vintage Thomas Hearns. The most feared street fighter in my youthful days was a guy in my neighborhood who stood about 5-7 or 8 and weighed about 165 lbs. He was born in hillbilly Virginia and had a high pitched voice with a slight lisp. More than one guy was fooled by it. In a fight he was pure rage and he hurt his opponents. When we were young I could outlift him and I am as short as can be. You just never know. The guy you think is a soft target might beat you up badly.

        13. I bet you and every other fighter beat people up every day, don’t you? Did I once mention lifting weights making you tough? You’re off base here. I don’t give a fuck who can beat me up, because I don’t throw my weight around and try to get into fights. Why? Because I’m not a retard. I’m also not pretending that all the size and strength in the world will protect you in a fight, but I will say lifting weights has more practical, day to day application. So please, to every ‘fighter’ in this thread – shut your mouth. No one cares how tough you are over the internet. This is an article about fuckin bench pressing.

        14. I know a few that are into martial arts, they lift pretty heavy, not powerlifting lvl heavy, but still way above the regular Joe. But they do so less often than a powerlifter would. But why would they do heavy squats and deadlifts in the first place, right? Well it is because although your ability to kick and punch are more in the domain of power than of that of strength, in order to have any significant power in the first place, you have to have a certain amount of strength too. But on one thing I agree though, to the idea of going hard on the kicking pads right after doing a 5×5 in the squat rack is beyond ridiculous.

        15. Obviously you didn’t read my post because I never mentioned anything about being a kick ass fighter.

        16. I hope you know I’m not a small or weak guy. I could pump out 15-20 pull-ups at any point. I’m 5’11” and walk around at a lean 170-175.
          My point is that strength training is like anything else, it has diminishing marginal returns where doing the first 20% of the work gets you 80% of the way. It can also have a toll on your body as well. Your body isn’t just a machine to lift weights. It’s important to be well rounded.

        17. I agree, that is pretty cool. My point about weight training is that it can create problems and you don’t have to be lifting weights all the time to be gaining strength. Doing 20% of the work will get you 80% of the way there. After you reach that mark where returns start to diminish, I’d start doing other things if I were most people. I’d start yoga or pick up a sport or something like that instead.
          Maintaining strength and looking good is around 70% what you eat anyways, particularly if you’ve already built that strength.

        18. what do you mean by 70% diet?
          also strength is not forever, if you dont work on on certain areas of your mind and body consistently they will deteriate

        19. You seem to be the only sane one in this discussion.
          I’m 63 and have been lifting since I was a teen. I’m in excellent health, lean bf about 15%-never been in a hospital, snowboard, bike, swim and tennis. I’m not looking to be dangerous, sheesh, and I’m not nearly as strong now as I was 20 years ago. So?
          Weight lifting is great for bone density, keeping your internal connective tissues strong, muscle tone, energy level and it’s also a pretty good CV exercise, kinda like sprinting.
          So many of my contemporaries who don’t lift have suffered a myriad amount of problems-bad backs, depression, overweight, diabetes and just general couch potato ills.
          I consider it a fountain of youth for both men and women. You’re foolish IMO not to lift. Plus it’s 1 hour a day when I’m free of any distractions. I lift at 4am and my day is off to a great start.
          It’s been so much a part of my life for so long and has given me so much, I can’t imagine ever stopping.

      2. Keep on running then. Get that daily dose of extreme free radical damage and stay the course with exercise principles developed nearly 60 years ago that have been debunked. Accelerate that aging process! Oh, avoid avocados too because they contain fat. And drink twenty glasses of water.

      3. HIIT is not an alternative to weights as it can be done with weights. That said, there are difference methods to achieve our goals. I for one, have given up weights as I have found a method that works better for me.

      4. I am 50, and I’ve found that a significant amount of exercise is needed to prevent entropy. My body seems like it is falling apart if I fail to get exercise for a few weeks. I want to be strong, and look good naked, but its most important function is anti-aging.
        I lift, but I also do cardio. I believe cardio is necessary to burn off carbs to prevent insulin resistance. Lift to build strength and muscle, and do cardio to maintain good endurance and control blood sugar.

    3. You don’t lift weights to get girls. That’s the most ridiculous thing you could possibly do. You don’t even lift weights to ‘look get nekkid.’ You lift weights to become STRONG. You have been given the gift of being a male and having the male muscle-building hormones and androgenic receptors coursing through your body, but you’re wasting them in front of a computer screen. Strength in body translates to strength in mind.

      1. The strength is pretty great, but I also really, really do like improving how I look naked.

    4. Why are you advertising these scripted videos that show no actual content? Oh wait, advertising.

  11. You forgot number 6: do lots of shoulder work, specially overhead pressing, to increase your bench.

    1. Absolutely! Great carryover. When you can hit a bodyweight standing military press, you should be able to hit some pretty decent numbers on military press. My bodyweight is around 202 and my best military press is 205. My bench is around 325. I’m starting to do heavy singles and doubles with the clean and press every single workout now. That’s what old school lifters and strongmen did to get strong as hell. I want to rep out 225 lbs on standing military press!

  12. Arching your lower back, while keeping your ass on the bench is good also. I see a lot of people who push their hips up while benching.

  13. All these male hamsters at work giving excuses for why theyre not lifting weights. “I hate being tense, being loose is more natural” ” real strength is controlling your body, do pushups” etc etc. Quit being pussies and lift weights.

    1. Or better yet, do both! I combine both calisthenics and powerlifting. I’ve surpassed the 300 bench/400 squat/500 deadlift and can still do 8 muscle ups, 12 handstand pushups against a wall, 40 paused pushups (I can do 100 repping out), 30 pullups, and over 60 dips. Nothing is better than being strong and also being able to handle your bodyweight!

      1. You got the beat Bob! Calisthenics is a must for those of us who enjoy lifting heavy weights. There is “looking” as though you are in shape, and then there is “being” in shape. And the two are not the same. I have been working out for the last 25 years or so, and at 40 I still feel great.
        I understand why alot of guys don’t like the gym culture. However I always enjoyed working out with men who can lift more than me. It lets me know where I need to be, and helps me set goals for myself. I think young guys that find the gym intimidating need to adjust their attitude. Life is about competition. Whether we want it to be a competition or not is irrelevant. It IS a competition. The job market, the sexual marketplace, etc. If you choose to play, than play it to the best of your ability. At one time even the very attempt of survival was a competition.
        Improving your body will also pour into other areas of your life as well.

        1. “However I always enjoyed working out with men who can lift more than me. It lets me know where I need to be, and helps me set goals for myself”
          Indeed, just like the saying goes: “If you are the most successful man in the room, you better find a new room”

    2. Don’t be ignorant. If you like lifting weights by all means, do it. But you are deluded if you think lifting weights is somehow necessary. We all have fitness goals and there are many different ways to achieve them. Lifting weights is only one path.

    3. One of my co-workers says he can’t go to the gym because the one by his house hasn’t opened yet. So, I told him to go to the one that is like 10 minutes from his house. (It’s the same gym, different branch) He said that doesn’t make sense. “Why would I go to that one when one will open a block from my house in a few months?”. I just shook my head and gave up. My boss, however, is a short black dude with arms bigger than his head. He def motivates me to hit the gym. He helped me correct my lifting routine and since then, I have been gaining faster in all areas. Going to the gym has been the best thing that I have have ever done for myself.
      Remember men, lift heavy less times. If you are not struggling on the 6th rep, up your weight.

    4. For weights v pushups, it ultimately depends on your goal.
      There is an inverse relationship between endurance and power (think of a marathon runner’s body compared to Usain Bolt), and heavy weights fall more on the power side of the spectrum, whereas pushups are relatively more endurance focused.
      It is generally best to do both, though there is nothing wrong with one or the other. “Real strength” is to go hard in the paint and keep working through the burn, day after day, whichever option you choose.

  14. Anyone who says powerlifters, strongmen, or olympic weightlifters can’t ‘move’, or do anything other than lift weights, is a fucking idiot. Period. Get off your weak, skinny, and lazy ass and move some weight.

  15. One tip I feel like I should add:
    Get yourself a pair of wrist wraps. Eventually, once the weight gets heavy enough, it’s going to be extremely difficult to keep the bar on the heel of the palm of your hand in order to create that direct line of force from your wrist down to your elbow. Your wrist is going to have a tendency to move backward, placing the stress on the tendon, and it will make the bar roll into your fingers – you do NOT want this. Instead, you can wrap your wrist in such a way that supports your wrist, keeping the bar on the heel of your palm and allowing you to perform the lift with more power and efficiency. This is called ‘casting’ your wrist.
    The top picture is how most people wrap, dont do it this way. Instead, do it as shown on the bottom picture. Do not be surprised if your bench press goes up a few pounds with this simple trick.

  16. Re: #4
    I see a lot of people that never let their elbows bend past 90* in ANY lift. There must be some magazines or trainers that are pushing this idea because I’ve only noticed it in the last couple of years. Problem is, it’s not natural to just stop and hold 200+ lbs suspended and then push/pull it. You’re going to get hurt, or very least find it difficult to make any gains. Don’t forget that a lot of training “gurus” are liars who are trying to sell you something.

  17. I have been “recovering” from a bad shoulder injury for almost a year. It started with a torn labrum as the primary problem, then moved around my shoulder to tears in various muscles taking precedence, most of the names of which I cannot remember without looking at the anatomy diagram.
    These problems in my shoulder are not a result of me “blowing out” my shoulder. That, in fact, apparently rarely happens. What does happen is that as you move into middle age, your shoulder naturally degenerates. It’s an extremely complex joint, with a wide range of movement, and sustains a wide range of forces. It is going to degenerate to some extent naturally just from everyday life.
    What I have learned from this process of trying to recover my shoulder is that having good form and technique when working out is incredibly important. I look back at how I was lifting weights and just cringe. I would generally shoot for maxing out on the weight with the goal of increasing the maximum weight I could lift. I would generally do pretty much any contortion to get that weight up. THAT WAS A BAD IDEA. Years of doing that accelerated the degenerating of my shoulder. I suppose it affected other parts of my body, such as my back, and I will only find out about those degenerative problems later.
    My general advice is to make sure that all weight lifting that you do is with good form. Always put good form above your ego. Meaning, good form is more important than more weight.
    I will not attempt to tell you what good form is. Moreover, I do not recommend that you take advice about good form from random guys on the Internet that seem to know what they are talking about. If you want a truly good and healthy weight lifting program, use a well qualified certified trainer. And mix in a Physical Therapist in order to show him what you are doing in your training program as well as to check out the mechanics of your body movement. You will find that the PT will put you on a variety of movements with rubber tubes that do not involve much resistance. He will talk about “activating” various muscles. Do it!
    When lifting, don’t contort!
    Finally, I’ll take issue with one thing mentioned in this article. There is not much, if any, added benefit to bringing the bar entirely down to your chest. It’s not like nature designed your body in such a way that the bar needs to come down to your chest. The bench press is actually a fairly unnatural exercise, particularly when you lift large amounts of weight. We like it because it focuses resistance on the pecs, and big pecs make us feel good and strong. Plus, chicks dig them, regardless of what they say. But don’t believe everything you read. Don’t think that you have to touch your chest with that bar.
    I have now been told by a surgeon, a PT, and a certified trainer, that taking the bar all the way down to the chest puts far too much unnatural strain on your shoulders. All of these men are athletic (I would never go to a woman orthopedic surgeon, PT, or CT for help with my male body!). They all said you get the same benefit of chest work out when bring the bar down to 50-60% of that motion, with reduced stress on your shoulder.
    Believe me, you do not want to suffer the shoulder problems I have experienced. It is a daily struggle, painful daily, and very hard to correct. I have made progress, but I am wondering if I will ever get back to feeling like my shoulder is 100%.

    1. I had a hill-sachs fracture of my shoulder and torn the labrum and then later the rotator cuff. Technique and control trumps everything else. The “strongest” you might not be one that lifts huge weights but can actually function properly. And you are right in predicting that some of this youthful exuberance for heavy weight-lifting will turn into permanent health problems as they age.

    2. You should learn how to do standing military presses from Rippetoe. Start with whatever light weight you can do. Forget bench if you have shoulder issues and just press for awhile. THe press builds shoulders as they are meant to be built, bench-not so much.

  18. I don’t like weightlifting. Reason being is that I’m small (5’9-164lbs) can’t really lift that much. No, I’m not one of those ultra skinny betas but still everyone other dude at the gym can lift way more than i can. It feels like don’t even belong there. I rather box or play basketball at the gym instead.

    1. I know 5’5 150 lb dudes that are stronger than guys twice their size. You should stick with it and see it through, dont make excuses for yourself. It can only help you.

    2. Hmm, so you think you are small at 5’9 and 164 pounds? What if I told you that I used to weight 138 pounds at 5’10 ? But unlike you, I just didn’t give a fuck. I didn’t give a fuck about belonging or what the rest of the gym thought when I struggled with even the lowest weight. In fact I loved the fact that a lot of them actually told me to quit, growing stronger was my way of saying “fuck you!”.
      and shit payed of, after 2 years of hard work I currently weight 167 pounds. my PR are:
      Deadlift: 320
      Squat: 253
      Bench: 187
      bodyweight skills : 75 consecutive push-ups, 25 x 1 armed push ups, 5 minute plank;
      my PR-s are far from impressive for my weight , but I went from 138 pounds weakling to 167 pound and athletic so I think I still have more than enough high ground to say: stop with the poor excuses, there ain’t such thing as too small or too weak when it comes to weight training

  19. biggest mistake i see is people trying to be the guy next to them and not being themselves. lift what you can comfortably, who cares how much you can lift, using proper technique is way more important than how many plates you have on the bar. sure you should max out or push yourself here and there but in the long term, over stepping your limits will lead to more problems than its worth.

    1. This. What the January gym crowd doesn’t get (or maybe they do and that’s why they quit) is that Mr. 225lb. bench press didn’t get there overnight. You won’t either. Truth be told, most regulars don’t really care what you can lift, as they’re too busy either lifting themselves, coaching someone, posing in the mirror, chatting with someone, trying to hit on the girl at the elliptical, etc. (YMMV). Concentrate on you, it’s the only way you’ll gain anything.

  20. I have found that a good mix of weight lifting and mma is the best way to go. When. I first my bjj my bjj dojo I was benching 185 but could barely do more then ten push ups. After a year of training I can do 50 push ups, bench 245 and have great self defence skills. Best way to go..

  21. Doing it wrong is better than not doing it at all, fellas. This holier than thou attitude this blogger exhibits is one of the worst aspects of weight rooms. Some valid points in the article, but these are all minor gripes. Poor unracking of the bar? What a stickler. The range of motion bit is totally true. It doesn’t count unless you hold the bar right where it barely touches, but is not resting on your chest for three seconds. That being said, all of my serious chest work is done with dumbbells.

    1. He’s teaching the proper unracking of the bar, not being a stickler. At higher weights, proper unracking becomes very important. You must be a ‘get pumped’ type doing a million reps. Heavy benching requires careful unracking for sure.

      1. I’m just say that the writing style was in poor form. It was written from an unsubstantiated perch of superiority, and that attitude turns a lot of people off, not just from reading this article, but from getting in the gym and improving themselves. All of the points he mentions are valid, but they are weight training 101. I’d rather read something that is encouraging of others, not dismissive.

      1. Suicide, not really, but maybe an eventual tear. He missed the most needed pointer as well. Always start light, and only progress once you have total control of your current weight.

  22. Hold on here, fellas. Remember, moderation. You may think that by being big and muscly that your masculine, but you’ll be big and masculine when I (or someone who is equally fit/knows how to move around) knock you the fuck out at a bar/club. I cant tell you how many roided up mongoloids (or just really hard working gym rats) get fucking ruined by insanely fit kickboxers who kick the ever-living shit out of them. The reason being that these kickboxers follow a similar routine to me that is for overall ability. A focus on callenstenics (push ups/sit ups/pull ups), bodybuilding (chest, legs, back, triceps) and fitness (4/5 km + jogs, swimming etc.).

  23. What is the deal with all the hostility towards weightlifting in this thread? It reminds me of the PUA backlash with that “just be yourself, you don’t need that” crap. Clearly those who are against it have no idea what the hell they are talking about and are just repeating what they heard some misinformed idiot say. Or perhaphs they feel so insecure when they are around someone who lifts that they talk about it in a negative way in order to boost their egos.
    Yes, there are some guys who lift weight how are not agile but the same goes for people who do NOT lift weights. Lifting weights will not make you any less agile than you already are. Nowadays all top amateurs and pros in sports that require strength engage in some form of weightlifting. Those who do not, will end up eating the dust of those who do. If you are a practitioner of martial arts, you will be a better fighter if you add some weightlifting to your regimen. A physically stronger version of you is automatically a better version. A guy who can kick some ass at 125lbs will kick some major ass by adding extra muscle mass to his frame and doubling his physical strenth.
    Weightlifter Lu Xiaojun is the current Olympic champion and three time world champion. He is also the current world and Olympic record holder for both the snatch and the total in his weight category. Look him up on youtube to see what he his capable off; he is anything but muscle bound.

    1. If you are a practitioner of martial arts, you will be a better fighter if you add some weightlifting to your regimen.

      I have never been so strong since I replaced weight-lifting with body-weight training. I agree that weightlifting is a fantastic sport and method of increasing both strength and fitness but I think we have reached a point now where we are in danger of over-emphasising its benefits and under-emphasising its disadvantages. I don’t agree that it will necessarily improve your sport.
      You mention the Olympic champion. Olympic lifting is completely different to what you see in the gym. If people are lifting (as opposed to using the machines) they are usually doing power-lifting or body-building lifts. This is very different to Olympic lifting (which if you are going to lift to complement your combat sports is the best option in my opinion) which you rarely see in gyms.

      1. I am talking about lifting versus not lifting at all, as some here seem to advocate. The people who seem to have something against lifting do not even lift, so over-emphasising is not even an issue. And most gym members do not fall into this category either.
        Regarding the performance improvement of other sports, take a look at this list:
        The majority of those guys have some strength training in their routines, because it gives them a competitive edge. The idea that lifting makes you muscle bound is archaic.
        I mentioned weightlifting as an example to show that people who lift can be agile. There are bodybuilders who are quite agile as well. Also, the Olympic lifts are quite popular nowadays because of crossfit.

        1. That was an interesting article but it wasn’t really a scientific test of whether lifting weights vs some other method is a superior way to boost performance. That said, I know that it can boost your performance but I have found other methods to be better for my particular sport.
          When you say

          lifting versus not lifting at all

          do you mean people who don’t exercise? Because I don’t lift at all and probably never will again.
          I meant over-emphasizing in the context of lifting being the goto method for performance enhancement. I have found other methods to be better for me. Not only that, I know some quite knowledgeable people who swear blind that heavy resistance training is vital for human health and yet they are walking around (hobbling) with a collection of power-lifting caused injuries.

        2. Please name those other methods that are superior to lifing heavy weights for boosting raw strength. And of course I am not saying that people engaged in sports should ONLY lift weights in order to gain an edge. There is also plyometrics and maybe endurance training involved. Point is that it is an integral part of the modern athlete who wants to excel in a sport in which physical strength plays a (major) role.
          Keep in mind that you do not represent all people who are into sports and also it could very well be the case that your training program was not suited to your needs. There are so many variables involved.
          And people who lift with bad form, like the ones that author of the article mentioned, are bound to get injured. Also, if you are talking about powerlifters it kind of makes sense that they have all those injuries. Those guys do not lift for health reasons but to lift as much weight as possible. There is a difference there. Unlike an MMA fighter who lifts weights to boost his performance in the ring.

        3. I made it clear I was talking about myself. I have found bodyweight training to be far superior for performance enhancement.

    2. For the lay person on this site who just wants better female options and to be fit and healthy, the emphasis on heavy weightlifting and martial arts is misleading. Some of the best “in the ring” martial artists got their ass kicked when sucker punched in a bar and many of these heavy weight crusaders spend half their time injured. For street purposes and scoring women, the “alpha” man is far better learning basic subdue techniques used by police officers, good old American boxing, basic weapons training, and doing safe fitness training that does not involve high risk of injury with “He Man” displays (bench press, bar squats, overhead press, dead lifts, etc). Naval Seal training is perhaps the gold standard here and let us remember all those meatheads who line the wall at nightclubs unable to score women as a gym membership alone doesn’t cut it! Many of the comments here are thus likely rooted in the fact that this is predominantly a site about scoring and managing women… not a bodybuilding website.

      1. Well, some people here do work out in the gym and this is an article for them on how to perform a popular exercise safely. No need to be so negative, just skip the article then.

  24. Why does talk of lifting weights always turn into a discussion of fighting ability? we all know they don’t go together. it’s common sense. if you’re going to be good at something, practice it. some people like lifting, some people like other things. who cares, do what you want and enjoy doing. Who goes around getting in fights all teh time anyway? fighting ability or lifting ability, it really does’nt matter. it’s about the discipline and self improvement, not intimidating other people.

  25. You need everything. All the heavy compound lifts, some calisthenics and a 1-2 mile run take up at most 75 minutes, 3 times a week. This will create the best body for the most things. Give or take some of one thing to fit your specific goals, but never eliminate one thing completely.

  26. Range of motion is an individual thing. Not everyone is built to bring the bar to their chest and doing so will injure shoulders.

  27. One of my best friends is a medical doctor, professional boxing and tae kwon do tournament competitor and ex Naval intelligence officer in eastern Europe who has taken bullet and knife for God and country. According to him, you should never lower the bar in a manner that brings your elbow below bench line as this is where most rotator cuff and pec injuries occur. If your main goal is fitness, longevity, looking better and scoring pussy, this exercise is not at all worth the risk of severe injury which to his credit, the author himself admits he has experienced. You are far better off using heavy dumb bells for each individual arm, using incline (military press) for upper pecs with dumb bells. kettle bells are even better as they require more balancing work. My doctor friend bench presses 150lb dumb bells each arm and this will more than do the job for most purposes! Leave the bench pressing to the pros… and while they’re laid up injured, you the “Don Juan” can talk to all their women 😉

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