Bench Presses and Pecs

  • olden

    Posts: 194

    May 07, 2008 4:42 PM GMT
    There have been a number of threads on how to concentrate on the pecs when doing bench presses. I have found that by keeping my hands open - resting the bar across the hands rather than gripping the bar - I naturally put the job of lifting onto the pecs.

    I suspect that when you grip the bar and bring the forearm and some bicep muscle action into the lift, the body assumes you are working arms and adds the triceps. With the open hand, the triceps seem to stay disengaged. This seems to work with the thumb either side of the bar.

    I don't remember seeing this recommended before, but if it has, please just mark this off to an attack of "old timer's disease."
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    May 07, 2008 5:23 PM GMT
    Very interesting. Will try.

    I have also been told that it helps to pull your shoulder blades together after you lie down. Lie back to position, then concentrate on pulling your shoulder blades together underneath you, stretching the chest open. Then reach up for the bar and start the press.

    Seems to help for me.

    Interested in trying your open-hard press. Although CAREFULLY! LOL! Sounds to me like the makings of a new exercise: the "Adam's Apple Crusher", to go along with the Skull Crusher.
  • olden

    Posts: 194

    May 07, 2008 7:34 PM GMT
    In the days before my cardiac incident and when I was into power lifting, I always did bench and military presses open handed with the thumb behind the bar rather than around it. It allows the bar to set back a little further. I found it safer and felt more secure than gripping the bar.

    I like your shoulder blade info, although I think I just naturally do it. After 50 years of weight lifting you tend to concentrate on the muscles you are working on, and the peripheral preparation is automatic.

    I also figured that if you bench press more than your triceps can handle the pecs will take over. But at my age I'm not there anymore. icon_lol.gif
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    May 07, 2008 8:40 PM GMT
    To engage the pecs I find it easier to imagine trying to bend the bar into a V shape. Of course I don't but the pecs come into play more than the triceps, and the bar goes up. You might try a push-up and imagine trying to push your hands through the ground until the hands meet. Do that with the bar.

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    May 07, 2008 9:21 PM GMT
    I suspect that when you grip the bar and bring the forearm and some bicep muscle action into the lift, the body assumes you are working arms and adds the triceps. With the open hand, the triceps seem to stay disengaged. This seems to work with the thumb either side of the bar.

    I like the open hand grip, also. However, just be aware that it is physically impossible not to use your triceps when benching and bicep involvement is almost non-existent, except perhaps for a minimal negative involvement when lowering the bar.
  • Musclebucket

    Posts: 157

    May 08, 2008 4:40 PM GMT
    Arching the shoulder blades back as if you are trying to get them to touch each other as you are bench pressing stretches the chest muscles even more...when I do that, I can feel them pull at the point where they are attached to the sternum. I definetely experience more of a burn doing this.

    Just my experience...
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    May 08, 2008 5:24 PM GMT
    All these are very good points that have worked for me:

    Not gripping the bar (this is true for every chest and even shoulder exercise I do) really does work for me too.

    Arching the shoulder blades on all chest exercises (not just bench lying ones).

    Another thing that works is to keep trying different grip positions and different exercises and machines. And don't just stick with something that works for a year -- your body will get used to in weeks or months and you'll have to begin the search again. But the open grip and arched shoulder blades are techniques you can carry no matter what grip and/or exercise.

    Good post!

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    May 08, 2008 11:38 PM GMT
    if your goal is to work the chest...for asthetic purposes...why not just use dumbells?
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    May 08, 2008 11:49 PM GMT
    ...oh and it may just save your shoulders in the long term....

    i would not reccomend benching with an open hand...
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    May 09, 2008 4:12 AM GMT
    Ramm saidi would not reccomend benching with an open hand...


    Can you explain?
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    May 09, 2008 11:54 AM GMT
    sure...it's just..most accidents happen with a thumbless grip... a wide open hand sounds even more likely to be a problem...


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    May 11, 2008 11:12 PM GMT
    thumbless is always frowned upon, its a big no no apparently.
  • zi0nx5

    Posts: 27

    Jun 13, 2008 6:11 AM GMT
    I just got into barbell bench presses, as bogus as that might sound. I usually do dumbbell presses. I've had a history of wrist problems so is it best, when doing any type of chest press, to hold the weight with the backside of your hands near-parallel to the floor or in-line with forearms)?

    Also, I've read up on how you should (or shouldn't) keep your lower back flat against the bench. I forget which one is correct? Any ideas?

    Thanks in advance
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    Jun 13, 2008 6:52 AM GMT
    jlk7jester saidthumbless is always frowned upon, its a big no no apparently.


    Who are these frowners and why are they always frowning?

    I think this explains why I use the open hand technique all the time -- I've always done things that frowners disapprove of. It's been the secret to my success, in fact. But please don't follow my example. I want to retain my advantage.
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    Jun 13, 2008 7:13 AM GMT
    zi0nx5 saidI just got into barbell bench presses, as bogus as that might sound. I usually do dumbbell presses. I've had a history of wrist problems so is it best, when doing any type of chest press, to hold the weight with the backside of your hands near-parallel to the floor or in-line with forearms)?

    Also, I've read up on how you should (or shouldn't) keep your lower back flat against the bench. I forget which one is correct? Any ideas?

    Thanks in advance


    Welcome to RJ, Zion, and thank you for increasing the hot guy quotient here. Rawr!

    But enough of the drooling...

    After staring at my hands like a recently-cured paraplegic, I think I finally understand what you're asking. As someone who has long suffered from wrist issues, my completely biased and uninformed answer is that I don't think such a grip choice as you pose makes any real difference.

    The problem I (and a number of other wrist problem types I know) have is that when holding on to a fixed straight bar, regardless of the position of your wrists, when that bar moves toward and away from you, there is a flexion of the wrist that I can only describe as a side-to-side wobble. I know this description sucks -- it really requires a live demo or a video to completely get across. Without trying to torture you with some long-winded verbiage, I'll just pretend you understand what I mean and come right to the conclusion:

    If you want to work with a bar and you find it bothers your wrists, try an ez-curl bar instead. Try both the "inner" and "outer" grip positions on the ez bar. If that doesn't help, then stick with dumbbells or machines with independent movements for each arm. To this day my wrists still can't deal with bench presses using a straight bar with any significant amount of weight, but I don't feel I've lost the ability to develop my chest -- there's a lot of other options besides a straight bar bench.

    As for the back - a healthy back should touch the bench on your butt and on your upper back -- the small of your lower back will naturally be off the bench if your spine is aligned properly and you're relaxed. A good rule is don't arch, but don't try to lay your whole spine (including lumbar) flat. Just keep the position you naturally have when you lie down on the bench unweighted.

    Other folks really should chime in here. I don't think I did all that well on this one icon_sad.gif
  • zi0nx5

    Posts: 27

    Jun 13, 2008 8:14 AM GMT
    iguanaSFwhen that bar moves toward and away from you, there is a flexion of the wrist that I can only describe as a side-to-side wobble.


    No I got ya iguana. When the bar goes up, the slight pain goes up with it so I know exactly what you're talking about. And yeah, I forgot about using an ez-bar even though I was oggling at some guy using it on a bench today.. haha. Though the only problem would be getting the bar over to the bench, especially for heavier weights and not having a rack to fall back on (at least at my gym). But I guess the answer to that problem is not benching weights that's more than I can carry.

    And the back thing sounds about right. Thanks much.
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    Jun 13, 2008 6:34 PM GMT
    Cool you understood what I'm getting at. 10 points for you. 5 points for me. 2 points for the old lady in the funny hat.

    When you say you'd have trouble carrying the weights to the bench, it seems your implying that you'd be carrying bars with the plates welded or fixed to the bar -- is that a correct interpretation on my part?

    If that's the case, then I should mention I was thinking of using a "long" ez bar with removable plates. If your gym has ez-bars with fixed plates that someone was using on the bench, they should have a long ez bar with removable plates, right? Then you're not lugging a fully loaded bar around.

    After you have more experience benching (assuming your wrists can deal), you definitely will be using heavier weights than you can conveniently carry, for sure.

    K

  • zi0nx5

    Posts: 27

    Jun 13, 2008 8:23 PM GMT
    Nope. My gym only has ez bars with fixed plates. No long ones that can be adjusted. Lame. It's a university gym so you can't expect too much.
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    Jun 13, 2008 9:41 PM GMT
    zi0nx5 saidNope. My gym only has ez bars with fixed plates. No long ones that can be adjusted. Lame. It's a university gym so you can't expect too much.



    Hellllllloooooo dumbbell presses ;)

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    Jun 14, 2008 5:44 AM GMT
    Good advice...and remember that everyone is built differently. What works for one might not work for another. Long arms, short arms, ect.

    I have worked up to a 405lb. for two. But honestly, flat bench never did much for me. I started with strong tri's over a weak chest and though my chest got stronger and bigger, flat bench was just not the best for me biomechanically.

    My chest took off when I switched to decline and incline and dropped flat bench. Elbows flaired out so that my triceps did not do all the work. All the way down till the bar touched my chest, not the half movements so many guys do. Half movements really work triceps.

    Also, dumbbell flies and cable cross overs added inches to my chest. People say cable cross overs are a finishing exercise. Muscles either work against the weight or they don't. Cables can be great and they give you constant tension.

    If you really want to build chest, do dips. It is the equivalent of an upper body squat. Elbows out at right angles, feet forward so the body is in a C shape.

    Good luck all!!!
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    Jun 14, 2008 7:36 AM GMT
    Trigger has great points.

    *stares at Trigger's pecs*

    I also think this "mass building" versus "finishing" thing is the funniest crap I ever heard. A muscle doesn't understand if it's being "toned" versus "massed" versus "finished." All a bunch of hooey.

    *stares at Trigger's delts*

    I also found cable cross-overs to be a lot more effective than flat bench. And there's a bunch of different ways to do them. Experimenting with different hand starting heights (low, middle, high), different pushing motions (pumping forward and back, wide "hugs", short close-in crunches), different body positions (upright, slight lean forward, full lean forward), and lots more.

    *stares at Trigger's biceps*

    Also second his thoughts on dips, and he's reminded me that these have dropped off my radar for too long.

    *stares at Trigger's triceps*

    Uh... sorry, what was I talking about?
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    Jun 14, 2008 4:07 PM GMT
    Triggerman said:
    If you really want to build chest, do dips. It is the equivalent of an upper body squat. Elbows out at right angles, feet forward so the body is in a C shape.


    Feet forward? Not sure I understand this positioning. I thought if you leaned forward with your feet back, the dip put more intensity on the chest muscles.

    Would you please clarify?
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    Jun 14, 2008 9:20 PM GMT
    Frank_AZ said[i]Would you please clarify?


    Yes, Frank is right. Clarification definitely needed.

    I suggest taking a friend to the gym with a camera. Remove your shirt, so we can see exactly which muscles are getting hit, do a little cardio to warm up and work up a nice sweat, then have your friend take some shots of you doing dips, letting the camera linger on each position, coming in close... close enough to see every striation glistening... and... *gulp* ...

    woah, am I dizzy all of a sudden

    *thud*
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    Jun 15, 2008 2:09 AM GMT
    If the camera survived the fall, I'd like to see the photos, ok?
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    Jun 15, 2008 3:42 PM GMT
    I find that putting my feet on the bench, with knees raised, can help focus my attention on the chest by forcing me to balance everything without using my legs. I do this sometimes as part of the warm up, or if I feel any stress in my lower back when doing a press.

    As for the hands open, I do this in a smith machine, but not with free weights. I mainly use the machines just for this purpose. It really helps on incline and decline presses.