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Proper Bench Technique by Shane Sweatt and Laura Phelps-Sweatt - CrossFit Journal

Proper Bench Technique

By Shane Sweatt and Laura Phelps-Sweatt

In CrossFit, Powerlifting, Reference, Videos

December 27, 2011

Video Article

Join Shane Sweatt and Laura Phelps-Sweatt of Westside Barbell as they demonstrate bench-press set-up and technique. Phelps-Sweatt’s best bench is an incredible 530 lb.

The first cue Sweatt has Phelps-Sweatt demonstrate is to set her shoulders back in their sockets, pinching her shoulder blades behind her so her shoulders are well supported to reduce the risk of injury. She gets under the bar and lifts it to hold it over her chest, not her eyes. From there, she uses a straight-line path for the bar as she presses over her chest.

Sweatt points out how important grip is to the bench press.

“On the way down, she is breaking the bar. On the way up, she is spreading the bar,” Sweatt says. “Pretend like it’s a rubber band and you’re trying to stretch it—your hands aren’t going to move, but you’re pulling as hard as you can.”

Sweatt also points out Phelps-Sweatt’s wide legs and foot position.

“She is pushing into the ground. She is spreading the floor with her feet,” he says.

Sweatt demonstrates common faults with the bench press, including set-up, and provides points of performance coaches can use to maintain safe lifting.

According to Sweatt: “If you go to Westside Barbell, nobody has shoulder problems.”

He says the key is proper positioning.

“It takes the pressure off the shoulders and lowers your injury rate dramatically … and it allows you to create as much power and torque as possible.”

10min 16sec

Additional reading: Building a Strong Shoulder Girdle by Bill Starr, published Aug. 26, 2011.

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18 Comments on “Proper Bench Technique”


wrote …

Pretty good information. I will try it out tomorrow. The biggest thing, for me, was to keep my shoulders on the bench the entire time. That is about the only new piece of information I gained, but it seems pretty huge. Last time I had a bench PR, I was doing it with affiliate trainers that were former power lifters. I haven't been able to come within 20# of that last PR (which was over a year ago) and this is probably something they stressed. Thanks.


wrote …

The information in that video is 100% spot on. Shane is a great trainer. What is a bit frustrating is we have these seminars and show people what to do and then see them later and they aren't doing it. Adopt what is being taught in this video and you WILL get stronger without injury.


wrote …

The Westside videos are very informative. Everyone loves lifting big numbers and the benefits of working with heavy weights is well known. However, I think the benefits of dumbbell work is underemphasised. In technique and muscular development dumbbells offer better range, are less forgiving to form flaws, and can be used to isolate weaknesses.

I would wager that the lifters at Westside use dumbbells much more often than one would think from viewing these videos.


wrote …

Dumbbells are used for special exercises, sure. Always for repetition work. Never for ME work. In terms of dumbbells being less forgiving, I would not go that far. I have seen some pretty darn sloppy dumbbell technique. In fact, I would say most dumbbell pressing work I see is with horrible form.


wrote …

Curious to Laura Phelps-Sweatt's bodyweight and what her raw bench is? Good video!


wrote …

Really really helpful. Thank you


wrote …

Great video, I don't really bench anymore because of shoulder injuries. Wish I had learned this stuff years ago. I am going to try it out again now that I know how to do it right. Thanks


wrote …

Question: Does midline stability not apply to bench?

Watching these guys bench, Rob O in recent videos etc., they seem to have massively arched backs (sternum sticking out at front)with excessive lumbar curve.

Isn't this an unhealthy position for the lower back to be in (according to all the teaching from 9 fundamental moves etc.)?

I mashed my back in early twenties doing this. I now only do weighted press ups, but have considered trying bench again recently.

What are the coaches opinions?


wrote …

An arch in the back is important for two main reasons. First, it ensures that the weight of the bar is on the upper back and traps, where it should be. Second, it shortens the bar path therefore decreasing the rotation of the shoulders. Since the weight is not on the spine itself the arch does not lend itself to injury. I've been around the sport for many years and I've never heard of someone injuring their back from arching while benching, but I've seen plenty of shoulder injuries from people who bench flat-backed.


wrote …

Andrew, did you listen to what Shane said about her arch?


replied to comment from Angela Desjarlais

She's in the 160s I believe and I don't know on her raw bench. I have seen her triple 3 and some change with a relatively close grip, but that was a while back.


wrote …

Great info! Being a paraplegic with no active core muscles; stability has been an issue doing bench with free weights. I normally stick to the smith machine or other bench machines. I've never really been taught how to properly do bench but now I feel confident that I can go back in tomorrow and get it right. Thanks a bunch! -Tom


wrote …

Had a shoulder issue for sometime and only did light benching. Still with some pain. Tried again yesterday after watching this article and improved tremendously!! with virtually no pain. Thanks!!


wrote …

every time i bench heavy, for example trying to hit a new PR my but tends to lift up off the bench. i can definitly lift more weight when my butt comes off the bench, id say around 20 - 25 lbs, but feel like im cheating. Is there a cue or someting i should be doing to keep my butt down? thanks for the help.


wrote …

Angela, her stats are given in the first 10 seconds or so... 536 @ 160.


wrote …

Yes, but is 536 a raw bench or an equipped bench? There is a huge difference. And I'm just curious. All around quite impressive.


wrote …

what a great video, thank you

ps: is that Martin Rooney in the background at the end?


wrote …

what about thumbs placement? weather around or not, is it just a personal feeling?

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