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