Simplicity is mother of all invention they say and I'm in total agreement with this. As attention spans get shorter and shorter (mine included), it gets harder and harder to get all the details of each lift correct. And it's the little details that make all the difference in lifting and are essential in LIFTING BIG. I've had a good bench most of my life, but when I learned the nuances of the bench press I realized it's the small details practiced over and over with precision and purpose that determine if your bench goes up or not. It makes no difference if you're a raw lifter or wear a bench shirt. There are differences in each still, but the basics of the bench press still have to be accomplished.

You can always find tons of information out on the internet about bench pressing. Reading and studying how to bench press correctly is a large task in itself and it's even bigger once you try to put all that you've read into practice. A simple solution for learning proper technique, a solution that's easy to follow is to bench by the numbers. Benching by the numbers is a simple guide you can use. It's linear in progression, meaning you can't mess it up as one step follows the next in logical and instinctive patterns.

Rule Number One: Lay on the bench and make sure your eyes are behind the bar by two to three inches.

Rule Number Two: Set your feet either under you with your toes/ball of foot on the ground and up near the hips and butt. Or, with your feet flat on the floor slightly in front of you. You'll either be driving your heels down with the feet under or with the feet flat version you'll drive your toes into the front of your shoes with your feet staying flat on the ground. We'll cover that again soon.

Rule Number Three: Grab the bar in the competition grip. The competition grip is where your index fingers are on the outer rings of the bar. Make sure you wrap your thumbs around the bar. Very few lifters can pull off a thumbless grip for a big bench. Also, make sure the bar is directly over your wrist, sitting in the butt of your hands. Twist the wrist slightly outward as you pick the bar up. The right will go clockwise, the left counter clock wise. Basically, you just want to move the outer part of the butt of the hand just a little, maybe a half inch tops. The rest of the hand will remain in place, just the outer part slides some. This movement is almost like you're trying to pull the bar apart.

Rule Number Four: Pull yourself up some off the bench and then pull your shoulder blades together. Now, with your blades pulled together, drop them into the bench with your eyes directly under the bar. Remember, we started with them behind the bar. Don't move your feet to do this. This movement will create an arch in your lower back. It will also forcibly anchor your feet and butt to the bench and your shoulder blades will automatically drive backwards into the bench. Arches vary from just being able to slide a hand underneath your low back and the bench to four or five inches in some cases. Do what's comfortable and what works for you. The bigger the arch, the short the distance you have to push.

Rule Number Five: Keep your shoulders together as you take the bar out. It's very important not to let your shoulders pull away on the bench. They must stay squeezed together and driving into the bench. If you're jamming your feet into the ground, this will help to keep your shoulders in place. You must drive on your feet either from the ball if you have them tucked under you, or through the toes if your feet are slightly in front of you while keeping your feet flat on the ground. I repeat, as this is integral to getting it right.

Rule Number Six: With your blades planted, take the bar out over your chest (do an empty bar first to get the feel). Bringing the bar this far out will lock your lats in place so that you can use them to brace off. Your lats are also very important to use during the lift. FYI: the triceps are tied into the lats, so when you use your triceps correctly, your lats work to stabilize and help move the weight too. Keep moving the bar over your chest until you feel like the bar is going to fall forward and get away from you. At this point pull back two to three inches and you'll feel your lats working. They grab when you hit the appropriate spot. This will be the starting point for your lift and you'll feel them brace. When you get weight on the bar, the weight will feel lighter and easier because of the stability you've created.

Rule Number Seven: Start the decent of the bar. Try to keep the bar in a straight line from where we set the lats in. The bar should be past your chest slightly or at the top of your abs when it lands. As you pull the bar down, imagine your elbows pulling in to touch your lats. To understand this, do a reverse grip bench with just the bar. You'll notice automatically that your lats kick in and your triceps lock down. This is the best leverage you can create. This will ultimately be your best benching point. Try to mimic the reverse grip press with your regular bench press. Touch the bar in the same spot each time as well. So, if you do your reverse grip with the bar, wherever it touches your chest is where the regular press should touch or as close as possible. Lastly, the bar should always stay over your wrist, forearm and elbow. In other words, the bar should be directly in line with your elbows as much as possible during the entire lift.

Rule Number Eight: When the bar touches your chest, let it sink in a little like it would during a board press. Keep your tension, but let the weight sink in a little. The second before you press the bar, depending on what style you're using with your feet, either drive the heel down and press if your feet are tucked under you, or drive your toes into the front of your shoes while keeping your feet flat then pressing almost simultaneously. This is your leg drive. Leg drive can get you 50 to 100 pounds instantly on your bench. This is vital to getting the bar to a point where your triceps, lats and the rest of your upper body can kick in to their best leverages to finish the lift.

Rule Number Nine: The press. Your goal is to press the bar exactly the way you brought it down - in a straight line. The straighter and more you can do this, the shorter the lift is distance-wise and the more you'll lift as you get the hang of it. On heavier lifts where you miss this groove or run out of gas, the bar will try to drift over your face. Do your best to keep it out over your chest. If it goes towards your face, your shoulders take over the lift and you can injure yourself. Also the loss of proper form means that the rest of the muscle groups like the triceps, lats, upper back, pecs can not contribute as much to the lift.

Rule Number Ten: Stalling. If you stall on the lift, you can do a couple of things to give yourself a little more help. One is what I call turning the wrist on it. If you have a lockout issue near the top, you can turn your wrists out a little and squeeze your elbows in towards your sides. This will activate the triceps and put the bar back on the path it's suppose to be on. If you feel yourself drifting back and over your face, this is the best time to turn the wrist on it. This one is best if the bar is still moving well. If the bar slows down to almost a stop, then try to squeeze the bar as hard as you can while still pressing. This will also activate the triceps and you'll feel your elbows under the bar more. This is also called the “Law of Irridation” which simply means the harder you squeeze something, the more muscle, tendon and ligament activity you'll have. So you'll activate more muscle during the lift and get stronger and bigger.

That's it! Ten easy steps to bench by numbers. Take one lesson and focus on that for an entire bench session. Don't try to do them all at once. You can't get them all at once till you break them down in pieces and learn those first. Then, the brain will put them all together. The more intently you focus on single points during a training session the more the body will do what you want it to do. It is really that simple.