People are always asking me how to fix their bench press, how to improve their technique, or the obvious—how to get strong(er) on the bench press. So, I decided to sit down each week for 10 weeks and give a bench press tip, hoping to help someone who might be lacking in the area I addressed that day. Did I cover every aspect of the bench press? No. But what I tried to do was give tips that worked for me and helped increase my bench press over the years.

While these tips are better suited for geared shirted lifters, some of these tips can still be utilized for the raw guys, too. If you have any questions, contact me on the Q&A or comment section below, and I will do my best to answer your questions the best I can.

1. H2O

If you’re having trouble touching the bar, try wetting your collar and chest plate with good ol’ H2O. Just get a spray bottle, fill it up with water, and keep it in your gym bag. Wetting the collar allows the material to stretch easier, which can help you get the bar down.

2. Dig into the Pad

When setting up on the bench, make sure that you dig your traps into the pad of the bench so that you get a good, solid foundation. Be sure to pull your shoulders and lats back tight to the pad, and make sure that you don’t roll your shoulders back up when you receive the bar from your handler. This will give you better stability and keep your shirt in place.

3. Pull Back

As you set up on the bench, be sure to pull your shoulders back as hard as you can. Do this before the weight is handed to you. Pulling back the shoulders allows your lats to provide a strong(er) and better foundation. Plus, you’re utilizing the power from your lats in conjunction with your triceps when you push the bar up.

4. Eyes Under the Bar

Make sure that your eyes are under the bar. Before you lift the barbell off, it’s important that your body is positioned correctly on the bench. The easiest way to ensure your position is correct is to have your eyes directly under the bar.

5. Arch

Learn to create a good arch. A good arch can cut two or three (or more!) inches off your stroke. Be sure to keep your butt on the bench while arching. Placing a four-inch PVC pipe under my lower back helped me start learning how to get an arch. Then, as I got better, I started using a six-inch foam roller on all of my raw sets to help me with my arch and to stretch my lower back.

6. Bend the Bar

When taking your handoff, be sure to grab the bar tightly and try to “bend” the bar, as this will help with your stability. In turn, always make sure that you’re tight throughout the lift. Be sure that your lats and triceps are doing the work as you descend and push up. Stay “tight.” Technique is everything.

7. Leg Drive

Leg Drive—This power comes through your feet and legs. It fortifies the arch in your back, stabilizes your body, and focuses the energy towards your upper body. However, pushing through your legs doesn’t mean that you should raise your ass off the bench. The front of your feet should be trying to press through the floor as you try to press your heels to the floor. This takes a lot of practice to get correct, but what else do you have to do?

8. Deep Breath

Make sure to take a deep breath before you lower the bar (take a breath at handoff and hold it). Hold it in as you bring the bar down, pushing your belly to “meet” the bar, and continue to hold your breath as you push the bar upwards. Don’t let your breath out until you complete the rep. This technique gives you better core stability and spinal reinforcement. This will lead to a stronger bench press and better overall tightness and stability.

9. Elbow Flare

When coming down with the bar, keep your elbows flared out to allow the shirt to help “carry” the weight down. As the shirt tightens, begin to cut your elbows in so that you can touch the bar to your belly area. Once you touch, immediately flare your elbows back out (as fast as you can) in order to create the momentum and power needed to press maximal weights to the locked position. When pressing the bar up, fade the bar slightly back over your eyes and remember to explode the bar upwards. Contract your muscles forcefully in order to lift as fast as possible. Even if the bar goes up slowly, you’re still delivering maximal force output.

10. Visualize

Visualize the lift. What is visualization? In essence, visualization simply means using your creative imagination to see something you want and then achieve it. Always see yourself over and over again, going through your checklist and successfully completing the lift every time. Arch, take a deep breath, grip the bar, get tight, leg drive, and press upwards.