The handoff for the bench is very important but an often-overlooked skill. There are two major mistakes that are often made. Most people jerk the bar out of the rack and drop the weight on the lifter. There are also many little things that get over looked such as: centering the bar before lift off, checking to make sure the bar is loaded correctly, setting up your lifter, a smooth hand off, getting out of the way of the judge, and being there to spot in case it is needed.

The first thing you want to do is make sure the bar is centered in the uprights for your lifter. I like to use a finger spaced outside of the uprights to make sure the bar is centered. You also need to make sure the bar is rolled up to the front lip of the upright to ensure the bar travels the least amount of distance needed. You will also want to look at the plates on each side to ensure that the load is even and correct. I always ask the judge the weight amount loaded onto the bar to make sure that there was not a communication error with the scorers’ table.

Setting up your lifter is the responsibility of the handoff man, but most people just leave it up to the lifter. This is not correct. Your lifter is nervous and excited; he needs to be talked through everything. I talk my lifter through their set up and just remind them of what they need to be focusing on while they set up. I start off by putting my index fingers on the power rings, so the lifter knows exactly where the rings are when they get their grip. Make sure your lifters grip is even. I then use verbal queues to walk my lifter through getting his arch. I tell him first to get his head way back to begin to set his arch. The next thing he needs to be reminded of is to set up on his traps. Some lifters also like to have the shoulders set as an aid to getting their arch. Make sure you know if your lifter will need you to help set his shoulders. The last step in the set up is position the lifters belt. This is often done by a third person who will walk up to the lifter once he is set up and pull the lifters belt down to the location he likes it in. The hand off man from behind can also do this, but I have found using a third person works better.

The handoff itself would seem uncomplicated, but a good handoff is anything but that. The first thing you need to have is a count system as to when the bar will be handed out. Some lifters prefer to count themselves; I prefer to have my handoff man count to three for me. Also, some lifters prefer to go on a non-verbal start such as a breathing pattern. As your lifter gets to the one count before the handoff, we’ll use two in a count to three system, you want to take the tension out of the bar by picking up on the bar. You don’t want to take the weight off of the rack, but you want the bar to be just about ready to come out of the rack. You want to take about a shoulder width grip on the bar for the handout. You want to take the bar out smoothly, I see people just rip the bar out of the rack, and that jerking motion will throw their lifter off.

The next phase of the handoff is giving the bar to the lifter; this needs to be done gradually. I’m not saying to take 10 seconds to get your hands off of the bar, but don’t just drop it on the lifter either. In JM Blakely’s video he uses the visual of handing a heavy rock to someone. He drops the rock on the recipient and his hands go down. When he takes a second to release the weight of the rock, the recipient’s hands don’t move. You just need to take a second and release the weight onto the lifter gradually over that second.

After you have handed out the weight you need to get out of the way so the head judge can see your lifter. Take a look around as you are walking up the platform and have a plan on where the easiest escape route is after you give the handoff. What I mean is be cognizant if the judge is offset to one side or a piece of equipment will be in the way if you go in that direction. You don’t want to go too far out of the way after the handoff. You want to enable the judge to have a clear view and then try and stay close by. You want to stay close by so you can lend a hand spotting if your lifter misses or help him rack the weight after getting the rack command.

I wrote this article because I see so many people screw up the handoff in the bench. It’s a pretty simple task on the surface, but as you can see, it requires a lot of attention to detail. It is very important to do the little things right in the handoff. The key points to be thinking about are: to get your lifter set up, don’t jerk the weight out or drop it on your lifter, and stick around to help spot.