3 Tips For a Bigger Bench

Rugby players and other beast athletes! You gotta bench! Read the following tips and watch the video to learn how to immediately improve your bench!

The bench press is what we call an ‘indicator’ exercise because when your bench press goes up it proves that your program is working. So periodic testing of the bench press gives us an INDICATION of the development of upper body strength.

Benching allows you to lift HUGE amounts of weight and build a load of muscle in the arms, chest and shoulders.

The stronger you get, the bigger you get. Simple as. So here are three techniques we use at Raw Strength that will IMMEDIATELY increase your bench:

WP_000434 1. Set up Properly

The ‘set-up’ is the way you position yourself on the bench BEFORE you pick the weight up out of the rack, it’s so important it could literally have its own article! For now I’ll just give you a few tips……

  • Lie on the bench with your eyes in line with the bar
  • Position your feet on the floor, underneath your hips and staying on the ball of your foot (This helps with leg drive; see tip #2)
  • Grab hold of the bar with a wider than shoulder width grip
  • Keeping your grip and foot position the same, slide up the bench until your head hangs off the bench!
  • Now pull yourself into the bar as if performing an inverted row, literally do a kind of lying down pull-up, lift yourself off the bench and pinch your shoulder blades together, then push yourself down into the bench so your eyes are back in line with the bar, but now your shoulder blades are tight and ‘set’ into a strong position and your entire back is tightly arched. If it feels comfortable….you’re doing it wrong! Arch your back some more and slide a little further down the bench towards your unmoving feet.
  • Get someone to help you lift the bar out before you press, as ‘reaching’ up and trying to unrack the bar on your own will almost certainly un-set your shoulder blades! You need to have your shoulder blades squeezed together as it gives a solid foundation to press, it protects your shoulder, it lifts your chest up and shortens the distance you have to press. The shorter the distance you press, the bigger the weight you can lift….and the bigger the weight the BIGGER you GROW!

2. Leg Drive

Leg drive sounds stupid, the bench is an upper body exercise right?! Well…it’s really a whole body movement when you do it right, although it stimulates upper body nerves and muscles the most, knowing how to push with your legs at the right time will help you leverage the bar up!

  • After the set-up you should be in a strong, uncomfortable position to press, bring the bar down, get a solid touch on your chest…no half reps here…and now drive your heels towards the floor, literally try and push your feet into the ground as you press the bar up. Pushing through the floor with your feet will help transfer your centre of gravity from around the middle of your belly to your chest and upper back, this helps ‘stick’ you to the bench and makes you more stable when pushing up.
  • Drive with your legs as you begin to press upwards, just after the bar has touched your chest. A good little exercise to practise and understand leg drive is to perform a couple of reps of glute bridges, whilst pressing your hands up.
  • It’s important to note here, that whilst you are going to drive with your legs, you must keep your ass on the bench at all times!


3. Breathe Properly

Breathing is easy…in on the way down, out on the way up right? NOPE. Not even close. Try the following tip for correct breathing and see your strength skyrocket….IMMEDIATELY!

  • Following the set-up and BEFORE the bar has left the rack, take THREE deep breaths WITHOUT LETTING ANY AIR OUT! You gotta take in 3 breaths ON TOP OF EACH OTHER. Your lungs should feel like they are about to explode!
  • Now squeeze the bar tight with your hands, tense your stomach as tight as humanly possible and HOLD YOUR BREATH.
  • Now you can unrack the bar, lower and press, hold your breath for the entire movement. You can only breathe in at the top of the movement, when the bar is locked out. Whenever the bar is moving hold your breath, squeeze the bar tight and tense your stomach.

This breathing method is common in powerlifting, in fact I would go so far as to say that ALL strongmen, powerlifters and weightlifters use some sort of breathing technique when shifting some heavy stuff…so its gotta be important.


Try these 3 tips and let me know how it helps your bench and overall strength levels!


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Anthony Shaw

Raw Strength