Weight Lifting, Weight Training, Bench Press & Bodybuilding
August 28, 2010

The Right Lifting Technique For Gaining Muscle And Strength
By Lee Hayward

The Right Lifting Technique For Gaining Muscle And Strength

I see this lifting mistake all the time. It's an all too common a scene in gyms all over the world - some guy is starting his chest workout on the bench press with two or three 45 pound plates on each side of the barbell. While his faithful spotter is standing by preparing to deadlift the barbell off his friends chest. <

After pacing back and forth the gym and getting "psyched up" the lifter plops down on the bench and takes the weight off the rack. The bar drops towards his body at a lightning fast speed. As the bar makes impacts with his chest it bounces nearly half way back up before any force is required to keep the momentum going. Then with a huge grunt and an arch that lifts his ass eight inches off the bench, the bar starts to inch its way up. With the help of the spotter (who is yelling "it's all you"), the weight barely gets pressed to lockout. Then the lifter jumps up and shouts: "I did it!"

Just think of all the people that you have seen do this at one time or another. Do they ever really improve their strength? You will usually see them doing the same bench press "circus act" with the same weight week after week. Do these folks strike you as "strong" lifters? Probably not. The strongest lifters you will see are those who have complete control over the weight throughout the exercise - be that bench presses, squats, shoulder presses, or curls. This is not to say that these people are always the ones lifting the biggest weights. I've seen some guys that I consider to be strong, lifting moderate weights, but doing it in a way that dictates strength.

The difference between these lifters and the previously mentioned lifters is made crystal clear as time passes on. Just keep track of the progress of the "strong" lifters who use good form and they will be the ones who make consistent long-term improvement with their lifts and muscular development. Where as the "circus act" lifters are usually doing the same thing week in and week out until they are side lined with a muscle tear or some other major injury.

Gains in muscle and strength don't come overnight. They take consistent training and one cannot be consistent with their training if they are injured. Improper form and fast jerking of excessive weight will eventually lead to an injury, it's just a matter of time.

This is improper bench press form, please DO NOT do this!!!
...with a huge grunt and an arch that lifts
his ass eight inches off the bench...

this pic is an example of what NOT to do.

The reason why the good lifters make better gains in strength and muscular development is found in their lifting form. They control the weight during the eccentric (lowering) portion as well as the concentric (lifting) portion of the exercise. Muscle tension is at its greatest during the eccentric contraction and controlling the weight through this negative phase has been shown to increase strength and development at a faster rate then controlling it through the concentric contractions alone. However, this emphasis on the eccentric phase of the rep doesn't mean that the concentric contraction should be ignored. Once the weight is lowered to the bottom of the exercise in a controlled manner, it should be lifted up with maximal speed. Increasing the speed of the contraction leads to increased power output and directly effects the intensity of the exercise.

When starting any new training routine or implementing a different lifting technique you should always start off conservatively and make gradual progress overtime. So if this lifting form is new to you, then you may have to adjust your training weights to somewhat less then normal for a short period of time, until you become comfortable with the form.

How To Increase Your Bench Press With Proper Technique

To show you the ideal form and repetition tempo I will use the bench press as an example. Starting with a warm up weight, bring the bar down to your chest slowly. It should take approx. 2 seconds (i.e. one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two) once the bar is lowered, you should explode and forcefully push the weight back up to the top position in approx. 1 second (i.e. one-thousand-one). Exhale as you drive the bar from your chest with maximum speed. Even though you are moving the weight fast there should be no bouncing, jerking, or lifting your butt off the bench. Keep the form strict and make the muscles do the work.

Now you don't have to be too anal about the times mentioned, I'd rather you have your attention focused on your lifting form then counting the seconds in your head. Just make sure to lower the barbell slowly and under control and lift it as fast as you can with good form. Counting the 2 seconds for lowering and 1 second for lifting is something that a training partner could keep track of as you do your set. After each set they can give you feedback and let you know if you should slow down the negative portion of the lift or speed up the concentric portion, etc.

Use this lifting technique on every rep of every set, even your warm ups. Don't make the mistake of using sloppy form during your warm ups and then trying to lift strict during your work sets. Use proper form all the time so it becomes second nature to you. As you get comfortable with this style of lifting you will develop a rhythm for it and you will not need to consciously think about your lifting form, you will just lift with good form automatically.



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