In the Beginning, There Was Form

Before we dissect the bench press and its associated maladies, let’s first make sure your form is dialed in. Poor form is often misattributed to weakness (this applies to many other lifts, by the way). However, you might not need to work on improving your bench-press starting strength or lockout; you may instead simply need to tighten up your form.


A long-winded diatribe on the intricacies of the bench press is beyond this article. I can, however, hammer home the necessities. Make sure you have these points down before diving any deeper into assistance training:

  • Straight wrists, knuckles pointed to the ceiling
  • Eyes under the bar before unracking it
  • Feet in a position where they can forcefully drive into the ground
  • Glutes tight
  • Bar squeezed as hard as possible
  • Bar touching a position on your chest that keeps the elbows underneath the bar
  • Elbows underneath the bar for the entire press

If you can confidently check off all the items on this list, you’re ready to talk about selecting assistance lifts. If not, work on getting better at the full-range barbell bench press. Once you’ve mastered that, come back to this article for assistance advice.