Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Shoulders

My Brilliant Friends,
The bench press is a complex exercise. It is critical that you learn the correct shoulder placement to use the full potential of your anatomy for this movement.
Spine alignment
First things first, stand up straight and get in the ready position for the squat. Butt tight, feet spreading the floor, and pillar torso. This aligns your spine. See here for details.
Screw in your Arms and Shoulders
Hello again, torque.
Put your arms out in front of you. Turn your palms up, and keep turning out until you reach the max outward rotation of your arms. This gets your shoulders in external rotation, meaning your shoulder blades are squeezed back and down.
Keeping your shoulders locked and back muscles tight as fuck, make fists and turn your palms back down. Your upper arms should stay in the same position, externally rotated. Look how my elbows do not turn down.
This simulates what your shoulder blades should be doing during the entire bench press movement. Make fists and see if you can pull the imaginary bar in to your chest without loosening up your shoulder blades. Difficult?
Now try this. As you push out, rotate your fists so that palms face up. As you pull in, rotate them face down. This allows you to feel what your elbows should be doing. When using the bar, your hands will be gripping the bar and obviously face down the whole time. You should be applying the outward twist as you push the bar up, to maintain torque. This is the same in the pushup.
Above, I have my shoulders in correct placement. On the right, I demonstrate incorrect position, with the shoulders pulled out to the front. This is a common cause of grief and despair on the bench.
Squeeze Shoulder Blades
As you pull in and push back out, focus on keeping your shoulder blades squeezed tight. Your shoulders should not be moving back and forth at your sides. They should be locked back and in, at the back of your shoulder capsules. The only things moving are your arms.
Pecs Taut
In conjunction with a pinched upper back and locked shoulder blades, your pecs should be pulled taut across your chest.This maintains muscle tension both on the down and up movement in your chest. As you push out and pull in with your arms, notice how squeezing your shoulder blades back pulls your pecs taut through both movements.
White-knuckle Grip
When applying these cues, make the white-knuckle grip a constant throughout. It helps to keep the back tight and shoulders locked back.

Hope you enjoyed the flowers on my wall.

Next I’ll talk about how to get yourself on the bench and apply these cues while on your back.

To powerful living,
Steve

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