5 Most Common Bench Press Mistakes: How to Fix Them

Stop saying you’re not built to bench press! Everyone can bench press. You may have leverages that make locking out or pressing off the chest difficult. But before you go blaming your genetics, make sure you are addressing any of the common bench press mistakes that you might be making. 


Benching is one of the most important compound movements you can do for your upper body to improve size and strength. To make sure you are getting the most out of your bench press, let’s go over bench press mistakes and how to fix them. 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Flaring Your Elbows

2. Elbows Pinched to Body

3. Butt Lifting Off the Bench

4. Flailing or Moving Feet

5. Not Hitting Full Range of Motion

Technique Summary

1. Flaring Your Elbows

The first common bench press mistake that we notice is in lifters that have a weakness in the triceps. Weak triceps can cause an athlete to flare their elbow during the pressing motion.


The elbows flaring will put more weight and stress on the shoulders through the middle portion of the press, instead of focusing on mainly the chest and triceps. 

The way you can fix this mistake is to cue the athlete to pinch their lats more to the side and over exaggerate the pinch. By thinking about keeping the lats pitched to the side of their body, this should help the athlete maintain a 45 degree elbow angle throughout the press. 

2. Elbows Pinched to Body

On the other side of the spectrum of common mistakes, we will see that tricep-dominant lifters will keep their arms and elbows too close to their body. In a sense, literally pinched up against their lats. 

With a tricep-dominant athlete, you can give them two main cues. The first is to squeeze the traps so that the elbows naturally flare without overdoing it. 


The second cue is to slightly widen the grip on the bar. By increasing the space in between the hands, you are naturally pulling the elbows away from the body to focus more on the chest. We recommend widening about an inch at a time until you find a grip that is comfortable and puts your elbows in the right position as well. 

3. Butt Lifting Off the Bench

We understand that leg drive is an important part of the bench press. We are not saying to take the leg drive out of the press, just make sure your foot position is creating tension throughout your body that doesn’t lead to the butt lifting off the bench.

You can prevent the butt from lifting off the bench by keeping the midfoot directly under the knees or slightly behind the knees. 

4. Flailing or Moving Feet

Another problem with too much or too little leg drive is flailing feet. Flailing feet is especially common in beginner lifters that are nervous about benching or don’t understand how to incorporate hip drive through the press.

Another problem with too much or too little leg drive is flailing feet. Flailing feet is especially common in beginner lifters that are nervous about benching or don’t understand how to incorporate hip drive through the press.

5. Not Hitting Full Range of Motion

Not hitting the full range of motion just means that you are not allowing the bar to touch your chest during the exercise. Although some people may have shoulder impingements, often we see a lack of bracing that reduces the range of motion. A lack of bracing and tension creates instability in the descent of the bench press. 

Two cues that can improve the range of motion for bench press include flexing the rhomboids so that they hug around the bench and squeezing the lats to create tension for stability. These two cues should immediately create more control in the descent which will allow you to go deeper into the movement and have the bar meet the chest. 

Technique Summary

Bench press may be the most commonly used exercise for building overall strength and size in the upper body. It makes sense to include it in your training, even if you only have the ability to do one of the variations like incline press or dumbbell press. 


By fixing common mistakes, you can improve your bench and increase strength in other areas that are weak. Mistakes in bench press often have to do with incorrect positioning or a lack of tension in a specific muscle group. If your bench press is lacking, look at the positioning of your grip, elbows, and feet. You can also look at the stability of your descent and make adjustments by engaging supplement muscle groups like the lats and rhomboids. 


To help with your bench, see what accessories will address any weak points or technical faults by signing up for the Peak Strength app and get custom programming in your pocket. 

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Yo, It's Dane

Welcome to the Garage Strength Blog, where it is my goal to provide you with the experience and knowledge I've gained in the strength and conditioning world over many years of learning from both successes and failures. I train elite-level athletes in a multitude of sports from the high school to professional levels, already producing 5 Olympics and 30+ National Champions. If you want to be the next champion I train, check out my strength programs below!

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