Bench Press Touch Point – Creating The Optimal Bar Path
Kyle has made a big leap on his bench press lately, as his current meet best is 314lb., but you can see on the right Kyle absolutely smoking 303lbs. (CLICK HERE). Things started to come together when he was able to nail down a more efficient bar path during his eccentric. As can be seen on the left, Kyle had a lot of horizontal movement during the eccentric and a fairly low touch point, which then created a lot of work for him to drive that bar back and up over his shoulders to lock out. You can even see that it was to the extent that the bar actually moved back past his shoulders due to the amount of horizontal force he was having to create.
The answer to what is your optimal touch point is a tough one, as its very lifter dependent and grip width dependent. But what I can say is that for most, the higher you can touch while still maintaining shoulder depression and a stacked elbow under the wrist, the less overall work you will then have during the concentric.
A stereotypical answer to this question is your touch point is the highest point of your body, but thats a dangerous example to use depending on where that point is. We want to elevate the ribcage to cause the upper sternum and lower chest to be that highest point, but more often than not I see most lifters having their lower sternum or top of their stomach being that high point.
Payton is a good example of a high ribcage and high touch point lifter (CLICK HERE). You can see for the most part his eccentric bar path is fairly vertical. This is in large part due to the fact that he is creating enough elevation and depression to start the bar over his touch point, rather than having to create horizontal movement during the eccentric to find it. And then as he presses off his chest, his bar path is extremely efficient to lockout.
Many probably have heard of the “J-Curve” style bench press, where during the concentric the bar moves back and up. I am not disagreeing against the J-Curve or the typical instruction that the bar should travel back, as many of the top level lifters do so. But the less “J” we can have the better, as it creates less need for horizontal movement and allows us to focus more on vertical pressing, which is a bench press at its core. If you look at both Kyle and Payton, they have a slight “J”, but rather than an extreme hook at the bottom, notating a high degree of horizontal movement, its more of a half J. This is what you should be shooting for.