Breathing/Bracing On The Bench Press For A Better Arch
A big misconception on bench press is that you breath and brace in the same manner as you do on the squat and deadlift. But especially with those trying to create a higher arch, trying to breath and brace in the same manner on bench press is going to be of detriment. Above you can see with Abbee’s (CLICK HERE, slo motion in the 2nd video) before and after, we implemented changes with her breathing and bracing patterns on bench. If we try to replicate the bracing patterns of our squat, what is going to happen is this “belly expansion” as you can see in the top video. This belly expansion raises her belly button to be the top point of Abbee’s arch, and in the process depresses her ribcage down. You might look at this and say she has a big arch, but that arch is in all the wrong places. We want the touch point of our bench press to be the highest point of our arch, which is usually the bottom of the chest/sternum, not our belly button. So to do this, I cued Abbee to be intentional as she inhaled to “expand her ribcage”. On the squat and deadlift that may create unwanted extension, but that is because those are different movements. On the bench press we are wanting that extension to elevate that ribcage to its highest position, as well as blowing up that ribcage to create a “barrel chest”. People frequently talk about how if you want a big bench, get a big barrel chest. And while in that reference they are alluding to the hypertrophy of the chest, we can create this same concept with our breathing. So while “chest breathing” is a big no-no on the squat and deadlift, it is the go to for our bench press. And as you can see on the bottom video of Abbee, as she breathes and braces that ribcage expands and elevates to cause that touch point to be the highest point of her arch.
So the one drawback to expanding the ribcage through breathing is the possible elevation of the shoulders. If you watched my video on bracing in the squat and deadlift, I gave a particular cue on how to prevent this elevation. On the bench press it is the same concept but just through a different means. With our leg drive, we should be creating a horizontal force that is sliding us back onto the bench to “roll up onto our traps”. This leg drive helps to create the initial ribcage elevation, which then is maximized ever further by inhaling to “expand the ribcage”. This leg drive and elevation naturally creates retraction and depression of the shoulders, and in sense traps them underneath us as we maintain that horizontal leg drive. So the key on bench press is that we must achieve this leg drive and elevation before breathing and bracing. Leg drive and ribcage elevation needs to proceed that inhalation so that this trapping of the shoulders prevents them from elevating as we breath and brace. When done correctly, we can still expand the ribcage and create this “barrel chest” while maintaining shoulder retraction and depression throughout.