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Keeping Shoulder Blades (Scapula) Retracted While Benching

People would be amazed at the amount of form and technique involved in a bench press. Many people figure it is just laying down, getting under the bar, and bringing the weight down and pushing it back up. There is so much more involved and until a person learns that, they are leaving a lot of pounds on the table when it comes to maximizing their bench press.


One of the “cues” or techniques in a bench press is keeping the shoulder blades retracted through the push. Many lifters seem to be able to get under the bar with the scapula retracted, but through the push the shoulder blades open back up.

The benefit of keeping the shoulder blades retracted is all about being compact. In any big lift, the more compact and tight the lifter can be, the more power they can generate. The shoulders and elbows are primary joints used in the bench press, so by keeping the shoulder blades retracted, these joints are not stressed as much and are able to move the weight more effectively. So, by keeping the shoulder blades in, not only is it safer but also more effective.


Many times, the reason the shoulder blades open up during the lift is because the individual is unfamiliar with how they retraction should be and feel. This in return puts the elbows and the wrong position and then causes the shoulders to “open up” when the press in initiated.


To know how to properly retract the shoulder blades, grab an exercise band and pull it apart in front of you so you feel the tension in your shoulder blades. Make sure the level of your arms is equivalent to where they would be during a bench press (so don’t hold your arms too high or too low). The feeling you get in your back from pulling apart the exercise band is the feeling you should have at setup and during in the press.  


Once you are able to achieve this feeling in the back during set up, practice with light weight benching. As stated before, the lifter is unable to achieve a compact and tight posture, which in return causes a more movement and motion from the joints than is needed thus opening up the shoulders.


Lifting properly is highly based on feel. Do not compromise form and technique to lift bigger and heavier because you could be cutting yourself short when it comes to maximizing your pounds pushed.


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