Episode 9. How to do a Powerlifting Bench Press vs. Bodybuilding Bench Press
Listen to the Episode
The bodybuilding bench press is not the same as the powerlifting bench press. Today’s episode was all about understanding WHY you’re doing a movement (like the bench), and how that affects your lift. The two styles of bench press are so, so different, yet if you walk up to any trainee in the gym and ask them which one they’re doing, you’ll often get a totally blank look!
Scott laid out 5 basic rules for nailing your barbell bench press technique, and of course Kevin had a LOT to add with respect to the powerlifting style bench press.
Rule 1. Decide Why You are Doing It.
Are you doing this for strength (powerlifting) or for chest development and aesthetics (bodybuilding)? If you’re doing a powerlifting bench press, you’re training the movement. If you’re bodybuilding, you’re training the muscle, and the bench press movement is a means to an end.
In powerlifting you’re recruiting muscle beyond the pecs. In bodybuilding you’re trying to hit the pec muscles first and foremost.
In powerlifting, your overload comes from more poundage and more volume, and in bodybuilding there more emphasis on the volume aspect. In powerlifting, you might even just be “practicing” the movement.
Rule 2. Feet Up or Feet Down
Obviously, the powerlifting bench press has feet down. In bodybuilding, you can decide. In a bodybuilding bench press, your feet can be up or down, but don’t switch it up within a single workout.
With your feet up, you create a joint-stress transfer. Without the feet on the ground as your base of support, the stress gets transferred to the hips, and then to the shoulders. This leads to more muscle recruitment in the pecs, since there are no stresses on the other joints like anterior delts, posterior chain.
The feet up are an advanced progression. If you’re an intermediate, keep the feet on the ground. You can also try putting your feet on a box that’s not as high as a bench. If you have back issues, you can also use a Staggered Base of Support. See Scott’s videos on that below, as well as Kevin’s course on the compound lifts.
Rule 3. Hands Off for Crying Out Loud! (Spotters)
Your spotters should not be helping you. They are there if you need them.
And frankly, if you need a spotter, the load is too much for you.
Train in the range of success.
Rule 4. Use Proper Form
Bodybuilding is touch and go, powerlifting is with a pause. In both those cases, this does NOT mean “bounce” and go.
Suits and chains are not necessary for 99% of trainees, and even then for many people they’re still not necessary. (Often things like chains are needed only when you’re using a suit, since oyu need to overload the top of the movement.) There is very very little carry over, if any.
Rule 5. Consider Dumbbells
Dumbbells encourage a more natural range of motion, and if you’re over 50, they make more sense. For Scott, for example, a barbell bench press hurts his shoulders even with just the bar.
Dumbbells might also make more sense for people with very long limbs and who don’t need specifically to compete with the barbell bench press.
If the barbell bench press movement hurts, definitely move to dumbbells. This is listening to your body at the absolute most basic.
Links / Resources mentioned
As mentioned, Scott and Kevin have already done a fair amount of videos on this stuff!
Staggered Base of Support: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iib6dHVL0GM
Bench Press Bodybuilding vs. Powerlifting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7kUmzfZhgQ
Bodybuilding Style Bench Press: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KLLJlnoK7Y
Powerlifting style Bench Press: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGqhgnojZQk
Kevin’s Compound Lift course: https://smartersculptedphysique.com/kevin
Get access to Kevin’s “In Real-Time” Bench Press course and program as he prepares for his next powerlifting meet!