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Bench Prep

Bench Prep

An Expert's Tips and Techniques for a
Super-Productive Bench-Press Workout

Lifters often blame the bench press for their bad shoulders. Many of these folks hit the bench before they’ve accomplished an effective warm-up. A few cross body stretches and some plate swings don’t count.

A solid shoulder warm-up, however, improves bench-pressing performance and lowers injury risk. It takes only ten minutes and it's a simple process.

General to Specific

Warm-ups follow a simple progression from general exercises to specific exercises. The general movements wake up the nervous system and increase body heat. Specific exercises target the movement we’re preparing for.

Our bench press warm-up is set up following general to specific guidelines. So while the beginning exercises seem negligible, they’re integral to a successful bench press warm-up.

The Exercises

Arm Circles x 10 each direction

We’re bringing back a gym class favorite! Big, swooping arm circles wake the body up and heat up the shoulder joints. They’re a great initial exercise because they introduce range of motion and heat.

Trunk Rotations x 10 each direction

Trunk rotations activate core musculature and get the thoracic spine moving. Good t-spine movement is important for shoulder health. Like arm circles, trunk rotations also increase core body temperature.

Perform these bad boys by tightening the core and rotating through the upper-back and shoulders. As you move in one direction, imagine that you’re fighting yourself to move. This will keep the abs braced, core rigid and isolate movement to the upper back and shoulders.

Seated T-Spine Rotation x 8 each direction

Good t-spine movement promotes shoulder health—it’s worth reiterating. Bench pressing stiffens the t-spine, potentially leading to shoulder issues. It’s important to keep the t-spine moving, and to decrease bench session stiffening by performing mobility drills.

Seated t-spine rotations are simple. Sit tall on the end of a bench and cross your hands on your shoulders. Grab a foam roller, or something similar in diameter, and squeeze it between your thighs. Once you're set, keep the core rigid and rotate through your upper back. Complete all the reps in one direction, or alternate directions.

Shoulder Blade Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs) x 3 each direction per side

Controlled articular rotations are part of the Functional Range Conditioning system developed by Dr. Andreo Spina. These movements expand range of motion while teaching the body to maintain it. Shoulder blade movement is limited by bench pressing. Like the t-spine, the shoulder blade musculature stiffens with consistent bench pressing. Mobility drills are needed to counteract this issue.

Utilize shoulder CARs by keeping your arm parallel to the floor while making the biggest circle possible with your shoulder blade. As you make shoulder blade circles, squeeze the muscles that move your shoulder blades to create tension. This is the control portion of the CARs, and it activates muscles while teaching the joint that it’s good to keep this range of motion.

Face Pulls x 12

These classic rhomboid trainers are great for bench press warm-ups. They activate the upper-back musculature in preparation for creating upper-back, bench-pressing tension.

Set a band, or cable machine with the triceps rope, up at forehead level. Step back until your chosen apparatus is tight, then, with palms facing each other, pull the band or cable to your forehead.

Push-ups x 10

Let the specificity begin! Think of push-ups as inverted bench presses. They utilize the same pulling and pressing muscles in reverse format. Push-ups positively affect bench-pressing performance because, when performed correctly, they teach the “pull” portion of the bench press negative.

Set up a bar at knee height in the squat rack and, hands crushing the bar, align in the up push-up position. Pull your chest to the bar by squeezing your upper-back musculature. The bar should touch in the same spot on your chest as it does while bench pressing. Then, drive away from the bar while maintaining an upper-back squeeze.

Batwings x 30 seconds

Batwings are simply an isometric row. They activate all the pulling muscles—those opposite the bench-pressing muscles—and prepare for upper-back bench pressing tension.

Perform batwings by lying chest down on a flat, or slightly inclined, bench. Have two moderately weighted dumbbells on the floor and row them up to the top-rowing position. You’ll hold this position in an isometric contraction for thirty seconds.

Dumbbell Bench Press x 10

Now comes the most specific of warm-ups—an actual bench-pressing motion. Dumbbell pressing requires more shoulder stabilization than barbell pressing, so it serves as an excellent, activating warm-up.

You’ll perform ten dumbbell bench-press reps with a weight that you could press twenty times. Once you’ve completed this set, move on to light barbell pressing, eventually ramping up to your working set weight.

Supplement Suggestions

[Editor’s Note: A proper warm-up is all about joint health. Of course, there’s more to maintaining maximum joint strength, integrity, and flexibility than loosening up, and that’s where proper supplementation comes in. Joints, tendons, and cartilage need proper nutrition just like muscles and every other organ in your body. A superior joint-health supplement will supply those nutrients (which include glucosamine, chondroitin, sulfur and collagen in their respective bioactive forms) in dosages consistent with clinical research.

Unfortunately, joint-health supplementation is an area in which a sizeable number of manufacturers succumb to the urge to adopt a “pixie dust sprinkling” strategy which involves under-dosing of key ingredients. That’s why you need an elite-quality, science-based joint-support supplement like ProSource’s Extra Strength Joint Command. The category’s most comprehensive support formula features a massively synergistic complex of joint health technologies, including clinically indicated dosages of glucosamine sulfate and chondroitin sulfate, plus Meriva® (an anti-inflammatory phytosome technology) and HyaMax® (a standardized hyaluronic acid to support joint hydration and flexibility). In addition, Extra Strength Joint Command contains 5-LOXIN® (for additional anti-inflammatory support), as well as MSM and UC Type II collagen, compounds linked to joint support and recovery after stress. In the years since its introduction, Extra Strength Joint Command has emerged as the #1 choice for athletes who recognize the paramount importance of proper joint health in the pursuit of physique and performance goals.

For those athletes on a tight budget, ProSource also offers a combination of the two most important joint-support compounds (provided in the exact ratio cited in clinical studies) in the form of its Ultra Glucosamine And Chondroitin product. Rich in essential joint-supporting sulfur, Ultra Glucosamine And Chondroitin represents a sensational supplement value. Finally, for those athletes seeking a joint-support product with the added benefits of glucose modulation and antioxidant support, there’s ProSource’s Ultra Cissus, which contains a standardized dosage of Cissus quadrangularis (a super nutrient of increasing interest to clinical researchers with regard to not just joint support, but diet support and antioxidant support as well).]


Take ten minutes to follow a simple shoulder warm-up and you'll promote joint health, bench pressing performance, and ultimately, bench press longevity. Use this warm-up and dominate your next bench session!

Read more about Extra Strength Joint Command here.

Read more about Ultra Glucosamine And Chondroitin here.

Read more about Ultra Cissus here.

Use as directed with a sensible nutrition and exercise program. Read and follow all product label instructions and warnings thoroughly before use. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

The articles featured herein are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Specific medical advice should only be obtained from a licensed health care professional. No liability is assumed by ProSource for  any information herein.