Foot placement on the bench press: What is right?

When most people first start bench pressing, they assume that’s it’s and upper body exercise. Sure, we can classify it as such. Many also think it’s a “pec exercise.”  Which we could categorize it as such. But the bench press is more than an exercise or a muscle group… it’s a movement. One thing that often comes up is where your feet should be placed during the bench press. We see feet flat on the ground, feet tucked back, and even feet on the bench. (P.S. Don’t do that.)  So what’s right for each person will vary, but here are some general guidelines to help you find what works for YOU.

Feet flat

 

 

This is a “normal” position and what I recommend for beginners to do. I still have them pull the shoulders back and lock in the upper back (slight arch in upper back), but starting off with, the feet is the least of my concerns. If I can get them to at least understand that the feet should be pushing into the floor, then that’s all that matters at this point.

bench2

Feet tucked back

Typically I recommend this style for people who A) have good mobility,  B ) will benefit more from a good arch than from leg drive, and C) are going to compete. With the feet tucked back, the lower back will arch. As you can imagine, this will shorten your range of motion, allowing you to ultimately bench more.  You won’t get as much leg drive, but for some, the arch is worth it. This is what I do when gearing up for competition. (When not competing, I still arch, but not nearly as much to give my back a rest.)  When tucking the feet back, you will typically be on the toes/forefront of the foot. But when you press the bar, you want to *try* to push the heels to the ground. You might not be able to but it will help push your chest up more, lock your legs in and keep your glutes on the bench.

Feet out in front

This technique is good for those that A) have long legs,  B ) get more from their leg drive or C) have poor mobility.  The legs will be out in front of the body, glutes squeezed and when you press the bar, you are driving your feet into the ground. This will push your shoulders back into the bench give you great leg drive.

 

So what’s the best position for you?  Well, without seeing your technique, it’s hard to give a straight answer. Take the ideas above, try them out and see what works. But be patient with it. Trying it once will be difficult – anything new takes time to learn.  And remember, the bench press can be a “lift” or an “exercise” – what is it to you?

 

 

 

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Julia Ladewski

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