Depending on the severity of compensations and mobility restrictions uncovered during the assessment process, a client may require additional corrective programming and some time in phase 1 of the OPT model until mobility and more ideal movement quality is restored correctly before returning to the bench press.
However, suppose compensation exists but is minimal. In that case, it is ok to address these issues while still utilizing the bench press in training if the acute variables and bench press range of motion depth are modified to the point that the client can maintain proper form with minimal to no compensation.
For additional information on improving shoulder function with sample routines, check out Dr. Thomas West’s article Shoulder Function: Enhancing Scapular Stabilization.
*Important Note About Bench PRessing and the Opt Model
It is important to note that this article addresses improper bench press form assuming that the client has already progressed to the strength phases of training with respect to the NASM OPT Model, initially free of compensation (or was otherwise minimal), and generally speaking adequately prepared for strength training.
Typically, most of the issues we’ll be highlighting are avoided by following NASM’s integrated training model, properly assessing client movement quality, and using the Corrective Exercise Continuum and Phase 1 of the OPT Model.
This will adequately address existing muscular imbalances and limitations in joint control and stability, before utilizing the bench press in more strength-focused phases.
It is not unusual for a client to re-develop muscle imbalances and stability issues over time, especially when the client is exposed to repetitive patterns of stress, such as working at a computer for extended periods, and/or lifting, training, or performing activities the same way day in and day out. In this case, the client is likely to need a corrective routine or an extended warm-up routine to improve muscular balance before training to prevent a backward slide in movement quality.
When the bench press is performed correctly, it serves as a safe and effective exercise for strengthening the upper body. However, if the bench press is performed with less than ideal form, the client will experience diminishing returns for their efforts and increases their risk of developing muscular imbalances and overuse injuries.
Common issues preventing good bench press form include a client’s lack of knowledge about proper form and quality movement technique;, improper acute variable selection s such as excessive intensities, and volume, and, less-than adequate rest;, and pre-existing muscle imbalances causing movement impairment at one or more of the kinetic chain checkpoints involved in the bench press. Fortunately, most of these issues can be easily identified and addressed.
• Client knowledge can be improved by providing a client with exercise cues and understanding of bench press performance to educate them more thoroughly and promote better form.
• Excessive intensity, volumes, and inadequate rest times can be avoided by sticking to the OPT model and ensuringe the client’s physical readiness for strength training.
• Muscle imbalances and their related movement impairments can be identified using the overhead squat assessment and other loaded movement and mobility assessments.
While it is not unusual for a client to re-develop muscle imbalances and reduced joint stability and control over time, a corrective routine or an extended warm-up routine to improve muscular balance before training may prevent a backward slide in movement quality. Additionally, through regular assessment and proper utilization of the integrated NASM Optimum Performance Training (OPT) Model and progression through its different phases of training, many factors that commonly affect proper bench press form can be addressed and mitigated.
The bench press exercise is typically easily accommodated in most fitness settings, easy to learn, and conveniently programmed and adapted for various strength-oriented goals.
The bench press is frequently utilized as both a resistance exercise and a standard performance assessment, such as the upper extremity one-rep max (1RM) test for determining the proper intensity for strength-specific goals (Clark et al., 2018). When the bench press is performed correctly, it serves as a safe and effective exercise for strengthening the upper body.
However, if the bench press is performed with poor or less than ideal form, the client may experience sub-optimal neuromuscular efficiency. A reduction in neuromuscular efficiency means the body’s ability to optimally recruit muscles to produce, reduce (eccentrically control), and stabilize forces is impeded, leading to compensatory or compromised movement and an overall decrease in performance, and by extension, results.
Ambler-Wright, T., Annaccone, A., Behm, D. G., Brager, A., Cheatham, S. W., Clark, M., Fahmy, R., Frederick, C., Le Cara, E., Miller, K., Richey, R., Sorenson, E., Splichal, E., Stull, K., & Titcomb, D. A. (2020). NASM essentials of corrective exercise training (2nd ed.) (R. Fahmy, Ed.). Jones & Bartlett.
Clark, M. A., Lucett, S. C., McGill, E., Montel, I., & Sutton, B. (Ed.). (2018). NASM Essentials of Personal Fitness Training. Jones & Bartlett Learning.