Leg Drive and the Horizontal Press

What purpose do the legs have on a bench press? Can they really help? We typically think of the bench press as just a simple upper body exercise. As stated in my last article, the bench press is a fantastic exercise that reflects upper body strength. But how can we take our bench press to the next level. The answer is simple, use those legs.

The main thing we need to remember is that the setup is a major part of this technique. When we lay down on the bench, we place our feet underneath our glutes. Toes on the ground and heels in the air. We need to arch our lower back for us to really transfer the power from our feet to our upper body. As we lower the bar to our chest our heels stay up. As we press the bar up, our heels need to press down into the ground. Our hips lift slightly but no so much that our glutes lift off the bench. The heels come up again as the arms are locked out. This process continues for as many reps as you do.

The energy that is produced from the heels being pushed down travels along the kinetic chain and allows us to press more if we were only using our arms. By doing this, we turned what was just an upper body exercise into a full body exercise. The legs can improve a bench press by up to 25 lbs. As we strengthen our legs through exercises, such as squats and lunges, we can increase the amount of leg drive we can get out of our bench press.

In conclusion, the leg drive can make or break a bench press. Pushing those heels down on the ascent of the bar can assist in moving bigger weights. It can be tough to remember all of these pointers but with the right coach behind you, you can set some great personal records week after week.

Sean Willits

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Sean graduated from Kutztown University in December 2015 with a degree in Sport Management and is a CPT through the American Council on Exercise (ACE). He is a competitive powerlifter and record holder in the state of PA. Sean loves to share his knowledge with clients and helps to push them. He believes that everyone is capable of greatness and that as long as someone creates goals and stays committed to them, they can be achieved. He states that the reason he got involved with personal training is, “The fact that I’ve been able to achieve my own goals and see progress in my own life inspired me to be a personal trainer. Seeing my client’s lives change is what pushes me forward. I want to see my clients succeed. When they do, so do I.  I will do anything to help them out.”