Breathing and Bracing in the Bench Press

We often talk about being able to have optimal spinal mechanics and breathing and bracing mechanics in that rib cage over pelvis posture.


However, in the bench press, the rules kind of change. Now we're talking about being able to breathe and brace- not only in a supine position, but in a global arched position. Just because you're creating a global arch with the bench press, doesn't mean that the rules change for the breathing and bracing mechanics. It's going to feel a little bit different because you're not in that completely stacked position. However, when you're set up in your optimal global arch, the trunk still doesn't move, we shouldn't be seeing differences in spinal position in the mid-movement, and for the reason of trunk stability, the rules around breathing and bracing still apply.


Common faults that we tend to see are: One, either people are trying to create more of an arch, and so they end up relaxing the abdominal brace, and kind of pulling their sternum up and letting that rib cage protrude. Or two, they forget all about what's happening in the abdomen, and they start reverting back to chest breathing mechanics. And as that happens, your shoulders move around just by a breath, and the stomach kind of sinks in, while rib cage pops up.


So, when you brace and breath, we want to see the 360 degree expansion happening through the trunk. When you do, you'll see less of that sunken-in abdominal cavity. You can grab your training partner, or try yourself, and put your fingers on the abdomen, and as you brace, your fingers expand outwards with the brace, and you still never changed your spinal positioning. If anything, that brace is also going to help reinforce that global extension that we're looking for in the bench press. It's also important because we want to make sure that our lats and our shoulders are set in a good place. If we're having a lot of rib cage movement, then we're starting to lose the stability of the lats and shoulders in the bench press, and we don't want that. 

A lot of times, because we're in extended position, people kind of ditch the idea of good breathing and bracing mechanics. So we definitely don't want to do that. They're still paramount, they're still going to help everything be stable. It's going to help the leg drive go up the chain into implement, it's going to do a lot of really positive things for us. It's still absolutely paramount, still one of the most important fundamental pieces of loaded movement in the bench press. And luckily in the bench press your breathing and bracing is on demonstration. Your belly is the thing, that's the highest in the air, it's on full display. It's really easy to see if somebody's breathing and bracing correctly or not. So be sure to actually look at it, and cue yourself for it and make sure you're doing it correctly. We should see global expansion and  see very little of the chest moving vertically, we want that nice horizontal breathing pattern for optimal IAP (Intra-Abdominal Pressure) and a full body stability for the bench press.

-Coaches Brandon Morgan and Cass Strunk