Recently, I’ve been including more soccer-specific articles because I love the sport (along with football) and want the blog to become primiarily soccer strengh oriented. However, there are times where I love to provide basic lifting ideas and tips to help the general client (applies to athletes as well). Bench pressing may be the king of the commercial gym. It gets a lot of attention and people love it wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy too much :). These are movements that people can include between their sets of pushing (bench, floor press, push ups) variations that can help make their bench more efficient, safe, and allow them to get into a better position. Do the following…
#1 Improve Hip Extension
If you don’t have enough hip mobility into extension, when you set up to bench it may aggravate the lumbar spine (especially if you have pre-existing low back issues). This also affects how well you can push through your feet when setting up. Hint: you don’t want to bench with your feet off the floor. Good leg drive translates to good push up on the bar and staying tight throughout the body. Perform a glute bridge variation between sets. A good place is 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps (2-3s hold at top). The emphasis in on squeezing the glutes up so that they are in-line with the knees.
#2 Improve Thoracic Spine Mobility
Good hip extension is needed to prevent aggravating the low back but so is the mobility of the thoracic spine. Good t-spine mobility is hard to come by because many spend most of their day sitting. Also, if t-spine mobility is limited, more often times than not the shoulder will have issues. A good place to start is 2-3 sets of 5-6 reps/side. There are a few variations I like for this…
Yoga Plex: might be an all-time favorite because you get a ton of benefit in one movement
- Improving hip extension via the back leg getting a good stretch
- Good t-spine extension/rotation as well as shoulder mobility
Side Lying Rib Rolls or Side Lying Extension-Rotation: Side Lying helps ensure the motion is coming through the upper spine and not the lumbar spine (why the ball is there). Grab the ribs and pull back (think: get chest to face the ceiling) while making sure that your hips do not “fall” back as you do this. There are plenty others such as wall slides, bench t-spine extensions, quadruped extension-rotation, etc… The take-home try to obtain better hip extension and t-spine mobility so that you activate or facilitate better motion at areas that need it to limit movement at places that do not (lumbar spine). Also, because most do a set/rest/repeat it can help them make time more efficient.
Example of how to incorporate:
A1) Barbell Bench 4 x 5
A2a) Glute Bridge 2 x (10x3s hold)
A2b) Side Lying Rib Roll 2 x 5/side
This set-up means you would perform a set of bench–>then do 1 set of A1a–>go back do a set of bench (2nd)–>then do 1 set of A1b. Simply alternating between A2a and A2b after each set of bench!
If looking to pair exercises for the bench to make it more effective or safe, these are great “fillers.” If not, try adding them to your warm-up instead.