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John Gaglione's Off Season Wrestling Training # 2

Teaching Drills for Improving the BIG THREE: Part 2 Bench Press Drills


The bench press is probably without a doubt the most popular weight training exercise in the United States. It is a great exercise to develop absolute strength for the entire upper body.

If you walk into any commercial gym you will see many variations of the bench press and most of them are NOT good. Whether it be half reps, benching to what seems like their neck region or just bouncing it off their chest or what seemed like a contest on who can break their sternum first! The bottom line is most people just need to learn how to bench properly.  Of course there are finer points for competition lifters, but athletes and general fitness trainees alike can take a lot of technique pointers from a good competition bench press. When performed using the powerlifting style technique you will recruit a lot more muscle fibers and help reduce shoulder injuries.


The first major you need to learn about is elbow and shoulder position in the bench press. The elbows should be “tucked” in towards the body at the bottom of the press. The upper arm should form about a 45 degree angle with the body. You will see many people’s upper arms form a 90 degree angle with their body (keeping the elbows out). This creates a lot of stress on the shoulder.  By tucking the elbows it will reduce the rotation of the shoulder and provide a lot less stress on the joint when going through a full range of motion. Remember the bench press is a total body exercise we aren’t looking to isolate the “pecs” here. Our goal is to build maximize upper body strength and power so we want to be as efficient as possible. You will also recruit the muscles of the lats and upper back to a great degree when you perform horizontal pressing exercises in this manner.


Bench Press with RNT

We can use a band around the wrist to teach proper pressing technique. The band we force the wrist together and cause the elbows to “flare” out.  By spreading the band apart this will activate the muscles in the upper back and cause the lifter to press with a more efficient technique.  The band will help the lifter feel the stabilizer muscles in the upper back “turn on” and can be used to help the lifter feel what tucking the elbows feels like for the bench press.  This is another form of RNT(reactive neuromuscular training as discussed in last week’s article) because it forces the lifter into the problem and lifter must actively fire their muscles in order to correct themselves.


Give the bench press with RNT a try if you are having trouble tucking the elbows and achieving the upper back during the bench press. It is important to think about “bending the bar” or “pulling the bar apart” when pressing to activate the upper back and keep the elbows tucked. If you don’t have access to a short band you can double up a longer band to get a similar effect.


Notice how the lifter “tucks” the elbows as he lowers the band to my chest and “flare” them out as I push the band away from his body.  A useful cue for this is to think about “pulling the bar apart” or my personal favorite try and “bend the bar” as you lower it. By utilizing this style of pressing in your workout you will greatly reduce the stress on your shoulders (versus a typical “body building” style bench) as well as increase your overall stability in the lowering phase of the bench press.


This style of benching is more beneficial in the long run and will help activate more musculature as well as reduce shoulder injuries in the future.

Reverse Band Bench Rows


In the previous section we discussed working on tucking the elbows in the bench press. In this section we are going to talk about proper set up for the bench press and activating the lats during the movement. Reverse Band Bench Rows are a great way to teach an athlete to activate their lats in the bench press.

The lats are a very important stabilizer for all pressing movements. The athlete should think about “pulling” the bar down and keeping the “belly up” when benching. This will allow great control of the press and eliminate any bouncing you see at the local gym. The larger and thicker the upper back and lats are will also help create a very stable base to press from.  Reverse band bench rows are a great way to strengthen the lats as well as teach proper technique for the bench. If the athlete tries to pull the bar down to high on their chest with their elbows out they will have a much harder time getting the bar down.

When the athlete set up with good technique and creates tension throughout the entire body  they will have a much easier time getting the bar down and they will find their natural bench groove(bar path). Remember also this is a teaching drill so don’t use too thick a band. Use one that allows for the best technique and muscle activation.


Set up bands on top of a power rack as if you were performing a reverse band bench press. The bar should sit right about where you would lock out a bench. Get a good set up on the bench with the shoulder blades pulled down and back and get the feet and legs set tight on the bench. Grab the bar with your normal bench grip and focus on pulling the bar down and keeping the belly up. It is important to drive the heels down into the floor and suck big air in the belly to create tightness throughout the entire body. By doing this the athlete will get tight through their lats, abs and glutes. This creates a very stable platform to press from.


Reverse Band Bench rows are a great way to improve pressing technique and teaching the lifter to utilize the lats in the bench press. This exercise will help you become rock solid during all of your pressing attempts!


You can even combine both of these drills together to create an even more effective and faster teaching tool for all athletes! These drills will help groove your pressing pattern so you can continually get stronger well reducing your chance of injury.


Educate, Motivate, Dominate
Coach Gaglione

 If you have any questions feel free to e-mail me at gaglionestrength@gmail.com or check out my website www.gaglionestrength.com

To take your wrestling to the next level and ensure this coming wrestling season is your best one ever go to GaglioneStrength.com and e-mail Coach Gaglione for more information on wrestling training.

 Coach John Gaglione is a Sport Performance Specialist out of Long Island New York. He is a certified "Underground" Strength coach who specializes in training combat athletes. John’s work has been featured in Elite Fitness Systems, Testosterone Nation , One Result & local wrestling site Long Island Wrestling Association. If you would like to learn more about John you can reach him at www.gaglionestrength.com or e-mail him at gaglionestrength@gmail.com.