Why initiate your bench press with leg drive?
In short, utilising leg drive will allow you to apply more force through the bar.
- In a bench press your body acts as a lever, in this instance applying force into the ground through our feet causes the floor to exert an equal and opposite force back upwards (Newton’s Third law). This is called ground reaction force – See red arrows.
- This force is transferred through our body and down through our shoulders into the bench (green arrow).
- Increasing the downward force through our shoulders (blue arrow), increases the ground reaction force back up from the bench, allowing us to increase force applied upwards through the bar.
Applying more force through the bar, isn’t this what we’re all chasing?!
Take home message: more efficient leg drive = more force through the bar = bigger bench.
Powerlifting Bench Press Tips
Using leg drive, as per the image above, also highlights the need for the scapula, shoulder girdle, and spine to be held as stable as possible, to create a rigid body to be used as a lever and allow the transfer of force into the bench.
For optimal force development, it's important to have have your feet positioned under your hips. If your feet are positioned further back, towards your shoulders, it will compromise your leg drive. If they are positioned further forward, away from your hips, it increases the chance your bum will come off the seat - making it harder to sustain an anterior an anterior pelvic tilt and lumbar arch and reduce force production.
Ensure your hip flexors and ankle joints are flexible enough to get into this position. It will benefit you in the long run! Tight hip flexors will not allow you to anteriorly tilt your pelvis and compromise your lumbar arch. There are many mobility exercises and techniques that can be used on a daily basis to be able to achieve and maintain this flexibility.
One final tip: when using leg drive, try think about driving through the heels and pushing your body back into the rack, like you are doing a leg extension movement, rather than pushing the hips upwards into the air.