We do a lot of upper back work in powerlifting. Strength is needed to support the bar while squatting, to create a stable base while benching, and to hold the back position while deadlifting. One thing that is missed by doing this work in a repetitious manner is that the upper back is not needed to move in any of these lifts, it is purely static strength.
The band resisted bench setup is utilized specifically to support the bench press, but it does help on the other two lifts as well. It is a static contraction to build that static strength, and done in the exact same setup you would be in while benching. In addition it also works the lats heavily while using the same bar path as the bench press.
This is also an incredible tool to teach someone proper bench press form. I often use this with people that are struggling with how to properly recruit the lats while benching. It teaches the correct bar path for the bench press without error as well.
The set up:
- Hang the bar in bands
- Slide up under the bar so that the bar is positioned above your upper abdomen
- Setup as if you are about to bench
- Retract the traps back and towards your feet
- Arch your back
- Squeeze your glutes
- Tension between feet to traps
- Now reach up without letting shoulders roll forward – partner may have to bring bar down
- Pull straight down with elbows until bar touches upper abdomen (lower than where you bench to)
- Hold for 5 seconds and repeat
These can be done on your back or deadlift day or as an assistance exercise on your bench press day. Usually when I do these on bench press day I am using them as a replacement for a face pulling type movement, or a replacement for a rowing movement when done on back/dead day. 3 sets of 5 reps with a full 5 second pause at contraction works well.
A few things to keep an eye on:
- Keep shoulders retracted and tight the entire set
- Refocus on pulling with elbows if you see an “S” form by curling arms and wrists (have partner watch for)
- Hold bar to stomach the ENTIRE count or drop band tension
- If partner has to hold you down have them put fist on chest close to neck or hold to prevent them from collapsing your arch
- Pushing your belly up towards the bar is good practice, just don’t raise butt off bench