Warming Up For Bench Press

Today we check in with our resident champion power lifter Wade Johnson for insight on how to get ready to lift heavy.

Over the years, I have learned that warming up is essential in performing, especially on meet day. As a powerlifter, squatting was my biggest and best lift, but it also put enormous stress on the shoulder girdle and my biceps. So, coming up with a warmup routine to prepare me for the bench and ease the stress from squatting became paramount in my success as a competitive powerlifter. So, here is a list of what I do and continue to do for training and competition.

But first, why warm up? This gets the body prepared for what is to come. While this may seem elementary, I have witnessed many lifters, regardless of sport, skip warming up. It affects performance and increases the risk of injury, and so simply, the athletes and I, the coach, do all we can to minimize the risk of injury and want to perform at the highest level, so warming up is crucial. I’m using bench press warmups as an example, and here is what I do.
How I arrived at my warmup routine was to look at what I did for assistance with the bench. What muscle groups were used to bench and using those movements, very lightly, to get me started with the
warmup process. One of the best movements for me is lat pulldowns. Getting the blood moving in the lats, upper back, and shoulders help me loosen up. At the meet, you can do a row with the barbell. Light is fine. Remember, we are warming up, nothing more. I will do 3 sets very light, and that starts the process.
From there, I do side, or lateral dumbbell raises. Typically, just called side raises. I use 5 lb dumbbells and do 3 sets of 15. The warmups ease the tightness from squatting, or I’m loosening up pretty well if I’m training. If you are at a meet, small plates will work just fine.
After side raises, I move onto hammer curls, which is a big one for athletes and me. The brachialis really takes a beating, squatting, and benching. So, some blood pumped into that area is vital. Again, I use very light weights and do 3 sets, usually of 15 reps. Same here for a meet time. Use small plates. I finish with shrugs, and this ends loosening me up and has much of the muscle groups used in bench press warmed up nicely. Finally, I use a tube or band to press down the triceps, and I’m ready to get under the bar.

It is not over there. Once I start benching, I start with the bar, get everything rolling, and focus on the bench. All the muscle groups used are now loosened up from squatting, and I have good blood flow and am ready. The first set of bench presses with the bar is several reps, upwards of 25, and then I go up conservatively but with much fewer reps. Below, I will give an example of a typical warmup routine that I used when I benched over 700.
Pull down Then under the bar to the bench
3×15 with 50 lbs 45×25
Side raise 95×15
5×15-3 sets 135×8
Hammer curls 185×5
5×15, 10×15, 15×15 225×3
Shrugs 275×1
90x20x3 sets 315×1
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