If you’ve ever wondered if you should lockout on bench press, then this post will answer all of your questions.
The bench press is a move that I’m sure everyone integrates into their training. It isn’t an easy movement to master as there are a lot of form techniques that go into it.
Should You Lockout On Bench Press?
It is impossible to fully lengthen and shorten the pectoral muscle on the bench press because you can’t cross the elbow over the chest. Not locking out will keep tension on the chest throughout the entire movement, building more muscle.
What Is Lockout On Bench Press?
Locking out refers to straightening your arms and elbows all the way up at the top of your rep. It is also referred to as full range of motion.
If your arms are completely straight in front of you, you have locked out.
The triceps mainly take over in the lockout portion of the bench press. Your chest and shoulders do most of the work in the bottom portion.
However, if your goal is mainly hypertrophy or muscle growth, then not locking out is optimal. That is because your chest muscles will constantly be under tension, breaking down more muscle fibers.
For most, the lockout is the easiest part of the lift. Majority of people fail the lift at the bottom after the bar leaves the chest. This is not the case for everyone.
Strengthening the lockout portion of the lift will increase overall bench numbers.
Note that this article refers to flat, incline, and decline barbell bench as locking out will all do the same for each. Each variation just targets a different area of the chest.
When Should You Lockout On Bench Press?
If you are a power lifter and are required to complete full range of motion for your lifts, then you will want to train with locking out.
In the sport of power lifting, your lift will not be counted by the judges if you don’t complete full range of motion. Thus, it is required that you practice locking out when benching.
If you are going heavy and only trying to do 2 or 3 reps, locking out makes it a lot easier. That is because when you pause at the top of the lockout, your muscles get a short break before getting back to work.
By taking this short break, you can mentally reset and prepare for the next rep.
If you are doing the dumbbell bench press, you should be locking out. To fully shorten and lengthen the pectoral muscle, your elbow must come in front of and across your chest.
This is impossible with a barbell because your hands are in a locked position. When using dumbbells, you can press them together at the top of the movement for full range of motion.
This puts a lot more tension on the chest muscles, resulting in increased growth. This is why the dumbbell bench press actually activates more chest muscle fibers than the barbell variation.
Proper Bench Press Form
Using proper form is important to avoid injury and ensure that you are working the chest properly. Start by lying on the bench and retracting your scapula by pulling your shoulders back and down into the bench.
This along with a slight arch in your back will protect the shoulders and ensure that the chest is doing most of the work.
Most people find a shoulder width grip on the bar to feel best. Play around with your grip width and see which feels the best for you. A wider grip will incorporate more chest, whereas a narrow grip uses more triceps.
By using a narrow grip, most people find that they can move more weight as the triceps help to a greater extent.
Lower the bar to your lower chest while keeping your elbows slightly tucked in to your sides. Then press the bar up and back towards the rack. Keep your feet planted firmly against the ground and use leg drive to push off helping you move the bar up.
Make sure that your shoulders remain tucked back throughout the movement and that they don’t hunch forward.
Your upper back and butt should stay firmly planted against the bench throughout the movement. Mentally think of pushing your body down into the bench rather than pressing the bar up.
Drawbacks of Lockout
When you lockout your arms at the top of the bench press, it takes the tension off of your chest. This means that muscles get a break and aren’t fully being worked for a brief moment.
If your goal is to build as much muscle as possible, then you don’t want to lockout. You want to keep the chest muscles under constant tension.
By performing a higher number of reps without fully locking out at the top of the movement, you’ll be working the muscles as much as possible.
You will notice more chest growth if you stop locking out at the top of the exercise.
At lockout, the tension of the load moves from the chest onto the joints. When using heavy weights, this leads to joint pain and injuries.
If you have any elbow or wrist injuries, skipping the lockout is beneficial.
Improve Lockout On Bench Press
If you find that you commonly fail the last portion of the bench press, you will want to increase your lockout strength.
There are a few different methods that powerlifters use to improve the lockout part of their bench. Putting a board on their chest is one.
This decreases the range of motion and forces you to only perform the top part or lockout part of the bench press.
Boards come in different sizes for targeting different portions of the bench press. They require a training partner to hold the bar while you bench. Here is a great alternative so that you can do it without help.
The high pin press is another way to increase lockout strength.
To perform this exercise, you want to set the safety pins so that the barbell rests a few inches above your chest. Similar to the board on your chest, this causes the bar to only travel at the lockout portion of the lift.
You will find this movement to be a lot more difficult than the bench press, especially if you haven’t done it before. That is because your muscles don’t have time to build up tension through the eccentric part of the lift.
There is no momentum as you are pressing from a dead stop.
You will notice an increase in your lockout strength after regularly programming in the pin press.
We have previously discussed that the triceps mainly take over the top 1/3 of the movement. That means that a great way to increase your lockout is to increase the strength of your triceps.
Make sure that you are progressively overloading every tricep workout so that they are gradually growing stronger.
Eating in a caloric surplus and eating a gram of protein per pound of body weight are also required to build the most amount of muscle and strength.
Don’t forget proper hydration and rest. Water carries nutrients to your muscles and helps with better contractions. Resting at least 7 hours a night allows the muscles to repair and rebuild properly.
Use the close grip bench press, skull crushers, and cable push downs to build tricep strength.
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