It’s something you’re never quite sure about, “Is it Bad to Bench Press With Your Feet on the Bench”
You’ve probably often seen people bench press with their feet on the bench.
In fact, you may even have seen those who bench press with their feet in the air.
So, does removing your feet from the conventional “on the floor” method provide benefits or should it be avoided altogether?
Allow me to explain everything you need to know about bench pressing with your feet on the bench (or in the air).
Is it Bad to Bench With Your Feet on the Bench?
It’s not bad to bench with your feet on the bench, but it’s certainly not the best method. The best technique is the conventional feet on the floor bench press. This allows you to press heavier weights, as well as using leg drive and back arch to shift more weight. With that being said, benching with your feet on the bench will isolate the pecs more. Plus, it will force your core to stabilize. So, it is advisable to bench with lighter weights and higher reps when your feet are on the bench.
1. The Best Way to Bench Press
I’m sure you’ll hear many varying opinions, so I can only offer advice from a personal perspective.
But, for me, the traditional approach to bench pressing is the best place to have your feet.
In other words, having your feet on the floor and either side of you is the best way to bench press.
I will cover some of the other techniques in more detail in a moment.
However, benching with your feet down provides much more stability.
You’ll also be able to use foot drive, or arch your back, in order to lift more weight.
And yes, these are both legitimate techniques when it comes to bench pressing.
It’s definitely a case of, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”.
Powerlifters, bodybuilders, and general gym folk have been bench pressing in the same manner for decades now.
The feet on the floor technique has seen people lift more-and-more weight as the years have gone by.
It has been responsible for lifters hitting PRs or watching their pecs literally blow up through regular stimulation.
Basically, feet on the floor benching has always worked, so there’s no real need to try to improve it.
I’d even go as far to say that many people bench press with their feet up or on the bench, but don’t really have a clue as to why they do it.
I’m sure some may say that it helps them lift more weight, whereas others feel it hits their pecs better.
Now, while there are certain advantages to having your feet up, the traditional method is still the best.
With that being said, I’d now like to cover some of the feet up factors that you should be aware of.
2. More Pec and Core Involvement
If there is one advantage to having your feet on the bench it’s that it allows for more isolation.
By this, more specifically I mean the pecs and the core.
Firstly, you have less of a stable base than when your feet are on the floor.
This automatically means that you need to engage your core much more while benching.
Secondly, you’ve removed the additional power surge provided by arching your back and driving through your legs.
This immediately isolates the pecs to a far greater extent.
In fact, by having your feet on the bench you’ll increase recruitment in your pecs, front delts, triceps, rectus abdominis, obliques, and even the rectus femoris.
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So realistically, if you’re looking to increase involvement in these areas of the body then having your feet on the bench is an advantage.
I’m not saying it’s the ideal way to increase isolation in these muscles during the bench press.
But, it’s certainly one way to go about it.
I’ve always viewed the bench press as one of the least athletic compound movements.
If you think about it, you’re actually lying down during the exercise, so not very athletic.
With that being said, there are many more muscles involved in the bench press than the chest alone.
You perhaps don’t realise this as much when your feet are firmly planted to the floor.
However, you’ll soon discover which muscles are being worked when your feet are on the bench.
3. You Can’t Use Leg Drive
I’ve alluded to this a few times now, but you remove leg drive from the equation by having your feet on the bench.
Now, many lifters may not even be aware of using leg drive as a legitimate method to bench more weight.
However, in truth, I’ve always viewed the bench press as more of a full-body exercise than just pecs alone.
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So, if you are hitting extremely heavy weights while benching then leg drive can provide a fantastic additional power source.
Basically, I’m talking about when you’re benching from 1-5 reps.
Then again, leg drive can also help you to crank out those extra 1 or 2 reps you may not have been able to do otherwise.
So, having your feet on the floor certainly provides a great advantage when it comes to lifting heavier weights.
How to Use Leg Drive During the Bench Press
4. Lighter Weights With Feet on the Bench
This typically means that if you want to bench press with your feet on the bench then you should be lifting lighter weights.
I’ve already mentioned that you have much less overall stability by having your feet up, so your core is working much harder.
However, all it takes is a slight tap on either end of the barbell and you could end up on the floor.
And I’m sure you don’t need to tell you that this is extremely dangerous and likely to cause an injury.
So, if you are going to bench with your feet up you definitely shouldn’t be trying to hit a new PR.
For me, feet up benching should be more about trying to hit a higher number of reps with a much lighter weight.
I would recommend benching a weight that you can get a good 10-15 reps from.
Plus, with all the additional core stability, as well as isolating your pecs to a greater degree, you should get a fantastic front of body pump.
This is ideal if you’re specifically training for hypertrophy.
Additionally, this is also a great way to train if you’re looking to make a weight-lifting session more conditioning based.
Perhaps you can superset the feet up bench press with another exercise, or even turn it into a 3-4 exercise circuit.
Basically, keep it light when you’re benching with your feet on the bench and maybe include other exercises as well.
5. Don’t Bench Press With Feet in the Air
I’ve spoken about some lifters benching with their feet in the air.
In essence, you bend your legs at the hips and knees to form a 45 degree angle between your upper and lower legs.
This is in much the same way you would when performing a feet up crunch.
Firstly, this makes your overall body position much less stable than any other method.
So, you definitely shouldn’t be lifting as much weight as when your feet are on the floor or on the bench.
Now, many people will swear by the feet in the air method because they believe that helps to keep the back flat against the bench.
However, I’ve already spoken of the back arch being another legitimate technique when it comes to bench pressing.
Plus, the lower back has a natural arch to it anyway.
So, if you’re trying to literally paste your lower back completely flat to the bench then you remove the natural curvature of the spine.
This will obviously mean that your core needs to work a lot harder, but it also means that you’re putting a huge amount of stress on the lower back.
Legendary trainer, Charles Poliquin, once described those who use the legs in the air at 45 degrees technique as, “future orthopedic patients”.
For me, that tells you everything you need to know about this method.
Bench Press “Bro Science” (Fact or Fiction)
So, hopefully you understand that it isn’t actually bad to bench with your feet on the bench.
However, it’s definitely not the best technique to use.
You will engage the core and increase the isolation of the pecs.
But, you also have a much less stable base, which makes the feet up method somewhat unsafe.
You’ll also lose the ability to use leg drive and you won’t be able to get as much of an arch in your back.
This means that you should be benching with less weight with your feet up.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.