Leg Drive (I Believe!)

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Leg Drive (I Believe!)

Post by Jungledoc » Wed Oct 26, 2011 5:10 am

To be honest, until recently I thought that all the talk about leg drive on bench press was a bunch of hooey. I tried to imagine how pushing with my legs could help me push the bar up better. As far as I could imagine, pushing down with my feet could only accomplish 1) raising my butt off the bench, which I know would decrease the ROM a bit, but I didn't think that would improve the lift much, or 2) make me slide up the bench and out from under the bar, which I thought would be a bad thing. Number 2 is mostly what happened every time I tried to use leg drive. I'd just slide up the bench, lose tightness in my lower body, lose stability in my upper body and miss a rep.

When I'm in my "home" gym, I always go shirtless. There's nobody around who would notice or care. It's almost like going shirtless around the house. But when I'd bench, I'd always throw a towel over the bench to absorb my sweat. I figured that was just polite for the next guy. But a few weeks ago I was lifting alone, ready for a set on the bench, and my towel wasn't handy, so I just laid down on the bench and set up. As I was setting my rather modest, butt-on-the-bench arch (I try to follow Tate's writing on set-up), I realized that the skin of my shoulders was clinging to the bench a bit, and that I could push a lot harder without sliding. When I was lifting I gave an extra push with my legs on the concentric of the lift. Suddenly the bar felt 10 pounds lighter. Or 15. Or maybe 13.7, I'm not sure. But it felt lighter.

Last cycle I tied a 4 year old PR, and this past week I 3-repped 97% of that PR. To tell you the truth, I still don't understand how pushing with the feet can make the bar go up easier, but I now am convinced that it in fact does.


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Re: Leg Drive (I Believe!)

Post by robertscott » Wed Oct 26, 2011 5:43 am

it only just clicked recently for me too Andy, I feel tension on my legs as I lower, then really push as I blast off my chest. It's made such a difference not only to my strength (which had stagnated for about a year!) but also to how my shoulders feel when I'm benching. My shoulder never hurts anymore.

I think everyone "gets it" eventually, it just takes a longer for some

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Re: Leg Drive (I Believe!)

Post by Jungledoc » Wed Oct 26, 2011 5:53 am

I'm actually feeling my legs tonight. And my back. Arms are OK.

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Re: Leg Drive (I Believe!)

Post by KPj » Wed Oct 26, 2011 6:14 am

Jungledoc wrote: To tell you the truth, I still don't understand how pushing with the feet can make the bar go up easier, but I now am convinced that it in fact does.
A good way to get your head around is it to watch a fighter punch. It's not a pressing motion with just the punching arms i.e. a punch is not a single arm press. It comes from the feet and hips. Watch someone move around and hit a bag, the feet and hips preceed the punch every time, assuming they punch properly. Same with benching and driving the bar off your chest with the legs :thumbright:

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Re: Leg Drive (I Believe!)

Post by robertscott » Wed Oct 26, 2011 6:38 am

maybe we should make a video of me punching the Doc?

I have noticed one small issue with leg drive: you have to be careful that the angle of your hip to your knee is pointing down towards the floor, otherwise your ass comes flying up off the bench.

Was arguing with a mate of mine at the gym last night about that actually. His hips come like a foot and a half off the bench every time he presses. I told him that was the dark side but he didn't care. Also, he tried a weight and failed on the first rep, then when I lifted the bar off him he said "Ok, three more." He did 4 reps with a weight he couldn't even lift once! But I digress...


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Re: Leg Drive (I Believe!)

Post by Proper Knob » Wed Oct 26, 2011 7:09 am

robertscott wrote: He did 4 reps with a weight he couldn't even lift once! But I digress...
I get that all the time in my gym. Never seen anyone try that technique squatting though, come to think of it, i never see anybody squatting.

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Re: Leg Drive (I Believe!)

Post by Jason Nunn » Wed Oct 26, 2011 7:43 am

I think it just adds more stability to the lift. I even go as far as wearing my Olympic lifting shoes while I bench so I'll have a hard surface to press against. If you watch any elite powerlifters, they'll also use a very wide stance with their feet. Especially if they lift in the IPF. Again, this just provides more stability and more stability = stronger lift. Same goes for using a belt, wraps, ect.

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Re: Leg Drive (I Believe!)

Post by KPj » Wed Oct 26, 2011 7:48 am

With regards to the hips lifting off the bench - this is all down to set up as you pointed out. However, before you unrack you should have the glutes squeezed hard and the legs pushing into the floor. If you have this when you set up then there's no place your hips can go.

Also, Andy I have that issue with our bench in the gym, it's tough to really dig the traps in because there's too much cushion on the bench. We always had an older bench which was much firmer and actually much better to use. It allowed you to dig in much easier and stay put. The one just now is a real pain. Actually I can't even dig in properly unless I have weight on the bar to push me into the bench with more force - that's another good cue btw, when you take the weight, let it settle for a second or 2 as it helps to enhance your tightness, driving your shoulder shoulders together more and pushing you further into the bench.

If you lack thoracic extension ROM, it can be tough to get all your weight on your traps, too.

Another perspective on leg drive - it's completely natural. You can't help using your legs when the weight is heavy enough or you're grinding the last few reps. Watch anyone really struggle on the bench, even with DB's, and you see the a$$ lift (very common in commercial gyms). This is just bringing your legs into the mix but, not consciously using it. In my view you should just get as much as you can out of that "natural" response to straining.

With regards to that, I've actually evolved into purposely not mentioning leg drive when I teach someone to bench. I just tell them to "plant the feet". I focus all the initial coaching on the upper body aspect of the lift, plus bar bath, wrist/elbow position, breathing, etc. What happens is, as they get more competent and we start putting some weight on the bar, they will naturally start to bring the legs in. When this happens I then teach them how to use it more efficiently. Makes the whole process easier for both of us because along with the upper body factors, adding leg drive tends to overwhelm people.

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Re: Leg Drive (I Believe!)

Post by Christianiron.com » Wed Oct 26, 2011 8:10 am

The concept was reinforced in my mind by watching my friend Dave bench... he had a natural, raw 430 bench @220 at 44 years old. You can watch his entire body "Snap" at the bottom of the press. He has mastered positioning & leg drive, though he does not have a severe arch. I am still trying to develop this skill, even after years at it. Spending time training bench with no arch or with feet up to train pecs more has possibly had a negative effect in learning the proper PL style of benching.

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Re: Leg Drive (I Believe!)

Post by Jungledoc » Wed Oct 26, 2011 8:19 am

Good comments, all.

Kenny, I don't really see the boxer analogy, because with a punch your leg is driving your body forward--your body moves. The energy is transferred through body to the arm and on to the target. Of course, the rotation of the body and the extension of the arm add energy as well. With the bench, there is no way for the legs to move the weight. I think it just increases tightness throughout the trunk, and creates a more efficient position for the upper body. Notice the "I think".

Think of a guitar string. The movement of the string doesn't continue from the tuner to the peg--it only occurs between the nut and the bridge. The shoulders planted firmly on the bench are the bridge. The "string" moves only above that point. The part of the "string" below that (from the feet to the shoulders) only adds tension to tune the string.

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Re: Leg Drive (I Believe!)

Post by KPj » Wed Oct 26, 2011 9:23 am

Yeh, it's not exactly the same obviously, and there is a rotational component to a punch, too. The point was really that a punch is a "full body" movement, too, but I see where you're coming from.

You are right, tightness/stability is the name of the game. However, when the bar hits your chest, you do want to drive with the legs as if they were going to move. If you're on your toes, you drive the heels to the ground (although they won't actually move). If your feet are flat, you drive your feet through your shoes, which ever way, just do it as hard as possible. Although you won't actually move, a lot of the time you will see the persons body "shunt" forward slightly.

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Re: Leg Drive (I Believe!)

Post by Paperclip » Wed Oct 26, 2011 10:11 am

I think one of the reason is that muscle contraction on somewhere else on your body reinforces the working muscle(s)'s force output. If you open a bottle that has been screwed too tight, you'll notice that your whole body contracts. Why?

Pavel Tsatsouline often talks about this issue I believe.

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Re: Leg Drive (I Believe!)

Post by Khronos8 » Wed Oct 26, 2011 10:39 am

This thread is full of win and is why I come to ExRx forums.

Re: Leg drive. I dont conciously use "Leg Drive" as a discrete action, but I do "lock down" my entire body when benching heavy. Start at my feet, the tense everything on the way up and dont unrack until I feel "locked in". Settle the weight after the hand off, then down and press up. If I lose some part of the lock (even if it's just relaxing my calves, or, god forbid, my butt) I will have to bail on the lift.

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Re: Leg Drive (I Believe!)

Post by stuward » Wed Oct 26, 2011 10:43 am

Paperclip wrote:...Pavel Tsatsouline often talks about this issue I believe.
He does. he calls it "irradiation". He gives the example that if you make a fist with one arm, the strength in the other increases.

T-Nation isn't opening for me. Try Googling "The Evil Russian Speaks".

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Re: Leg Drive (I Believe!)

Post by robertscott » Wed Oct 26, 2011 10:48 am

regarding the whole ass coming off the bench thing, my theory is when someone does it they're subconsciously turning it into a decline press to make it easier


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