Written by Sarah Strong
More people than ever are lifting in home gyms right now. And while there are many perks to lifting at home, there are also some challenges. One big challenge is being a powerlifter and doing heavy bench press on your own. I’ve been guilty of lifting alone and having to do the “roll of shame” to get a failed bench off of me; so, I’ve learned some tips to make the experience safer and more enjoyable.
Lift without collars. One of the easiest ways you can bail on a bench is to lift without collars. Should you fail the lift, dump one side of weights off first, then the other. Not having the collars on and being able to dump the weight means you won’t have to roll a heavy bar down your body or risk getting pinned
Use your dang safeties. Not everyone has safeties in a home gym, I get it. But if you have them, USE THEM. Make sure they are set at a proper height so that you can bench without hitting them but can drop the bar and safely get out if need be. I know this may sound silly, but I have been guilty of not using my safeties because I convinced myself that not having them would motivate me to get the weight. Well, bruises on my ribs proved different
Master self-liftoffs. If the majority of your bench press sessions are done alone, you’ll really have to work on this. Personally, I’d also suggest doing self-liftoffs while competing if that’s what you’re used to in training. To get a great self-liftoff, make sure your bar is set at a good rack height. You don’t want to have to be reaching up for the bar to unrack. I prefer a lower setting so that I can maintain my shoulder position when I liftoff. It’s wise to line up your eyes under the bar so that you are lifting up and then over your chest. Some lifters that use a big arch like to leave their butt off the bench until after unracking. This allows you to waste less energy in unracking and again, also helps keep the shoulders in position and arch high
Be consistent with your setup. Consistency is key with everything in our lifts, but especially when we lift solo. Being consistent in your setup and liftoff method will lessen the chances of failure on the lift. Lifting at home alone is not the ideal time to try something new in your setup. If you’re interested in experimenting in a new form, do your best to save that for a time that you can have a spotter.
Don’t max out alone. If you have the ability to do maximum effort lifts at a gym with a spotter, do so. There’s no badge of honor for doing it alone. Of course, I understand that not everyone has this option. But if it’s available to you, it’s worth the commute to train around others on a super heavy day.
Lifting alone in my garage has taught me a lot about myself. It has certainly pushed me to work harder. If you’re someone who lifts alone, I’m sure you’ve experienced this. You learn if you are intrinsically or extrinsically motivated. You can be a successful competitor while getting your training done alone at home. A good coach can customize your program based on what specific equipment you have available at home. Whether you’re in a gym at home, just make sure you’re doing everything you can to lift safely and avoid injury.