Maximizing Leg Drive with the Bench Press

Leg Drive Bench Press

When it comes to the success of the bench press, many characteristics can improve your maximum strength. One of those areas would be implementing leg drive with your bench press. What is leg drive for the bench press? It’s when you use your leg strength strategically during your bench press, pushing your feet into the floor to help get better power and explosiveness into your pressing ability.

Using leg drive when bench pressing gives the lifter a huge advantage. But although it is an advantage, it might be a tough concept to master as it does require coordination, practice, and knowledge of how leg drive should be implemented. That’s the purpose of this article, though. So if you are someone who’s bench press is lacking and needs support, you have come to the right place!

In this article, we will discuss the definition of leg drive, proper setup, technique, benefits, and how to properly train using leg drive. After reading this article, you should feel equipped to begin implementing the leg drive with your bench press, and feel capable of taking your ability to a new level!

Understanding Leg Drive

As mentioned above, leg drive with the bench press is when you use your leg strength strategically during your bench press, pushing your feet into the floor to help get better power and explosiveness into your pressing ability. This is one of the many ways to help enhance bench pressing power for a multitude of reasons:

  • Makes your bench press more stable
  • Keeps your body more rigid and tight
  • Gives you more power off the chest

Makes your bench press more stable

When using leg drive, you need to be in the “power position” which requires your upper body to arch, putting your head, shoulders, and hips on the bench. When you arch, your back muscles get tight to maintain that arch, which helps you become more stable to bench press. At the same time, your legs being planted onto the floor also helps with your arch, which also makes you stable to bench press. Being in the power position with an arched back, feet flat and perhaps the use of a lever belt is the ultimate combination of stability to give your bench press a chance to thrive.

Keeps your body more rigid and tight

Earlier, we mentioned that the power position of the bench press was key for stability. This power position also helps keep the body strong and tight during the bench press. The benefit of having a more tight or “rigid” position on the bench press is that this can improve your control of the bench press, so you can feel stronger in order to better recruit your muscular power for a successful bench press. It’s also important to consider the use of protective equipment like wrist wraps or elbow sleeves to add to the rigidity of your bench press setup.

Gives you more power off the chest

Isaac Newton, creator of the “laws of motion,” has a hand in this discussion. Newton’s third law states that “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”. This is true to the power of the bench press due to leg drive and the power position of the athlete. When the lifter recruits a more stable and rigid setup through the power position, this stronger position helps to better support the power of the chest during the bench press. Once the bar comes downward and touches the chest, the lifter can use the leg drive to push into the floor and give the lifter more power and explosiveness off the chest. Again, all of this is due to the stable and rigid positioning of the power position, which includes the leg drive that is a vital part of any successful bench press.

Proper Setup for Leg Drive Bench Press

In order to set up a better leg drive on the bench press, you need to consider a few steps. The biggest step for making sure you employ optimal leg drive for the bench press has to do with setting up in the power position. In this position, the legs are planted into the ground in order to increase power output for a better pressing performance.

The proper setup for leg drive on the bench press is as follows:

  • Retracting your shoulder blades
  • Setting up your arch
  • Planting your feet flat onto the floor
  • Putting weight onto your feet

Retracting your shoulder blades

Retracting your shoulder blades is a critical step in maximizing leg drive during the bench press. Start by lying on the bench and before unracking the bar, focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together and pulling them down toward your hips. This action creates a stable and tight upper-back position. A solid upper-back foundation enables you to maintain proper arch and power transfer through your legs during the lift.

Setting up your arch

An arch in your lower back is essential for an effective bench press and to enhance leg drive. While keeping your upper back tight, arch your lower back slightly by pushing your chest up towards the bar. This arch allows you to maintain a more advantageous position for leg drive and shortens the range of motion.

Planting your feet flat onto the floor

Your feet should be flat on the floor with your knees near or above a 90-degree angle. This provides a solid foundation and allows for efficient leg drive. Your feet should be placed under your knees or slightly behind, ensuring a stable base. This position also helps in preventing your hips from lifting off the bench, which is essential for a legal lift in powerlifting competitions.

Putting weight onto your feet

Once your feet are in the correct position, actively push through your heels and put some weight onto your feet. The goal is not to lift your hips off the bench but to engage your leg muscles and create tension. This leg drive generates additional power to assist in the upward phase of the bench press. You should feel your legs, glutes, and lower back working together to provide the drive.


Technique for Utilizing Leg Drive

The best way to implement the right technique for better leg drive depends primarily on your setup. If you follow our guidelines for setting up your bench press, the technique will be spot-on for hitting a heavy bench press in the gym.

Your setup for the bench press is the power position. When in the power position, your feet are flat onto the ground to incorporate strong leg drive. The goal is that once the bar descends onto your chest, your feet push into the floor and to provide power from leg drive that leads into the press off your chest.

With your feet flat on the floor, your torso is much more controlled and prepared to handle heavier weight.This is an immediate benefit you get from incorporating leg drive. As the bar starts to descend onto your chest, the anticipation of leg drive also cues your press to be much more ballistic than normal. Leg drive provides power from your feet all the way into your hands, but it’s through the culmination of many other factors of your bench press that makes this technique so special.

Benefits of Incorporating Leg Drive in Bench Press

Many of the benefits of incorporating leg drive have been outlined in this article. Leg drive helps to provide stability, rigidness, and control of your bench press to enhance your ability. Another idea we haven’t had a chance to formally introduce, though, is the idea of rapid muscle activation.

When using leg drive, the idea is to not just be strong, but be quick! Another word we could use is being explosive or powerful, so when leg drive is being incorporated into our bench press, that means we desire to be much more explosive and ballistic with our intent.

Practicing leg drive provides us a chance to work on this explosive characteristic of our bench press. If you watch some of the best bench pressers in the world, such as Julius Maddox and TD Smash, you will notice that when they press off their chest, they drive their feet into the floor and explosively press that barbell of their chest they might send that barbell into orbit. You’re never going to become a better bench presser only building your strength, you need speed and quickness with your reps as well.

Addressing Concerns of Leg Drive

Some people believe that leg drive is cheating. This pertains to the power position, mostly. Many lifters get into the power position, arch their backs as much as possible, and it seems that the barbell might travel with a very minimal bar path. This could be due to enhanced mobility, or optimal proportions that you’re genetically predisposed to. Regardless, there is no excuse for your lackluster performance, you need to increase your bench press with what you are in control of!

When performing leg drive, people can sometimes raise their hips off the bench so that they are getting into a more mechanically advantageous position that makes them stronger than maintaining contact with the bench. In this case, this is a highly frowned upon characteristic of any bench press. To fix this, it’s important to open your stance to limit your hip’s ability to raise off the bench and perform incorrect reps. That way, you can still incorporate leg drive without excessive hip action that could be an issue, especially in an official powerlifting competition.

Variations of Leg Drive Bench Press

When training for performance, it’s important to include variations of lifts to help you improve your ability. In this case, it might be wise to do variations of the bench press that don’t include any leg drive, like the floor press or larsen press. These two movements will teach you how to be explosive with only your upper body. That way, you learn how important leg drive is to your performance and how much it can aid to your ability.

The floor press is a classic strength training exercise that requires you to lie flat on the ground and pressing only with your upper body. By restricting leg involvement, it forces you to rely solely on your upper body muscles, promoting enhanced upper body strength and power. This exercise is particularly useful for pinpointing and addressing weaknesses in your pressing movements, especially with your lockout, as the range of motion is limited since your elbows will touch the floor before the barbell touches your chest.

The Larsen press is another valuable technique that prioritizes upper body strength development by reducing leg drive. This exercise requires you to keep your legs off the floor, so you perform the bench press without leg drive and full range of motion. This exercise places a greater emphasis on the upper body muscles, making it an ideal choice for those looking to increase bench press strength. By incorporating the floor press and larsen press into your routine, you’ll be able to improve your upper body strength without leg drive and all its benefits.

Training Tips for Optimizing Leg Drive

If you want to get better with your leg drive, you will need to incorporate lower body exercises that recruit the knee joint and hip joint specifically. It would be wise to perform leg compound exercises to increase your leg drive, but it’s also wise to do isolation exercises with both the knee joint and hip joint separately to recruit those muscles with maximum effort.

Some exercises that could help improve your leg drive would be the squat, leg press, leg extension and hip thrusts as well. The squat would be great as a compound exercise that recruits both the knee joint and hip joint, but if you are worried about the recovery of your pecs and or have shoulder limitations, you could use the leg press as well which would also recruit both the knee joint and hip joint. Many of the world’s best bench pressers try to eliminate barbell squats from their routine so they don’t stretch their pecs and lose rigidness of this primary muscle for a massive bench press.

Leg extensions and hip thrusts are great isolation exercises that focus on either the knee joint or hip joint for maximizing strength development. Compound movements are very efficient in working multiple muscle groups simultaneously, however, doing isolation exercises put maximum recruitment on isolated muscle groups to make sure they are being properly developed to improve strength development and power output.


Leg drive in the bench press can be a game-changer for anyone looking to enhance their upper body strength and performance. In this article, we walked through the definition of leg drive, proper setup techniques and the numerous benefits leg drive can offer for improving your bench press. Leg drive really depends on your setup, which is coined the “power position”. With a stronger power position, the body is more stable, rigid, and prepared to perform leg drive for a much stronger bench press.

It’s not only about understanding the importance of leg drive, but how to incorporate leg drive effectively. Once in the power position, your feet are flat and planted to give you a stronger surface to push off of for aiding the power off your chest. Whether you’re a competitive powerlifter or simply aiming to reach new heights in your training, understanding and implementing leg drive can be a pivotal step toward reaching your goals.