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I was doing a 4RM on my bench press today, and on the last one (it felt like) it was moving about 1cm/hour. I got it up, but I felt my foot come off the floor and I pulled my hamstring.

The hamstring injury I'm not concerned with: it was a minor pull (1.5 on the scale) and I'll be fine.

Specifically I'd like to know:

  • Some cues to keep my feet down.
  • What (probably) broke down in my form that caused my hamstring to pull and my foot to pop off the floor.

It was a lot of weight for me (4RM, just barely not failure on the last one), but I've never had that happen before in years of barbell training. Also, I use power-lifting form for bench pressing when I get north of 5RM. Feet flat, glutes locked, back arched.

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    Where do you put your feet when you bench? Close to the bench, or farther out from it? What angle are your knees at? – hairboat Aug 31 '15 at 17:43
  • @abbyhairboat you know I'm not positive, but I'd guess maybe "squat" stance style? I don't feel the bench with the insides of my knees, and my knees track out with my feet. I'd guess I'm in standard "slightly wider than shoulder width". – Eric Aug 31 '15 at 17:48
  • What cues (if any) do you already use? Wouldn't be very helpful for us to tell you what you already do. – Alex L Sep 3 '15 at 17:38
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I've had my foot slide out from under me due to the floor being too dusty. I train in a garage, so that's always a concern. I've also had the hamstring pull due to factors other than what's immediately obvious. In your case, a good part of it was probably due to the foot slipping and suddenly loosing tightness on one side.

Paul Carter has a great article on setting up for the bench. Setting up like this will remove 90% of the causes of your foot slipping out from under you. The important parts (check list and video at the end of the article) are listed below:

  • Start with your eyes under the bar and the bar at the back of the J-Hooks
  • Tuck your toes as far under you as you can
  • Roll the bar to the front of the J-Hooks and arch with your eyes under the new bar position
  • Shove your heals down until they hit the floor (should feel like you are locking in place)

In this position, the only thing that will prevent you from staying in a tight set up is if the floor or your shoes are slick. If I'm unsure about the floor, I'll make sure the heals of my feet lock down so they touch the bench supports.

Uncommon causes of hamstring pulls/strains

  • Insufficient sleep--in fact, too little sleep is the primary cause of most of my gym injuries. Mainly because it kills my ability to recover and I'm just more brittle overall.
  • Insufficient food--either because it's been too long and my recovery ability is depleted, or because I haven't had the right kind of food and my leg cramps up. I now have something just before training, throughout training, and just after training. That seems to avoid this problem.
  • Dehydration--dehydration causes all sorts of problems and even mild dehydration can set you up for injuries.

Just speculating...

Since I don't know your routine, or how meticulous you are about your bench set up, I'm guessing what the cause of the foot slippage was. My guess was that it was due to a combination of a slick shoes or floor and not being quite as tight as you could be. The heavier you lift the more these little things become bigger issues.

You were lifting a 4RM (~87.5% of your 1RM), which is significant. Had you been doing a 10RM or less weight, you probably wouldn't even need an arch to control the bar and press it several times. I find that as I push myself ever harder that the little things matter more and more.

  • That's awesome Berin, I didn't really realize that the foot slippage could cause the hamstring pull, but the foot definitely went airborne before the hamstring pulled. – Eric Sep 3 '15 at 18:56
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    It's that sudden release of tension, and your body instinctively trying to reacquire the tension. – Berin Loritsch Sep 3 '15 at 19:27
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You probably stretched your hamstring out of normal proportion because you locked your glutes too tight, would be the best answer.

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