I have seen in my gym plenty of people unracking/racking the barbell like Jeremy Ethier in the following picture. He has the bar exactly above his eyes. enter image description here

But when I bench press, I don't feel safe when I put the barbell back on the rack. The so high horizontal distance (blue in the previous picture) make it difficult to control the movement and I feel the bar may drop from my hands if it weren't for the rack. This occurs for me just with 35kg, which is quite low for my chest. But it is enough to make the final act of putting the barbell back on the rack difficult for me.

If you look at the stronglift guide, it says to have the barbell above the eyes, but it isn't. It is above the mouth/chin.

enter image description here

I've tried to bench press starting with the barbell above my mouth and this has given me 2-3 cm more that have allowed me to rack/unrack with more control. However, it may become more difficult if I increase my weigth. So, other than placing the barbell above mouth (tell me if you agree!), is there a way, a mind-muscle focus that can help me rack/unrack with more control? Which muscles perform the rack/unrack? Front Delts? Should I squeeze them?

Previous similar topic [1][4], but without focusing on which muscles should we involve and without saying exactly if having the barbell over the mouth/chin is good during the rack/unrack phase.

1 Answer 1


The first picture is a more accurate depiction of a proper rack position (i.e., over the eyes).

The reason for beginning with your eyes under the bar isn't because it's easier to unrack (it's arguably more difficult). The primary reason is to allow full range of motion throughout each rep.

When you bench press, you should create a "J" curve; starting at the bottom of the movement near your sternum, and finishing with the bar above your eyes. This may seem counterintuitive (why not just push straight up, right?), however, the J pattern allows your scapulae to rotate properly, thus creating more force (with practice), and injury prevention.

J curve example.  Image credit to https://www.t-nation.com/training/4-bench-press-lies/

If you start with the bar over your mouth, you likely won't be able to complete a full J pattern without running into the rack.

Racking over the eyes primarily uses your lats, serratus anterior and pecs (think of a pullover). It takes some getting used to, but like anything, practice and proper form (take a huge breath before you unrack, and hold it...make yourself as fat as you can) will make it second nature.

Never be too proud to ask for a lift-off from a spotter; doing so will save you pain and performance (you may even be able to squeak out an extra rep just by having someone help you unrack).

Regarding the rerack, don't waste any time and safety measures trying to line up the bar with the j cups; just slam it into the rack poles at full extension and put it down. If your equipment can't handle this, get new equipment.

Happy benching!

  • Just another question: why does racking use the serratus anterior? As far as I'm concerned, the serratus anterior is responsible for shoulder-blades protraction. And shouldn't we keep them retracted also whilst racking?
    – Kinka-Byo
    Jul 15, 2021 at 17:21

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