Some Tips to Improve Your Bench Press Form and Technique

Just like all of our classes, our strength class focuses on proper technique, body mechanics and progressive improvements. Here Coach Jason provides a student with some info on bench press technique. Come in and try out a class and see the difference!


Coach Jason Salazar:
All right. Next one, make sure we hit our target. Let’s try to hit that sternum. That’s a little better. Relax those elbows. Let them follow the bar as it goes in. That’s better. Good.

Remember, we can exhale as we’re pressing. Just like the squat: Control on the way down; fire on the back way up. Good. One more. Good. Bring it in. That was a little bit better.

We want to make sure we hit that target. We don’t want our shoulders to internally rotate. That’s going to cause shoulder impingement. That’s when we get hurt. We always want to keep them externally rotated, so hitting that target and bringing those elbows in keeps your shoulders out.

One last thing we’re going to add in this next one is we’re going to arch our back a little bit. This is not to cheat. This is to help our shoulders stay out. Arch the back. Draw the shoulder blades together and keep it locked. Let’s try it again. Let’s do five. Just remember: control and fire.

Get that arch in your back. Good. It’s looking better. Good, you get the target every time. Nice. Rack it up. That’s the one thing we have to remember about a bench press, is protecting our shoulders. Hit it in the right spot and you won’t have to worry about it. Just make sure the elbows never flare out. Even with pushups, we can hurt ourself by doing pushups like this. Everything’s got to be in. Okay?

Implement These Details to Help Improve Your Squat

As with all our programs the technical instruction is what sets apart our classes. Our Fight Built classes are designed to increase your strength and athletic performance. Coach Jason Salazar runs our 10,000 square foot strength and conditioning facility and provides in depth instruction to improve your body mechanics and prevent injury. Come in and train!


Coach Jason Salazar:
All right. The next one really push those knees down over those toes. It’s going to help us to get down a little bit deeper and keep that chest up. Good. Let’s make sure we really use those hips to drive straight up off the ground. Ah, that was better. Again, just like that. Good. Good. Go ahead and rack it up.

Make sure every time when we’re going down those knees, we don’t want to let them cave in on us, so we start to fall forward. Also, it’s a lot of force on the knees. Weak.


Coach Jason Salazar:
As we push them out, as we’re going down they’re strong this way, it also lets us keep a nice, rigid back as we’re getting all the way down and push those hips up as we’re coming back up.

Got it. I can definitely feel when you told me to press from the hips.

Coach Jason Salazar:
Good. Let’s try it again. Just give me three.


Coach Jason Salazar:
Oh, that’s good. A little slow on the way down, little more control. Slow on the way down, explode on the way up. Good. Good. Way better on that one. Feel the difference when you control on the way down versus going, shooting down?


Coach Jason Salazar:
We get a little off balance. Nice and controlled, doesn’t have to be slow mo, but then fire on the way back up.

Yeah. You definitely feel the explosion on the way up.

Coach Jason Salazar:
Good. A lot better.

Two Friends Challenge Each Other to Lose 40 Pounds

We are often referred to as a “fighters gym” but thats only a very small percentage of how our members benefit, and what they can achieve. Here you see an ongoing success story of two gym members, Joe and Justin, not only getting in better shape but living an overall better life based off their experiences at The Arena. Yes we build fighters but ultimately we are building healthier and happier all around people.


Joe O’Connell:
So I started coming here about four and a half years ago. I started off with boxing, but the last three, four years, I really got into Jiu Jitsu and primarily did that until I got hurt in October. And then kind of went back to the fitness aspect of this, and boxing.

I’m a personal trainer. I’ve been doing it for 10 years. I got into it because I was 308 pounds after I stopped playing football. Weight loss has always been an up and down thing for me. I’ve got all the way down to about 225 and I’ve been sitting there for a long time. So in February, I decided to take things up to the next level and propose with my buddy, Justin, to see if we can get down to 185.

Justin Wilson:
Joe and I were making fun of each other for being fat. And he was like, “Step on the scale, where are you at right now?” And I stepped on and I was like 232. Then we’re like, “All right, well, what’s a good obtainable, but would challenge us?” And we decided on 185. So from 232 down to 195 right now, is where I’m at. We got 10 pounds left to go.

At first, he was seeing it as a challenge. Dude was wearing sweatsuits, running extra miles, everything. And I’m like, “Bro, we’re in it for the longevity and the health of it.”, because I’m 40 years old and I don’t want to cut weight. I want to lose weight and keep it off and to maintain a good, healthy lifestyle.

Joe O’Connell:
I first decided to do this because I wanted to beat him. I wanted to challenge to beat Justin to 185. But now it’s turned into, we’re supporting each other in this journey. We keep each other in line and keep each other accountable for our goals. Definitely a beneficial thing. So I’ve been working out with the strength and conditioning coach, Jason, four days a week doing his workouts. And then, I do boxing with Joe Vargas from 10 to 11.

Justin Wilson:
What I’ve been doing, personally, is, cut out alcohol and I train back-to-back classes. So I’ll do Jiu Jitsu and then I’ll do the No Gi class. The more you train, the more you really become aware of how you feel and what you put in your body. And so just naturally, I’ve really cut out junk food, fast food, stuff like that. It wasn’t because I was like, “Oh, I’m on a diet. I have to do this.” It was because, I felt bad. I would eat it and I wouldn’t feel good.

Joe O’Connell:
I got a meal prep company and I do two meals with them, and not snacking outside those two meals, and making a healthy dinner. I stopped drinking. It’s making these lifestyle changes, these small changes, that make a big difference, I’m learning.

Justin Wilson:
Being a veteran, your tribe is a big deal. When you leave the service, I didn’t find my tribe or my group of people until I started training Jiu Jitsu. It’s improved my life in every facet.

Joe O’Connell:
Having Justin with me is excellent because we keep each other accountable. I’m down 30 pounds, I got 10 more to go, and I just got to keep working hard. It’s challenging, but I like the challenge and I like working hard and The Arena helped me do this. It’s been fantastic.

5 Exercises to Improve Athletic Explosiveness

Strength and Conditioning Coach Jason showing some explosive exercises and explaining the benefits of this type of training. At our root we are a gym that builds fighters and trains regular people to exceptional levels of fitness.


Coach Jason Salazar:
Hey guys, Jason here at The Arena. Today we’re going to do some explosive exercises. We’ve got about five I’m going to run through with you. Why should we do explosive movements? Well, it can improve in our sprints, our jumping, and improve weightlifting. Believe it or not, you can lift heavier weight with a little bit more explosion out of that pocket.

Primarily today, we really want to think about large muscle groups; quads, hamstrings, lats, our glutes. Very important thing though, when we’re trained this way, we don’t want to do more than three to four sets. We don’t want to do more than 10 repetitions. Because when we’re doing these movements, we’re trying to give everything we got, in every single repetition. Because we’re trying to explode as hard As we can.

We’re going to do a little banded kettlebell swing. Just to show you; take one rubber band, pull it through, pull the band through itself. Just tighten it up, get those guys out of the way. Spread it open, then stick those feet right in. Now, when you’re doing this, you’re really going to explode as much as you can, through the hips. And remember that bell is going to snap backs, so you better be ready for it.

All right guys, we’re going to do the power snatch. Remember power is mid thigh. So, all we really tend to think about doing; a vertical jump, with a big shrug. Just snap that bar up as fast as we can. Remember, accelerate as hard as you can. Stand up, bring it back down, reset, back up. Just think, vertical jump with a shrug.

All right. The dumbbell jump. Make sure you swing back, as we go up we’re going to explode up as high as we can.

So, always remember when we’re doing these seated box jumps, we’re going to swing arms back then launch them forward as we jump. And we’re trying to give everything, all we got, at once. Even if the box isn’t high enough to go as high as we need to go. Just take a second and get your feet set back, arms again.

All right. So we’re just going to do a little plyo push up. There’s many different versions. You can clap, you have off the ground, or you can set things to jump up too. Just like we got here, we got two weight plates. We’ll just go down for that push up, and explode out of there, back down, explode out of there. Remember, every time, you’re trying to give it as much as you got. As you get better, make these higher, or just practice hopping off the ground, as much as we can.

All right guys, remember, keep in mind long breaks. And also, when we’re doing explosive work, you might want to get these before your heavy lifts. If we do this after our heavy lifts, we’re not going to get the same results. So, remember; explosion first, heavy later.

MMA Fighter Liz Carmouche Weight Training Under Water

To achieve what others can’t you must be willing to do what other won’t. Not too many people embody this principle like Women’s MMA pioneer Liz Carmouche. Here you see just one of the many ways she seeks to make herself uncomfortable in fight preparation in order to be prepared for the battle. This Friday April 9th Liz will violently welcome Invicta Champion Vanessa Porto to Bellator on Showtime. This fight has title shot implications and will be the next step to gold for Liz. Wish her, Coach Chuck, and Coach Vince good hunting and tune in to watch!

5 Exercises to Help Correct Your Posture

Postural Alignment is an underlying cause of many physical aliments, limits athletic performance, and can contribute to the body being in an unbalanced state resulting in injury. In this video, Strength and Conditioning Coach Jason gives some exercises you can do at home to help correct your posture and get the most out of your workouts.


Jason Salazar:
Hi guys. Jason, here at the Arena. Today, I was going to go over some exercises to help re-correct our posture. Most people have some bad posture because we do a lot of sitting, office jobs or we’re just not paying attention to how we’re standing from day to day. Most of us start to round, look just like this, where really we need to stand up just nice and tall, just like this. What happens is some of our muscles, we stop activating them and other muscles take over which start to fatigue and cause injuries and pain. That’s when you start noticing your lower back hurt a little bit. We need to stop going from here, back to here. I’m just going to run through a couple exercises to show you real quick, you can add to your routine every day.

Okay, so first up, most of the times you’ll notice people have some rounded shoulders. They start falling forward, not the best posture. They should be back. What happens is our front delts get a little too tight. We don’t use our traps anymore, but we’re going to do what we call through a pass through. You can either do this with a pole or a band or even if you have a towel, we can do the same thing. But we’re going to have our arms nice and straight and we’re just going to pull it all the way behind us. As we’re pulling behind us, really pull out on that band or even on that pole. Just pull as much as you can, pass it through, pass it back. Make sure we’re standing nice and tall and nothing else is really moving except for our arms. And like I said, every time it comes past the head, pull that bar apart and keep pulling and then can release a little bit. You want to do these three sets of 10.

This, we’re going to work on our neck right in the front right here and then we’re going to work on our traps right in the back. We’re going to get against the wall nice and flat, put our arms up. As we get ready to lift the arms, we’re going to tuck in our chin as much as we can and press all the way up, trying to keep those arms glued to the wall. Release, tuck it, press back up. Really fill those traps in the back working and you should feel a good strain in the front of that neck. Once again, do about three sets of 10.

All right, guys so next up, we’re going to do our hip flexors right in here. That kind of makes us crunch over a little bit. We want to get back to normal, standing up and straight up and down. We’re going to get into a lunge position. Once we’re in this lunge position, we need to do a posterior tilt of our pelvis. It means we’re going to rotate it forward, tuck it in. From here, we’re going to push those hips forward. You’re going to feel some little burn right across here. We know we’re hitting it just fine. Hang out here for at least 30 seconds, back off of it. Hit the other side, come back to it. Just like everything else, we’re going to do three sets, but keeping it 30 seconds. If you want to go a little bit longer on another side, because maybe we hit the other side and it’s way tighter, which is usually going to happen. Hang out there a little bit longer.


All right guys, next up our hips. Those get really tight. That does cause lower back pain. When you think it’s your back hurting is actually your hips. We’re going to do what’s called a pigeon stretch. An easy way to start off with, this could be even a sofa you’re not in a gym, we don’t have a bench. Put our leg up, then we’re going to press those hips forward, straighten everything out. When we’re here and it feels nice and good, we can start moving around a little bit. Maybe twist a little bit this way, twist that way. Just hang out here for another 30 seconds. And you might find you do one side it feels pretty easy, you get to the other side and you’re like, I can’t even get there. That means we hammer that side a little bit longer. Do a little bit extra stretching on that side. You want to even everything out. Once again, just lean forward. We can even fall down into the pigeon stretch and work as deep as possible. A little twist gets it even deeper. Do about three sets, 30 seconds each.


All right so the next one we got, we’re just going to do a little glute bridge. Basically we’re going to get our feet right out in front of us, kind of like a squat stance. We’re going to engage our core and then push our hips up, squeeze really hard at the top and come back down and go back up and come back down. Remember every time we hit the top, squeeze. We really want to activate those glutes. When we get a little bit better at this, we can do one leg, focusing the same thing at the top we really squeeze. And don’t forget to engage that core as we’re going up and down every time. You can do these three sets of 10 each.


All right guys, so this was just a few exercises we can do to correct our posture. There are many more out there. I suggest you do start to use some of these. You can do them every single day. If you do work at a desk, it’s a good idea to get up every hour and try to do one of these. We don’t want to turn into this and get worse and worse because all that does is add pain. We want to get back to standing upright the way we’re supposed to stand. Hope you enjoyed this, see you next time.

Add This Barbell Complex to Your Training

Here’s a quick Barbell Complex with Strength and Conditioning Coach Jason Salazar to push your metabolic and strength rate. There are many different ways to improve your strength and work capacity. Enjoy!


Coach Jason Salazar:
Hey guys. Jason here at The Arena. Today, I’m going to run through a barbell complex with you. If you don’t know what a barbell complex is, it’s going to involve a barbell and about five movements. It could be less movements than that if you want it to be, but we’re going to chain them all together starting from the floor all the way up. The goal is to never drop the barbell down, at least until you’ve finished your round. And we can set a timer for as many rounds as we want, or an AMRAP for as many times as we want, just to push the metabolic and strength rate through the roof. This is a good form if you don’t want to do strength training just lifting weights, or if you just don’t want it to go run for a long period of time. Combine this together, give yourself about 15 minutes, it’ll give you a really good workout.



I’ll do my five deadlifts. Of course the bar is going to touch the ground, but I’m not going to release the bar. After my five deadlifts, I’m going to do five bent over rows. Now I’m going to do five snatches. I’ll do five push presses. And finish it off with five back squats.


Guys, so I got done with one round. Now there’s many different variations of barbell complexes you can do. We can either do it for time, or we can do it as rounds. You can also split up the rounds, maybe go for a jog in between rounds, do a hundred rope skips. But my advice to you though, is if we’re starting off, we keep it really light. Even a barbell by itself gets really heavy real quick. We want to make sure we’re maintaining good form so we don’t hurt our back or anything else when we’re doing these. Remember, you can set it up really light or really heavy. It’s your choice. You can do anything you want as long as it’s off the ground with the barbell and you’re not dropping it. That includes curls, guys, if you want to get those arms up a little bit.

Firefighter/Outrigger Athlete Utilizes Strength and Conditioning Program at The Arena

Long time Arena member Scott Harris discusses his journey with our strength & conditioning program and how it has helped him with his career as a firefighter and as an outrigger athlete. Our well rounded strength and conditioning program will not only help you improve in combat sports but every day life!


Scott Harris:

I’m a member of the San Diego Outrigger Canoe Club. I got into it in my first Fire Academy. I had one of my academy members talk about a team sport that was all about going out, training hard, doing something fun on the ocean. I thought I’d really like it. So I went to the first practice and was instantly hooked.


Races include a six man and a nine man, and there’re various miles. Also, we have a one person canoe. That’s basically you and the sea and the paddle, just as hard as you can, as fast as you can the whole time. Just got to give it your all.


So I started here back in November of 2012. They said that they had a strength and conditioning class. Basically, became hooked on the class. It transitions very well into my job. I am a firefighter here in the county of San Diego.

I started off as a paramedic, went through a 12 week academy. Monday through Friday, 5:00 AM till 5:00 PM. PT in the morning, manipulative drills all day, just being mentally tough, physically tough as well, getting through those shifts. Firefighters are very prone to back, knee, shoulder injuries. A lot of the stuff we do with the kettlebells and the conditioning we do here prevents that from happening by strengthening those little muscles we don’t use every day.


Also translates to outrigging because when you’re out in the outrigger, you are using all your core, all those little muscles. And it’s endurance, you’re keeping it cadence the whole time. People come in here from anywhere off the street, to ex-Navy Seals, professional fighters, anywhere in between. I like to try to keep up with everybody. It’s a new challenge every day.


2 Round Cross Training Workout

This workout is only two rounds but don’t let that fool you. It’s an intense one so get after it and see how quick you can get it done. Our Fight Built class will get you in shape if you’re willing to put in the work.


Coach Jason Salazar:
Hey guys, Jason, here at The Arena. Got a work out for you today. Today, we’re just going to do two rounds for time. But, in the beginning of each round, we’re going to run a mile to start off with, or whatever’s close to a mile that you can do. Then we’ll come back in and do our five exercises, and run another mile, do our five exercises, that we’ll be done.

All right, so we came back in from that mile run. I got 40 kettlebell swings to start off with. Remember, pop those hips, guys. Stand nice and tall. At the top, bell only needs to come chest high. And if you can’t do 40 in a row, take a little break and then start swinging again.

So, after my 40 swings, I got 40 sit-ups. Just make sure we’re getting good range of motion, guys. All the way down. All the way up. Just 40 nice sit-ups.

All right, after those sit-ups, we’ve got Persian press. It’s going to be 20 on each side. So, we get that bell up, going to bridge my hips and keep them bridged the entire time and just press that bell. I have 20 on each side. Just make sure we’re pressing all the way to the top. Let the elbow hit the ground, all the way back up and revisit those hips. They’ll start to sag and remember you drive through the heels. Keep that butt nice and squeezed. Keep those hips up. 20 on one side, 20 on the other.

All right, after that Persian press, we’re going to row. Row that belt 20 times on one side, 20 times on the other side. Shoulder all the way down, all the way up. Same speed down as the same speed up, guys. Fight the descent.

After those one-arm rows to finish off this round, we have 40 goblet squats. So maybe this one can’t do 40 in a row. I’m going to have to take a little break in between here. Just make sure we keep that bell to our chest. We get down to depth every time, stand tall on those squats. See if you can get 40 in a row.

So, just keep in mind guys, it’s only two rounds. Once you finish that one round, you only got one more to go. If the mile run is too long for you, make it a half mile, make it a quarter mile, whatever you can do. See how fast you can get this done. Stay tuned for some more workouts guys.

Boxing Coach Joe Vargas’ Incredible Weight Loss Transformation

Boxing Coach Joe Vargas discusses his love of running out in nature and how it contributed to his huge weight loss and transformation in this past year. Don’t wait, start today. Every journey begins with one step!


Coach Joe Vargas:
There’s something about running in the mountains, it just feels so natural. Just challenging yourself in the terrain, and it just feels like something we’re supposed to do, we just forget about it. Running and seeing the sun come up over the mountains, it’s just a beautiful feeling I really enjoy.


As I got older and I see pictures of myself, I didn’t realize how much weight I had gained. I didn’t see the same resemblance in a mirror. And that’s when I weighed myself and I weighed 245. I just challenge myself every day to run more and more. I started at half a mile, and right now I’m running about an average of 10 miles a day. Ever since I started running in February, I lost over 75 pounds. 


When New Year comes, we all have goals, and within 15, 20 days, we forget about our goals. It took me four months to feel good. So just get at it, and you guys can do it. Whatever you guys set your goals to do, you guys can handle it. Just keep, keep, keep chopping at it.

About The Arena

The Arena is the largest gym in North America for Combat Sports and Martial Arts instruction.

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3350 Sports Arena Blvd.
San Diego, CA 92110 USA

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