The bench press is a popular exercise in bodybuilding, and for a good reason. It effectively targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps, making it essential to any well-rounded fitness regimen.
This comprehensive guide will delve into the proper technique, tips, and necessary equipment to ensure you can confidently and safely perform this classic exercise.
After reading this article, you’ll have knowledge of the targeted muscle groups and the needed equipment, as well as the execution of the bench press.
What Equipment Is Needed?
To do the exercise, you’ll need access to the following equipment:
- Barbell: A barbell is a primary tool for the bench press.
- Weight plates: You’ll need a variety of weight plates to load onto your barbell. Plates range from 2.5 to 45 pounds. If you buy plates for a home gym, ensure you have a suitable range of plates to accommodate your progression.
- Bench: A flat, sturdy bench is essential. Look for a stable, comfortable bench positioned at an appropriate height to ensure your feet can remain flat on the ground during the lift. Read our article on weight benches for a home gym before making a purchase decision.
- Clips: These are used to secure the weight plates on the barbell, preventing them from sliding off during your workout.
Good alternative: A Gym Station
If you don’t have access to the equipment mentioned above or have limited space at home, consider purchasing a gym station. These compact, all-in-one units often include a bench press station with an adjustable bench, a fixed bar, and a weight stack. Gym stations are an affordable and space-saving alternative for those looking to incorporate the bench press into their workout routine.
What Is The Proper Bench Press Technique?
- Positioning the bench and barbell: Place the bench in the center of the rack, ensuring it’s aligned with the barbell. Adjust the barbell height on the rack so that it’s at a comfortable level. This allows for easy unracking without straining your shoulders or arms.
- Choosing appropriate weight: Select weight plates based on your current strength level and training goals. As a beginner, it’s better to start with light weights and focus on perfecting the technique before progressing to heavier loads. Increase the weight step-by-step as you become more confident and comfortable with the exercise. Always prioritize safety and form over lifting heavy weights.
Proper body positioning is crucial for executing the bench press safely and effectively. Follow these tips for optimal form:
- Lying on the bench: Position yourself with your eyes directly under the barbell. This alignment will help you maintain balance and control during the lift. Your head, shoulders, and glutes should be in contact with the bench, with a natural arch in your lower back.
- Feet placement: Keep your feet flat, shoulder-width apart, and slightly behind your knees. This stance provides stability and enables you to generate more power during the press.
- Hand positioning and grip: Grip the barbell slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Use a full grip, with your thumbs wrapped around the bar, to ensure a secure hold. Position your wrists straight and directly above your elbows to minimize strain.
- Arching the back and engaging the glutes: Maintain a slight arch in your lower back while keeping your glutes and upper back firmly pressed against the bench. This positioning helps protect your spine and allows for better force transfer during the lift.
Executing The Lift
- Unracking the bar: Take a deep breath, engage your core muscles, and lift the bar off the rack. Move the barbell into position directly above your chest, with your elbows locked out.
- Breathing technique: Inhale deeply as you prepare to lower the bar. Hold your breath during the movement. This will help stabilize your core and provide additional support during the lift.
- Lowering the bar to the chest: Slowly lower the barbell to your chest while keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle in relation to your body. Aim to touch the bar with your mid-chest or sternum area.
- Pressing the bar back up: Hold your breath during the whole movement or exhale forcefully near the end. Focus on driving your feet into the ground and engaging your chest, shoulder, and tricep muscles. Lock out your elbows at the top to complete the rep.
- Racking the bar: After completing your set, carefully guide the barbell back to the rack, ensuring it is secured in place before releasing your grip.
- Flaring elbows: Flaring your elbows out too far from your body can place excessive stress on your shoulders, increasing the risk of injury. To avoid this, maintain a 45-degree angle between your elbows and torso throughout the lift.
- Bouncing the bar off the chest: Using momentum by bouncing the bar off your chest can lead to a loss of control and potential injury. Focus on maintaining a controlled, steady tempo as you lower and press the barbell, briefly pausing when the bar touches your chest.
- Uneven bar path: An uneven or inconsistent bar path can compromise stability and balance. To correct this, practice with lighter weights and focus on maintaining a straight, vertical bar path as you lower and press the barbell.
- Lifting the hips off the bench: Raising your hips during the lift reduces the effectiveness of the exercise. Keep your glutes firmly pressed against the bench throughout the movement, and maintain a slight arch in your lower back for proper form.
Following proper safety precautions is essential to prevent injuries during the bench press. Keep these tips in mind for a secure workout:
- Proper warm-up: Begin your workout with a thorough warm-up that includes dynamic stretching and light cardio to increase blood flow and prepare your body for the lift.
- Using a spotter: Whenever possible, use a spotter, especially when lifting heavier weights or attempting a new personal best. A spotter can assist you if you struggle to complete a rep or need help reracking the bar.
- Utilizing safety bars or a power rack: If a spotter isn’t available, set up safety bars or use a power rack to catch the barbell in case you’re unable to complete a rep. There are already too many TouTube videos out there of people getting stuck, so don’t become one of them.
- Knowing your limits: Progress steadily and avoid overloading the barbell with excessive weight. Prioritize form and control over ego-lifting to reduce the risk of injury.
Mastering the bench press involves understanding proper setup, body positioning, and execution while adhering to safety tips.
By focusing on these key aspects, you can improve your technique, minimize the risk of injury, and maximize the benefits of this powerful upper-body exercise. Remember that progress takes time, be patient and prioritize form over lifting heavy weights.
As you gain experience and strength, you’ll find that the bench press is an invaluable addition to your strength training routine. So keep training, stay safe, and watch your upper body strength and muscularity grow.