How to benchpress

This article will give you a quick informational guideline on what a bench press is, how to perform it, and what mistakes to look for when performing it.

Approximated reading time: 5 minutes.

Common Sense First

The most important thing when bench pressing is safety.

That's why we advise you to use the power rack for maximum safety when performing the Bench Press. Set the safety pins at the appropriate height to catch the weight if you are unable to lift it.

When Bench Pressing inside the Power Rack, you won't require a spotter. But in any case, Bench Pressing without any safety mechanisms is stupid and extremely dangerous.

Bench Press Step by Step

  1. Setup: Begin by lying on the flat bench with your eyes positioned under the bar. Lift your chest and squeeze your shoulder blades together, ensuring your feet are flat on the floor.
  2. Grab the bar: Place your pinky fingers on the ring marks of the bar. Hold the bar in the base of your palm with a full grip and wrap your thumbs around it.
  3. Unrack: Take a deep breath before each rep and unrack the bar by straightening your arms. Move the bar over your shoulders with your elbows fully locked.
  4. Lower the bar: Lower the bar to your mid-chest while tucking your elbows at a 75° angle. Keep your forearms vertical and remember to hold your breath at the bottom of the movement.
  5. Press: Press the bar from your mid-chest to above your shoulders, ensuring your buttocks remain on the bench. Lock your elbows at the top of the movement and breathe again.

To finish your last rep, press the weight away from your chest until your elbows are fully locked. Then, move the bar horizontally from above your shoulders towards the Power Rack. Avoid aiming for the uprights directly, as this may cause you to miss them. Instead, target the vertical sections of your Power Rack. Once aligned with them, bend your elbows to lower the bar into the uprights.

Common Mistakes

Now you have a general understanding of how to bench press correctly. To see if you do everything correct, we would advise you to ask a trainer at your gym to review you. If that option isn't available to you, film your sets.

If you're not sure if you did something wrong, here's a list of the 6 most common mistakes while bench pressing.

  1. Using a Thumbless Grip
  2. Wrong Elbow Positioning
  3. Using Machines
  4. Benching with Bent Wrists
  5. No Power Rack or Spotter
  6. Not Locking Your Elbows At the Top

Remember that proper bench press form is crucial for both safety and effectiveness. Always prioritize safety when lifting heavy weights, and consider working with a qualified trainer to improve your technique if needed.

Cues You Are Doing It Right

To ensure effective bench pressing, observe the following guidelines:

  • Hold the bar with a full grip, thumbs enclosed. Your hands should be positioned within the markings on the bar to ensure vertical forearms. Avoid a thumbless grip, as this can lead to the bar slipping.
  • Keep the wrists, elbows, and shoulders in a straight line. The elbows should be about a 75° angle away from the body.
  • Keep the shoulders on the bench and squeeze the shoulder blades together. Lift the chest and maintain contact between the buttocks and the bench. Position your eyes under the bar and keep your head in a neutral position.
  • Maintain a natural arch in the lower back. Your feet should be flat on the ground, below the knees, and shoulder-width apart.
  • Lift the bar with extended arms over the shoulders and return it. Pay attention to a diagonal bar path from the chest to the shoulders. Inhale deeply, hold your breath on the descent, and exhale at the top.

By adhering to these guidelines, you can maximize the effectiveness and safety of your bench press exercises, with correct execution being crucial for success and injury prevention.

What Muscles Are Worked

The Bench Press is a popular exercise primarily based on the variety of muscles trained when performing it:

  • Pectoralis Major: The most prominent muscle engaged during the bench press is the pectoralis major, commonly known as the chest muscle.
  • Anterior Deltoids: The anterior deltoids, located at the front of the shoulders, play a significant role in the initial phase of the bench press.
  • Triceps Brachii: The triceps brachii, situated on the back of the upper arm, are heavily involved in extending the elbow joint during the upward phase of the bench press.
  • Secondary Muscles: Serratus Anterior, Latissimus Dorsi, and Rotator Cuff Muscles are also engaged.
  • Engaging Core Muscles: The muscles of the core, including the rectus abdominis, obliques, and transverse abdominis, work synergistically to maintain stability during the exercise.

Increase your Knowledge

This article should have given you a brief insight on how to bench press. But if you truly want to understand the exercise and you want to learn how to improve your maxes, we advise you to read the article by Mehdi, a Belgian Powerlifter with more than 15 years of experience.

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