While the squat is the “King of all Lifts”, the Bench Press seems to be the most popular. The Bench Press is such a popular lift, it is often the lift a good many lifters concentrate on the most while neglecting other lifts of equal importance. Most young men who begin lifting want a big chest and big arms, and they believe the Bench Press is the method of achieving this. While this is mainly true, you must not neglect the rest of your body when taking on a serious lifting program.
The Bench Press is indeed a full body, compound exercise. However, it works your chest, shoulders and triceps most. It’s the most effective exercise to gain upper-body strength and muscle mass because it’s the upper-body exercise you’ll lift the most weight on. The bigger your bench, the bigger your chest.
Ladies, the Bench Press is an important lift for you too!
Training your pecs will build muscle underneath the fat that makes up your breasts. As long as you aren’t dieting too severely, you will not lose your breasts. If anything, the added muscle helps your breasts appear fuller. Training the Bench Press can give a little boost to your cleavage! By developing your pectoral muscles, you are actually creating a natural bra for yourself. Ladies, the bench press is an important lift for you too if you care about having a body that is well balanced in strength and appearance. And you can do this without having to feel like you have to “go heavy” when you do this lift.
How to properly execute the Bench Press.
- Lie on the bench with your eyes under the bar
- Grab the bar with a medium grip-width and then squeeze it as if you are trying to bend the bar.
- Unrack the bar by straightening your arms
- Lower the bar to your mid-chest
- Press the bar back up until your arms are straight
Hold the weight for a second at the top, with straight arms. Breathe. Then take a big breath, hold it, and lower the bar again. Keep your butt on the bench when you press it back up. To avoid shoulder pain, tuck your elbows 75° when you lower the bar. Don’t try to stretch your chest by flaring your elbows 90° out. You’ll impinge your shoulders if your upper-arms are perpendicular to your torso at the bottom. Tuck your elbows 75° to Bench Press pain-free.
How to grip the bar.
Grip the bar with your pinky inside the ring marks of your bar, or at least a little bit wider than your shoulder width. When you execute the lift, you want your forearms to be vertical to the floor when the bar touches your chest. Your build determines the grip width you need for this but medium usually works. Wider grips can be tough on your shoulders while a too narrow grip is ineffective for benching heavy because it puts your forearms into an incline, and places more emphasis on your triceps instead of your chest.
Do not Flare Your Elbows.
Do not lower the bar with elbows out 90° as you might see done with a bodybuilding-style with your elbows perpendicular to your torso at the bottom. By flaring your elbows, you stand the risk of a painful shoulder impingement while attempting to get a bigger chest stretch. The top of your upper-arms will smash your rotator cuff tendons against your AC joint on every rep. Your shoulders will inflame and hurt. Tuck your elbows 75° in at the bottom.
Keep your entire body tight.
Lie on the bench with your upper-back tight. Imagine that you are trying to hold a pen between your shoulder-blades by squeezing them together. This action will flatten your upper-back and increase your body’s stability when you lie on the bench. This allows you to push your upper-back harder against the bench which increases your Bench Press. Always make it a point to. squeeze your shoulder-blades before you unrack the weight.
You also will not want to shrug your shoulders forward. This will cause you to lose your upper-back tightness, your chest will collapse and your hands will be higher. This makes the bar path longer and the weight harder to bench. Keep you back tight, chest up and shoulders back. Always maintain upper-back tightness by pushing yourself into the bench on each rep.
When setting up to Bench Press, raise your chest towards the ceiling. Do this by arching your lower back and rotating your rib cage up while keeping your butt on the bench. Squeeze your lats to lock your chest in position in order to make the weight easier to press as you’ll touch your chest higher. This shortens the bar path and decreases horizontal bar movement to press it back over your shoulders. Always keep your butt on the bench when you Bench Press. It is acceptable for your lower back to come off the bench in order to keep you chest up, but your butt must not rise.
Always make it a point to Bench Press with your feet firmly planted on the floor.
Don’t put your feet on the bench or in the air to feel your muscles better. No matter if you have seen others do this foolishness, it creates an unstable and ineffective position for Benching heavy weights because you can’t use your legs. Besides helping to keep your body tight as you lift, keeping your feet on the floor is for your safety as it increases stability, balance and strength. It improves your form by helping your keep your chest up and lower back arched. Always Bench Press with your feet flat on the floor.
Programming the Bench Press
Being as these lifting tutorials are geared to the beginning lifter, I advise you to begin with an empty barbell and then increase your weight by 5 pounds with every workout until you begin stalling out.
As with every other lift, there is a large number of possibilities when it comes to programming the Bench Press. Most commonly, weightlifters will use sets of 1-5 reps, but it’s also a common practice to use as many as 10 reps per set. Really, what it comes down to when deciding a rep range is between if your focus is on overall strength (low rep), or if you desire hypertrophic growth or toning (high reps).
Note: When lifting by yourself without someone to spot you, be sure you are using equipment that has safety catches that will protect you if you happen to fail a rep and cannot rack the barbell.