Chest Exercise: How to do barbell bench press properly?

barbell bench press barbell bench press benefits barbell bench press muscle worked barbell bench press tips

The barbell bench press is a traditional workout that is well-liked by weightlifters of all kinds. Whether you are a bodybuilder or a powerlifter, the bench press is a fundamental chest exercise in almost every training regimen.

Powerlifters consider it as one of the key lifts, along with the squat and deadlift. Athletes often use their one-rep max on the bench press as a measure of their performance on the field or court. Meanwhile, bodybuilders appreciate the bench press for its ability to work multiple muscles in the upper body.

When engaging in the bench press exercise, the main focus is on targeting the pectoralis major muscle group, which is located in the chest area. Additionally, other muscles such as the triceps and shoulders play a supporting role in assisting with the movement of the barbell during this exercise.

It is important to note that not all individuals may be suited for the standard barbell bench press. Therefore, various modifications have been developed to allow individuals to effectively train this essential movement pattern in a manner that is both safe and comfortable.

barbell bench press benefits

The barbell bench press is a compound exercise that strengthens your upper body, including your chest, shoulders, and triceps. It's also a free weight exercise that uses your coordination to stabilize your body while pressing weight overhead. Here are some benefits of the barbell bench press: Improved muscle mass and strength, Enhanced endurance, Increased bone density, and Improved posture.

Barbell Bench Press Instructions

  1. Lie flat on a bench and set your hands just outside of shoulder width.
  2. Set your shoulder blades by pinching them together and driving them into the bench.
  3. Take a deep breath and allow your spotter to help you with the lift off in order to maintain tightness through your upper back.
  4. Let the weight settle and ensure your upper back remains tight after lift off.
  5. Inhale and allow the bar to descend slowly by unlocking the elbows.
  6. Lower the bar in a straight line to the base of the sternum (breastbone) and touch the chest.
  7. Push the bar back up in a straight line by pressing yourself into the bench, driving your feet into the floor for leg drive, and extending the elbows.
  8. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Barbell Bench Press Tips

  1. The priority should always be on technique rather than the amount of weight lifted. It is crucial to maintain proper form during bench press to avoid injuries.
  2. To do so, make sure the bar is aligned with your wrists and elbows, and it moves in a straight line. Position the bar as low in your palm as possible while still being able to wrap your thumb, which helps keep your wrists straight.
  3. If you want to target your triceps and chest more effectively, stop each repetition just before fully locking out at the top.
  4. Excessive elbow tucking is not necessary, as this advice is often given by lifters who use supportive gear. Instead, you can follow a cue from Greg Nuckols: "Flare and push."
  5. Depending on your goals, arching your back may be beneficial, but ensure that the majority of the arch comes from your mid to upper back, not your lower back. If you experience cramping in your lower back while setting up for the lift, it means you are out of position and at risk of injury.
  6. Ensure that the bar touches your chest during each repetition. To target specific ranges of motion, consider incorporating board presses or using accommodating resistance with chains or bands.
  7. Prioritize maintaining tightness in your upper back throughout the entire lift.
  8. When lowering the bar, aim for your sternum or slightly below, depending on the length of your upper arm, to maintain a straight bar path.
  9. Intermediate and advanced lifters may opt for a thumbless or "suicide" grip, but it is advisable for most lifters to initially learn how to bench with the thumb wrapped around the bar.
  10. Avoid allowing your wrists to roll back into extension; instead, focus on rolling your knuckles towards the ceiling.
  11. Experiment with different grip widths - if you have longer arms, a slightly wider grip may be necessary. However, if you experience shoulder pressure during the exercise, you may need to widen your grip, improve scapular retraction, or reduce the range of motion through exercises like floor or board presses.
  12. To enhance shoulder stability, firmly grip the bar and apply maximum pressure.
  13. Some weightlifters prefer curling their toes, while others prefer keeping their feet flat to maximize leg drive. Experiment with both techniques to determine which one provides better power output and feels more comfortable.
  14. Maintain retracted shoulder blades throughout the pressing motion, ensuring they do not change position.
  15. Control the descent of the bar and make sure it touches your chest without any bouncing or excessive momentum.
  16. Instead of solely focusing on pushing the bar away from your body, also consider the sensation of pushing yourself away from the bar.
  17. It is recommended to have a spotter to assist with the lift off to ensure proper tension in the upper back.
  18. Keep your feet still during the lift and engage your leg muscles by pressing your feet down and contracting your glutes to stabilize the pelvis.
  19. Concentrate on pulling the bar apart or attempting to "bend the bar" to engage the intrinsic stabilizers in the shoulder.
  20. Maintain contact between the glutes, shoulder blades, and the bench throughout the entire movement.
  21. For further insights into benching techniques, Dave Tate's benching bible is a valuable resource to explore.

What is the difference between barbell bench press and chest press?

The fundamental difference between these two exercises is that the chest press is performed using a fixed resistance machine (FRM) in a fixed movement path. However, the bench press is carried out in a non-fixed range of motion with free weights

What muscles are used in the barbell bench press?

Muscles worked by a bench press

  • pectoralis major.  A large, fan-shaped muscle in the upper chest that contributes to the pushing movement that presses the weight against gravity from your chest back to start position.
  • anterior deltoid. The muscles at the front of your shoulders that are involved in the pushing movement.
  • triceps brachii. The muscles located on the back of the upper arm
  • biceps brachii. sometimes known simply as the biceps, is a skeletal muscle that is involved in the movement of the elbow and shoulder. It is a double-headed muscle, meaning that it has two points of origin or ‘heads’ in the shoulder area. 
  • serratus anterior. originates on the top surface of the eight or nine upper ribs. The serratus anterior muscle inserts exactly at the front border of the scapula, or shoulder blade. The muscle has three sections: the superior, intermediate or medial, and the inferior. The function of the serratus anterior muscle is to allow the forward rotation of the arm and to pull the scapula forward and around the rib cage. 

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