A bench press is a great compound exercise that allows you to build the muscles in your chest, core, and arms. If you want to bulk up then it is one of the key exercises you are going to have to get to grips with.
How To Do Bench Press
Choose a weight that you can lift safely.
Then lie flat on your back. Pinch your shoulders together and draw them down your back. This will make your chest puff out a little bit.
Bring the barbell onto your chest and grip it with both hands. You should have your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width and your wrists should be directly above your elbows.
Take a breath in and then push the bar upwards on your next exhale. You should do this slowly. You should be aware of your elbows as you lift, make sure that they do not turn outwards or buckle as you push.
When you reach the apex of the lift, start to slowly bring the bar back down towards you. You should also be doing this movement slowly.
Gently place the bar on your chest or in the barbell holder.
- Tense your core when you are lifting, this will give you extra stability.
- Keep your shoulders still while you are lifting, this will force your pectorals to do most of the work.
- If you feel like your arms or chest muscles are failing then you should stop doing the lift immediately.
- Keep your feet on the floor.
- Tense your abs instead of arching your back if you have lower back pain.
- increases your upper body strength
- improves muscular endurance
- Prepares your upper body to do movements such as push-ups.
- Strengthens and builds all three of the tricep heads (long, lateral, and medial) throughout different ranges of motion during the lift.
- Trapezius (upper back)
Bench Press Variations
Incline Bench Press
When performing an incline bench press the bench must be angled between 45 and 60 degrees. Place your feet firmly on the floor and sit back on the bench with your back resting and your spine straight and neutral.
Hold the barbell to your chest, your hands should be facing forward with the thumb wrapped around the handle. Lift the weight upwards, slightly above your eyes until your elbow is extended.
Slowly lower the bar until it touches the chest, keeping your elbows out to the sides.
The incline bench press works the upper chest and shoulders a bit more than the traditional bench press. It will focus more on the clavicular head of the pec and will work both the anterior and lateral shoulder muscles.
However, It will still give a good workout to the sternocostal head and the triceps.
Narrow Grip Bench Press
The narrow grip bench press is very similar to the traditional bench press, and other than the placing of your hands, the form will stay largely the same.
With the narrow grip bench press, you need to bring your hands closer so they are both above your shoulders respectively.
The narrow grip bench press will need a lower weight than the traditional bench press as the smaller surface area will make it harder to lift.
The narrow grip bench press also trains largely the same muscles as the traditional bench press but has a higher focus on arms. Your triceps have to work more than your shoulders and chest, and it also helps train forearms as well.
Decline Bench Press
For a decline bench press, you need to angle the bench to -30 degrees. You need to slowly lie down so that your legs are above your head, keep your back straight and your spine neutral and we recommend using the stirrups for your feet that most gym benches have.
Hold the bar at chest height with your arms placed slightly wider than your shoulders. Push the weight up slowly until your arms are straight and then slowly bring the weight back down to chest height making sure your elbows are out to the side.
This variation of the bench press will work more with the lower section of your pec and focus on the sternocostal head. It will also give a good workout to the anterior deltoid, as well as the triceps and the clavicular head of the pec.
Bench Press Alternatives
Pushups are a compound bodyweight exercise that is almost the reverse of a bench press. They work the same muscles, however, when doing a pushup you are pushing your body rather than a barbell.
Lat Pull Downs
Lat Pull Downs require a cable machine and work the upper back, arms, and chest muscles. They also work the core as it provides stability while the weights move around.
Pull-ups require a similar set of moves to the bench press. Instead of using a barbell, pull-ups are a compound bodyweight exercise and require a pull-up bar.