Everything you need to know to safely perform this classic chest builder, as well as expert tips to fine-tune your bench press form
Walk into any gym in the world, regardless of its size, location or clientele, and you’ll find they all have one thing in common: there will be a bench positioned underneath a secured barbell ready for the next man to start bench pressing.
It’s not surprising that the bench press is such a popular move. Once you’ve mastered the basic movement pattern you will see rapid progress in how strong you are, as well as size gains to three major muscle groups: the chest, the front shoulders and the triceps.
But if you are new to the gym or new to lifting weights, how do you know if you are ready to take on the bench press? Here’s how.
When Are You Ready To Take On The Bench Press?
First, before you get underneath the bar you need to make sure you have the strength on your chest, shoulders and triceps to manage the weight of the empty bar. The Olympic barbell, which is the standard one used to bench press in most decent gyms, weighs exactly 20kg. That may or may not sound like a lot depending on your weight training experience. If it does, then you need to get up to speed with press-ups first.
Start in the press-up position with your hands underneath your shoulders, your core tight, and your toes together so your body forms a straight line from head to heels. Bend your elbows to lower your chest down to the floor, pause for a second at the bottom position, then press back powerfully to the start (but don’t lock out your arms at the top).
If you’ve never done a press-up before then you need to focus on doing one quality rep at a time, and gradually building up your strength until you can do ten good reps without stopping.
Once you can you are ready for an empty bar bench press (following the form guide below), but only if you have a “spotter” who can stand behind you to assist your lift if you start to struggle. Read on for our comprehensive guide to the bench press to add muscle size and strength across your upper body.
Let’s go through the basics, before we talk about tweaking and improving the move.
Lie flat on your back on a bench.
Grip the bar with hands just wider than shoulder-width apart, so when you’re at the bottom of your move your hands are directly above your elbows. This allows for maximum force generation.
Bring the bar slowly down to your chest as you breathe in.
Push up as you breathe out, gripping the bar hard and watching a spot on the ceiling rather than the bar, so you can ensure it travels the same path every time.
What could go wrong, right? In reality it can be very easy to tear the stabilising rotator cuff muscles around your shoulders that can be difficult to patch up. Prevention is far better than cure, so set your ego to one side and first learn how to perform it safely.