The bench press is commonly cited as being the king of all upper body exercises, and there is good reason why.
When done correctly, the bench press can quite literally change your entire physique and allow you to put on a ton of muscle and strength, and its popularity is a glaring testament to this.
Let’s jump right into it and take a look at how to perform the bench press, the benefits that come from bench pressing, and some expert tips that can help you speed up progression.
Barbell Bench Press Overview
The barbell bench press is one of the most classic and effective exercises for developing upper body strength and muscle mass.
It primarily targets the chest muscles (pectoralis major and minor) but also engages the shoulders (deltoids) and triceps.
This compound exercise involves lifting a barbell while lying on a flat bench.
It is a fundamental movement in weightlifting and is widely popular among fitness enthusiasts, athletes, and bodybuilders, and if you want to build a huge chest and gain overall upper body muscle mass and strength, then this is one you will want to include in your routine.
Barbell Bench Press Video Exercise Guide
Barbell Bench Press Instructions
To perform the barbell bench press, follow these step-by-step instructions:
Set Up the Bench: Position yourself on a flat bench with your feet firmly planted on the ground. Ensure the bench is stable and properly aligned with the barbell rack.
Grip the Bar: Grasp the barbell with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Your palms should be facing away from you. Ensure a secure grip on the bar, keeping your wrists straight and aligned with your forearms.
Unrack the Bar: Lift the barbell off the rack and hold it directly above your chest with your arms fully extended. This is your starting position.
Lower the Bar: Inhale deeply and lower the barbell in a controlled manner towards your mid-chest, maintaining a slight arch in your lower back. Keep your elbows at about a 45-degree angle to your body, allowing them to naturally bend as you lower the bar.
Press the Bar Up: Exhale forcefully and press the barbell back up to the starting position by extending your arms. Keep your core engaged and focus on contracting your chest muscles as you push the weight.
Repeat: Complete the desired number of repetitions, maintaining proper form and control throughout the exercise.
Barbell Bench Press Tips
Warm-Up: Prior to starting your working sets, it’s crucial to warm up adequately. Perform a few light sets with proper technique to prepare your muscles, joints, and nervous system for the heavier weights.
Maintain Proper Form: Focus on maintaining proper form throughout every bench press set. Keep your back flat against the bench, your feet grounded, and your shoulder blades retracted and squeezed together. This ensures stability and minimizes the risk of injury.
Use a Spotter: When lifting heavy weights, having a spotter is highly recommended. A spotter can provide assistance in case you struggle with the weight or need help reracking the barbell safely.
Gradually Increase Weight: Start with a weight that allows you to perform the exercise with proper form and control. As you become more comfortable and stronger, gradually increase the weight to challenge your muscles and promote progress.
Focus on Mind-Muscle Connection: Visualize your chest muscles working throughout the movement and concentrate on squeezing them at the top of each repetition. This mind-muscle connection can enhance muscle activation and growth.
Incorporate Variations: To target different areas of your chest and add variety to your training, consider incorporating variations such as the incline bench press, decline bench press, or dumbbell bench press into your routine.
What Muscles Do Bench Presses Work?
When it comes to the question of what muscles the bench press targets, the answer is clear: it’s a powerhouse exercise that primarily works the muscles of your upper body.
While the focus is on the chest, the bench press also engages several other muscles, including the shoulders, triceps, and even the core to some extent.
Muscles Worked By A Bench Press
The chest muscles, scientifically known as the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor, are the primary muscles targeted during a bench press.
This exercise allows you to develop a strong and well-defined chest, which can enhance your upper body aesthetics.
While the chest muscles take the lead, the bench press also engages the shoulder muscles, particularly the anterior deltoids. These muscles contribute to the pressing motion and help stabilize the shoulder joint during the exercise.
The triceps, located at the back of your upper arm, play a significant role in the bench press. As you push the barbell or dumbbells away from your chest, your triceps contract to extend your arms fully.
Although the bench press primarily targets the upper body, your core muscles also come into play. The muscles in your abdomen and lower back engage to provide stability and maintain proper form throughout the exercise.
Other Variations of the Bench Press
When it comes to building a strong and powerful upper body, the bench press is a classic exercise that stands the test of time.
But did you know that there are various variations of the bench press that can target different muscles and add variety to your training routine?
Let’s explore some of these exciting alternatives
Partial Bench Press
The partial bench press is a technique where you perform the exercise using a limited range of motion.
Instead of lowering the bar all the way down to your chest, you stop midway and push it back up.
This variation allows you to handle heavier weights, focusing on your triceps and lockout strength.
It’s a fantastic choice for overcoming sticking points and breaking through plateaus.
Changing your grip during the bench press can have a significant impact on which muscles are targeted.
The most common grip variations include the narrow grip, wide grip, and close grip. The narrow grip places more emphasis on your triceps, while the wide grip targets your chest muscles to a greater extent.
Experimenting with different grip widths can help you develop a well-rounded upper body.
Incline Bench Press
The incline bench press is performed on an adjustable bench with an incline of around 30 to 45 degrees.
By adjusting the angle, you shift the emphasis from your chest to your upper chest and shoulders.
This variation is excellent for developing a well-defined upper chest and adding more balance to your physique.
Decline Bench Press
Conversely, the decline bench press is performed on a bench set at a decline of around 15 to 30 degrees.
This variation primarily targets the lower portion of your chest, engaging the pectoralis major and minor muscles in a unique way. The decline bench press can help you achieve a fuller, more sculpted lower chest.
Dumbbell Bench Press
If you’re looking for a versatile alternative to the traditional barbell bench press, then going the bench press dumbbell route is a great choice.
By using dumbbells instead of a barbell, you engage your stabilizer muscles more actively.
Dumbbells allow for a greater range of motion, enabling you to work each side of your body independently.
This variation helps improve muscle balance and can iron out any strength discrepancies between your left and right sides.
What Effect Do Bench Press Variations Have On The Muscles?
The standard bench press, performed on a flat bench, primarily emphasizes the middle and lower portions of the chest muscles. It’s an excellent exercise for overall chest development and strength.
Narrow Grip Bench Press
By bringing your hands closer together on the barbell, the narrow grip bench press shifts the focus from the chest to the triceps. This variation helps target the long head of the triceps muscle, contributing to stronger and more defined arms.
Incline Bench Press
Performing the bench press on an inclined bench with the backrest raised targets the upper portion of the chest muscles. The incline bench press adds more emphasis on the clavicular head of the pectoralis major, helping to develop a well-rounded chest.
Decline Chest Press
The decline chest press involves performing the bench press on a declined bench, with your head positioned lower than your feet.
This variation primarily targets the lower portion of the chest, putting more emphasis on the sternal head of the pectoralis major.
Benefits of a Bench Press
Upper Body Strength: One of the main benefits to bench pressing is increased upper body strength. By regularly incorporating it into your workout routine, you can increase your pushing power and overall upper body strength.
Muscle Hypertrophy: If your goal is to build muscle size and definition, the bench press is an excellent choice. It targets multiple muscle groups simultaneously, stimulating muscle growth and hypertrophy.
Functional Strength: The strength gained from bench pressing carries over into many everyday activities and sports that involve pushing or lifting. Whether you’re moving furniture or competing in sports like football or basketball, a stronger chest and upper body can be a game-changer.
Bone Density: Weight-bearing exercises, such as the bench press, promote bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Regular strength training can help strengthen your bones and improve overall bone health.
Safety and Precautions
While the bench press is a fantastic exercise, it’s essential to be mindful of some common mistakes that people often make.
Avoiding these errors will not only help you get the most out of your workouts but also reduce the risk of injury when doing the bench press with weights. Here are a few key mistakes to watch out for:
Moving Bar Over the Mouth or Neck
One of the most dangerous mistakes is allowing the bar to drift too far towards your mouth or neck.
This not only compromises your form but also puts excessive stress on your shoulders and neck.
Make sure to lower the bar to your mid-chest area while maintaining control throughout the movement.
Improper Grip Width
Using the wrong grip width can limit your strength and hinder muscle engagement.
A grip that is too narrow can strain your shoulders, while a grip that is too wide can put excessive stress on your wrists and elbows.
Aim for a grip width that allows your forearms to be perpendicular to the floor when the bar is at chest level.
Incorrect Thumb Position
Placing your thumbs on the same side of the bar as your fingers (false grip) is a common mistake that compromises your stability and grip strength.
Always wrap your thumbs around the bar to ensure a secure grip and prevent accidents.
Locking Elbows Suddenly
Locking your elbows suddenly at the top of the movement can lead to unnecessary stress on your joints and increase the risk of injury.
Instead, maintain a controlled motion throughout the exercise, keeping a slight bend in your elbows even at the top position.
Pushing Head Into Bench
Many people tend to push their head into the bench during the bench press, thinking it provides stability.
However, this can lead to excessive arching of the back and put strain on your neck. Keep your head in a neutral position, maintaining a natural curve in your spine.
Arching Back and Lifting Buttocks
Arching your back and lifting your buttocks off the bench is another common mistake that compromises your form and reduces the effectiveness of the exercise.
Keep your feet planted firmly on the floor, your buttocks in contact with the bench, and maintain a slight natural arch in your lower back.
Where Can I Get a Bench Press for Home?
If you do not want to pay to go to a gym, you are certainly not alone.
Not only can gyms be expensive, but they can also add an extra step to the process and make things a little more difficult.
Fortunately, it is not too difficult to get a bench press for home.
A quick Google search for “bench press for sale” or “bench press Amazon” will come up with almost every bench press bench on the planet, and from there, you can do some research to decide what’s the best option for you.
However, it is worth noting that you will likely want to get a bench press rack rather than just a bench press bench.
Using a bench alone to do bench presses will make things extremely difficult, and you will struggle to progress once you get to heavier weights due to the fact that you will not easily be able to set your lifts up.
Try It Out
At this point, you know everything you need to know about the bench press exercise to include it in your routine.
We cannot stress just how good of a movement this is – if you could only do one upper body exercise for the rest of your life, this would be your best bet.
With just the bench press alone, you will develop a strong and impressive upper-body, and you would not even be able to recognise yourself if you just stuck to it for a year or more.
Of course, you’ll also want to include other exercises to balance your physique out, but you get the point.
So, why not give it a try?
You won’t regret it.
Bench Press – FAQs
What Is Bench Press Good For?
The bench press is good for gaining overall upper-body strength and muscle.
It is one of the best muscle-building exercises you can perform.
Is Bench Press Good Enough To Build Muscle?
Yes, performing just the bench press is good enough to build muscle.
However, there are many areas that the bench press doesn’t hit, so you will want to include other exercises in your routine to develop a well-balanced and aesthetic physique.
How Much Should I Bench Press a Day?
You generally shouldn’t bench press any more than every 48 hours.
Your body needs time to recover, and if you bench press every day, you might not give your body the time to repair itself and put on extra size and strength.
Is It Good To Bench Press Daily?
It can be good to bench press daily in certain situations (such as powerlifters who do low volume), but for most people it is much better to bench press every other day.
Your body may struggle to recover if you bench press daily.
We hope this article will help you.
The bench press is a phenomenal exercise and should be the base that all of your upper body workouts are built around.
If you master the bench press, you WILL put on size and strength. It’s just that simple.
If you would like more help with the bench press or would just like to check out our other articles, you can do so at MovingForwards.
See you next time.