How to Do the Bench Press For a Bigger and Stronger Chest

Content of the material

  1. Muscles Worked When Performing the Bench Press
  2. Video
  3. Some Nutritionists Charge Hundreds of Dollars for This Diet “Hack”
  4. Getting The Chest Touch Wrong
  5. 100% Natural Ingredients
  6. Adding more weight safely
  7. What Muscles Does the Bench Press Utilize?
  8. The bench press trains:
  9. TROUBLESHOOTING THE BENCH PRESS
  10. GETTING THE RIGHT FOOT POSITION
  11. FEET TOWARDS HEAD
  12. FEET OUT IN FRONT
  13. BENCH PRESS FOOT WIDTH
  14. SHOULDER PAIN AND FINDING THE CORRECT BAR PATH
  15. DON’T PRESS TO THE NECK
  16. HOW MUCH TO ARCH WHEN YOU BENCH
  17. Arching Too Little
  18. Arching Too Much
  19. SHOULDER BLADE POSITION
  20. SHOULDER BLADE POSITION ISSUES WHEN UNRACKING
  21. SHOULDER BLADE POSITION ISSUES WHEN YOU PRESS
  22. The Most Important Bench Press Tip (Keep Tight)
  23. Common bench press newbie mistakes and how to avoid them!
  24. Bottom lifting up
  25. Making half reps
  26. Keeping your body loose
  27. Wrong positioning
  28. Bouncing off your chest
  29. Final Thoughts
  30. Close grip bench press
  31. HOW TO GRIP THE BAR AND UNRACK IT BEFORE YOU BENCH
  32. 3) THE PROPER BAR GRIP FOR THE BENCH PRESS
  33. BENCH PRESS GRIP WIDTH
  34. AVOID BENDING YOUR WRISTS WHEN YOU PRESS
  35. 4) HOW TO UNRACK THE BARBELL PRIOR TO THE PRESS
  36. FIXING AN UNSTABLE TOP BENCH PRESS POSITION
  37. HOW TO BENCH PRESS: ON THE BENCH
  38. What do they need to do when youre bench pressing a person?
  39. Related questions
  40. How To Increase Your Bench Press By Benching More
  41. Split Your Weekly Bench Sets Into Multiple Sessions
  42. Increase Your Benching Volume
  43. Bench Press Alternatives
  44. Dumbbell Bench Press
  45. Push-Up
  46. How to bench press correctly
  47. Bonus Tips for the Perfect Bench Press
  48. Bench Business
  49. Make Use Of Daily Undulating Periodization To Increase Bench Press
  50. How to Avoid Damaging Your Shoulders

Muscles Worked When Performing the Bench Press

When you are doing the bench press exercise, here are the muscles you are working:

  • Triceps
  • Biceps 
  • Pectoralis major
  • Anterior deltoids
  • Serratus anterior
  • Traps
  • Upper back

The pecs, triceps, biceps, and shoulders will get the most work. The serratus anterior will get stronger, which helps strengthen the core and aids in twisting motions. The traps and upper back will get a secondary workout during the lifting process.

Grip width and elbow placement play a role in how the muscles are activated. We’ll get into how you can target certain parts of the muscle groups in a later section.

Before we get into body position, let’s talk about equipment needed and benefits from performing the bench press.

Video

Some Nutritionists Charge Hundreds of Dollars for This Diet “Hack”

. . . and it’s yours for free. Take our 60-second quiz and learn exactly how many calories you should eat, what your “macros” should be, what foods are best for you, and more.

Take the Quiz

Getting The Chest Touch Wrong

“This could be bouncing the bar off your chest or touching it to your chest too high – or not touching your chest with the bar at all,” says McAuley. “These all have to do with the bottom of the rep as the bar approaches the chest. Very often, a lifter won’t bring the bar all the way to their chest. Make sure to touch your chest on every rep, if you feel you can’t then lower the weight on the bar.

“When you do touch your chest, don’t bounce it off your sternum! Tap your chest then press it up – you should be in control the entire time.

“Finally, make sure you’re touching the bar off your chest, not your collarbones. Unlike most barbell exercises, the bar should not move in a vertical line. Start directly above your shoulders and move downwards in a diagonal line to touch the middle of your chest.”

100% Natural Ingredients

“Natural” doesn’t always mean “better,” but in many cases, natural ingredients are superior to artificial ones for various reasons, including purity, safety, and efficacy.

That’s why all of our ingredients in all of our products come from plant and animal sources, including sweeteners, colors, and flavors.

Adding more weight safely

If you try the bar only, and you can bench press with it comfortably, do 3 sets of 10 for a start on your first day. You can then add 2.5lbs on both sides of the bar when it’s time to bench press again. That will make a total of 50lbs that you’ll be lifting.

You can add 5 pounds to the bar every week. This will look smooth and steady, but you will get to point in the next six months that you will find it hard to lift the weight.

What Muscles Does the Bench Press Utilize?

The bench press is a great movement to have as a p

The bench press is a great movement to have as a part of your strength program, and one move we consider to be a part of the “big 4” basic lifts. 

The other three lifts? 

  1. The Squat
  2. The Deadlift
  3. The Overhead Press

Some of the issues coaches have with the bench press (such as a tight chest creating bad posture) don’t come from benching itself, but come from the bench being one of the ONLY movements in your program, and can disappear when incorporated as a part of a well-rounded strength program.

In other words, don’t JUST train using the bench press.

The bench press is widely known as a “chest&

The bench press is widely known as a “chest” exercise, however, that’s definitely not all it is. 

The bench press trains:

  • Shoulders
  • Triceps
  • Forearms
  • Lats
  • Pecs
  • Traps
  • Rhomboids
  • Plus pretty much every muscle in your upper body

However, the bench press doesn’t JUST use your upper body.

When you bench properly, you use your lower back, hips, and legs as well. Just like our other main lifts (the squat, deadlift, and overhead press), the bench press, while putting an emphasis on specific muscle groups, is a full-body movement.

Think about it – while you’re benching, the rest of your body is not just lying there doing nothing.

Your entire body should be working –  your shoulde

Your entire body should be working your shoulders are pinched together and your lats are engaged, while your back, hips and legs are tight, stabilizing your entire body to create a solid base and help you generate drive from the round.

TROUBLESHOOTING THE BENCH PRESS

GETTING THE RIGHT FOOT POSITION

The foot position when bench pressing is important. It affects how high your chest will reach and how stable your body will be.

FEET TOWARDS HEAD

If you bring your feet towards your head, it may allow you to raise your chest higher. But the closer to your head you bring your feet, the more difficult it is to keep your entire foot on the floor, compromising leg drive. Also, if this forces you to arch your body too far, it can lead to pain and discomfort in the lower back and hips.

FEET OUT IN FRONT

If you put your feet out in front of your knees, it can reduce the arch in the lower back, and you might find it easier to get in position. But the further out your feet are, the more difficult it will be to raise your chest. Also, there’s more of a risk of your feet slipping when you push on the floor with your legs.

How the bench press foot position affects your arc
How the bench press foot position affects your arch.

BENCH PRESS FOOT WIDTH

If you spread your legs and put your feet out to the side, you may find it easier to tighten the muscles in your butt and stabilize your body on the bench. But the further out your feet are, the more open your hips will be, which may cause discomfort.

There is no one-size-fits-all foot position, but you need to be able to stabilize your body and push hard on the floor with your legs when you bench. Try different placements and see what works for you.

For a more detailed look at foot position issues, see Troubleshooting 3: Foot Position.

SHOULDER PAIN AND FINDING THE CORRECT BAR PATH

The bar should move diagonally from over the shoulders to the chest. The bar touches the chest between the nipple line and the pit of your stomach, and the elbows should be kept under the bar. When this goes wrong, it can cause shoulder pain. There are a few common mistakes.

DON’T PRESS TO THE NECK

If the bar touches your chest closer to your neck, you might feel stress around your shoulders. You’ll notice that the elbows flare out to the side when you bench.

Your elbows should be tucked enough that the bar i
Your elbows should be tucked enough that the bar is over the chest in the bottom position.

In this case, try lowering the bar to a point lower on your chest. Your elbow positions will continue to be directly under the bar, and the bar will move diagonally from the shoulders to the chest. When your elbows are naturally tucked, it reduces stress around your shoulders.

HOW MUCH TO ARCH WHEN YOU BENCH

The purpose of the arch when bench pressing is to create a stable position to press from.

Arching Too Little

If you haven’t raised your chest enough, you may not be able to press the bar effectively, even if you are lowering the bar to the right point on your body.When this happens, if you view the bar path from the side, you’ll see that the bar has to move across a greater distance. If this is happening, push your chest out and bring your shoulder blades together before performing your bench presses.

Make sure you raise your chest so that the bar doe
Make sure you raise your chest so that the bar doesn’t have to travel further than necessary.
Arching Too Much

You should arch no further than the point where your butt is still in contact with the bench, and your feet are fully in contact with the floor. Anything further than this is not stable.

However, you should avoid the kind of extreme arch positions you see in bench press competitions when doing your general strength training.

Avoid the extreme arches used in bench press compe
Avoid the extreme arches used in bench press competitions when doing your regular strength training.

High chest positions allow for a shorter range of motion to be used and more weight to be lifted. This is good when competing but a bad idea for your regular workouts. Fuller ranges of motion are better for building muscle, and how much muscle mass you have largely determines how strong you can potentially become.

For a more detailed look at bench pressing with a more optimal bar path, see Troubleshooting 5: The Bar Path.

SHOULDER BLADE POSITION

When you perform the bench press, you may find your shoulder blades coming out of position. On the left, the shoulder blades have moved apart. When this happens, you will likely be unable to keep the chest up posture, and your body will not be as stable on the bench.

Make sure you maintain your shoulder blade positio
Make sure you maintain your shoulder blade position for a stable bench.

SHOULDER BLADE POSITION ISSUES WHEN UNRACKING

If the shoulder blades come out of position when you unrack the bar, check the hook height. If the hooks are too high, your elbows will be extended when you grab the bar. To unrack the bar from this position, you will have to move your shoulders.

SHOULDER BLADE POSITION ISSUES WHEN YOU PRESS

If the shoulder blades come out of position at the end of the bench press, make sure you only press the bar until the elbows are extended. Do not press further from this point by moving your shoulders. You may hear this referred to as maintaining scapular retraction.

If you have any issues with getting the right shoulder blade positioning, see Troubleshooting 6: Shoulder Blade Position and Troubleshooting 7: Practicing Shoulder Blade Retraction.

The Most Important Bench Press Tip (Keep Tight)

If you’ve set up correctly, your entire body

If you’ve set up correctly, your entire body should be tight.

Focus on the following when performing your bench press:

  1. Think of your body as one single unit, not single muscle groups.
  2. Drive your feet into the ground, tighten your entire lower body and core, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and squeeze the bar. You should feel like one solid, single unit.
  3. When you tighten your body, your neck, upper back, and butt should be on the bench (and your feet and heels on the ground).
  4. When you drive your heels through the ground, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and raise your chest to the bar, it will form a small arch in your back – this is natural and what we’re aiming for.
  5. You don’t want to push your lower back into the bench to create a “flat back,” or try to not create an arch. If you have heard people talking about not using an arch in the bench press, they are most likely referring to the extreme arch used by many powerlifters:That is not what we are going for here – that is a
  6. That is not what we are going for here – that is a way to help you lift more weight by reducing the range of motion, and is only safe to look into when you have been benching for a long time and really know what you are doing. For overall strength, we recommend benching with a full range of motion instead of trying to reduce it.

Now, feel how tight your body is? It is very important that you keep this tightness throughout the entire movement.

Common bench press newbie mistakes and how to avoid them!

A lot of beginners make some mistakes while doing bench press and this limits the results achieved from the workout. Check out these common mistakes to avoid:

Bottom lifting up

You can be distracted and let your bottom come up off the bench, but this is totally wrong. Your butt should stay put on the bench throughout your bench press. Many times, people make this mistake when the weight becomes too heavy and there’s a need to drive through the heels.

However, a good way to avoid this mistake is to think about driving up and backwards instead of upwards through your heels. You can also put plates under your feet or lower the weight if you’re struggling with your butt coming up.

Making half reps

You need to make a full range of motion for each rep while performing the bench press. You may see people doing half reps in the gym, but it is important to note that it is totally wrong.

Keeping your body loose

While performing the bench press, your body needs to be kept tight. You might miss a rep if lose tightness. Try to keep your body tight always, even when the weight is light or you’re simply warming up.

Wrong positioning

The best and safest way to move a bar is at a slight curve.

Don’t worry about moving the bar in a rigid vertical line. The starting and ending positions of the bar is above your shoulders. And the middle position should be below your clavicles. Once the bar goes above your shoulders in the middle position, then it becomes too high.

Bouncing off your chest

You’re be making a mistake if you find yourself bouncing the bar off your chest as you come to the bottom part of the lift. Control that bar and just allow it to graze your shirt before pressing it back up.

Final Thoughts

A good bench press alternative either mimics a similar movement pattern as the bench press or engages similar muscle groups, such as the pecs, shoulders, and triceps. Many of the bench press alternatives discussed in this article are exercises that you can also perform in conjunction with a solid bench press program.

Close grip bench press

This bench press variation activates the triceps more than the standard bench press, much like how the diamond push up works the triceps more than standard push ups.

HOW TO GRIP THE BAR AND UNRACK IT BEFORE YOU BENCH

3) THE PROPER BAR GRIP FOR THE BENCH PRESS

  1. Grip the bar about two fist-widths wider than shoulder-width.
  2. Make sure your grip is even. Both hands should be equally spaced from the center of the bar. You can check the positions of your hands relative to the knurling of the bar to confirm this.
  3. Grab the bar firmly in your hands.

BENCH PRESS GRIP WIDTH

We want a grip width where the forearms are roughly perpendicular to the bar when lowered to the chest.

A grip width two fist-widths wider than shoulder-width works well for most people. Then try widening it little by little. Each time you widen your grip, perform the movement. Choose the grip width where you feel you can exert the most force.

AVOID BENDING YOUR WRISTS WHEN YOU PRESS

On the left, the wrist is too bent. The right show
On the left, the wrist is too bent. The right shows how the grip should look.

If the wrists bend too far, it can cause pain and discomfort or negatively affect your ability to press hard. Here are four ways to fix this:

  1. Try gripping the bar deeper in your hands. When you do this, the bar will naturally rest closer to the base of your palm. This may lead to less bending of the wrist and soften the pain and discomfort.
  2. When you grip the bar, try turning your hands so your fingers point inward.
  3. Grip as hard as you can. Sometimes this reduces the stress on the wrists.
  4. Consider using wrist wraps. This will physically limit the bending of the wrists. You want them to be tight, but be careful not to make them so tight that your hands go numb.
Bench press grip fix – try turning the hands
Bench press grip fix – try turning the hands inward.

For more detail on learning the right grip position, see Troubleshooting 2: The Grip.

4) HOW TO UNRACK THE BARBELL PRIOR TO THE PRESS

When you grab the bar, make sure your shoulder blades are pulled back together. Then take the bar out of the rack.Make sure you press the bar straight up to clear the hooks. Lockout your elbows.Keeping your elbows extended, bring the bar forward directly over your shoulders and hold it in a stable position.

FIXING AN UNSTABLE TOP BENCH PRESS POSITION

If you find that the bar doesn’t feel stable in the top position, make sure your body is in a stable position on the bench. Work your way through the setup checklist in section two above.

Pay particular attention to your chest position. If your chest is not raised, your entire back will likely be in contact with the bench, which is less stable. If you are raising your chest properly, there will be a space between your lower back and the bench.

Raise your chest to create an arch. This is a more
Raise your chest to create an arch. This is a more stable bench press position.

Also, make sure the bar is held directly over your shoulders. If it is over your chest, it will be pulled toward your feet; if it’s over your neck, toward your head.

If you have any issue with bar stability in the top position, see Troubleshooting 4: Unstable Top Position.

HOW TO BENCH PRESS: ON THE BENCH

Finally, it’s time to get on the bench and look at your starting position. We’re not benching yet, but we are getting closer.

Again, I want you to focus on aligning yourself perfectly into a position that allows you to maximize performance while minimizing risk.

So, go ahead and sit on the bench…

What do they need to do when youre bench pressing a person?

Apart from being fearless, and very comfortable with you having your hands all over them, you really need to select someone who is light, compact and has good muscle tone.

The person must hold their body completely firm and rigid when you go to lift them. Remember you’re used to lifting a solid iron bar, not a stick of warm plasticine, so if they don’t make themselves rigid then your going to struggle to lift them at all.

Related questions

Which muscles does the bench press build? The bench press is a so called ‘compound movement’ that targets several muscle groups. The muscle groups targeted by the bench press are;

  • Chest
  • Triceps
  • Shoulders

However the upper back, abs and legs are also used to stabilize the movement.

Is the bench press the best exercise to build chest muscles? While the chest press is a great upper body strength and mass builder, by itself you might not get the best results for chest. For optimal chest muscle growth it’s better to add in other exercises like dumbbell press, cable fly, dips and the pec deck.

How To Increase Your Bench Press By Benching More

So, how can you best do this?

Split Your Weekly Bench Sets Into Multiple Sessions

Well, first of all, you can start benching more often by splitting up your weekly bench sets into multiple sessions. So rather than performing 6 sets of bench press on chest day once a week, split this up into 2 or 3 days per week. You can do so by using the following upper/lower or full body splits, for example. Increase Your Benching Volume

Increase Your Benching Volume

Then, in addition to adding in extra bench days, you can also gradually increase your benching volume from where it’s at right now. So let’s say you’re currently doing 6 sets of bench press per week spread across 2 upper body workouts per week. What you can do to speed up your strength gains is to add another 1-2 more sets of bench press every week. Eventually, add an extra bench day to fit in the added sets.

What about how many sets to aim for? Based on the previous bench volume research I went through it seems that 5-9 sets of bench per week already provides a significant boost in strength gains. And going up to 10-15 weekly bench sets provides a further slight boost.

Therefore, what I’d recommend is to build up to roughly 5-9 sets per week. And increase it further to 10-15 weekly sets gradually. That is if your body is still recovering well and you’d like to really focus on maximizing your bench press strength.

That said though, you do need to ensure that you’re not overtraining your joints. You’ll need to manage the volume and intensity of these bench sessions and your other workouts appropriately, which is where the next tip comes in handy. 2) Vary Your Rep Range

The next thing you can do to increase your bench press faster is to mix up your rep range. You can do so by varying your bench volume and intensity as opposed to just using the same rep range and intensity week after week indefinitely.

Bench Press Alternatives

Below are two bench press variations that do not include a barbell, which can increase unilateral strength and hypertrophy or add variety to your training program.

Dumbbell Bench Press

The dumbbell bench press allows for a greater range of motion, stimulates unilateral development, and can better accommodate your personal movement patterning if you find the barbell bench uncomfortable.

Push-Up

The ability to perform push-ups is critical for bench press performance. If you can’t even push your own body weight off the ground, you’re likely to have little success working with a heavy barbell. Further, the push-up can be a great way to take your training back to basics if you’re struggling with a plateau

You can also chuck in a few sets of push-ups between your working sets on chest day to introduce more total fatigue. They’ll also keep your form fresh and polished as you work through sets on the bench itself. 

How to bench press correctly

To perform a barbell bench press, load the bar up with the weight plates you would like to use and secure both sides with the spring collars. Both sides of the bar have the same amount of weight on it.

Lay down on the weight bench with your head resting under the bar, feet on the ground. Place your hands on the bar, a bit further than shoulder width apart. Use an overhand grip (palms facing towards the feet) and engage your core. You want your feet to dig into the floor a bit, make sure they are firmly pressed down before you lift.

As you exhale, push the bar up off the rack and extend your arm fully. Inhale as you lower the bar down to your chest, tucking your elbows in slightly. Come close to the chest as you lower the bar, then as you exhale, pressing the bar up again.

The best way to activate your pecs is to lower the bar slowly (roughly 3 seconds) and then press it up hard. This method will increase the ‘muscle-under-tension’ time, activating the pecs and the triceps more efficiently.

Be careful how you hold the bar in your hands: your fist should be pointing upwards and be in line with your forearm, also pointing right up. If you let it fall back, the weight will put a lot of pressure on your wrists.

As always, form is more important than the amount of plates on the bar and you will see results sooner by applying good technique than if you tried to up the weights for every session.

Get someone to spot you when you bench press

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Bonus Tips for the Perfect Bench Press

As promised, here are some bonus tips that can help you get the most out of your bench press. 

First, know that each bench is not one size fits all. You want to make sure that the bench is at least as wide as your shoulders are. If it’s not wide enough, you won’t have the stability you need to lift properly. If it’s too wide, then your arms won’t be able to go through the entire range of motion.

Another thing about your setup to consider. There are different bar thicknesses and flexion. As a beginner, a thicker bar will be more comfortable for you to hold.

You also don’t want a bar that’s too rigid. Just a bit of flex in the bar will help cushion the joints once you start adding on weight. If you’re at the gym, you may not have a choice but consider this if purchasing your own setup.

If you notice that one arm is stronger than the other (usually your dominant arm), focus on one-arm exercises.

Work the weaker arm more to even out your strength using dumbbells, kettlebells or a cable machine. Then you’ll be able to lift heavier and bust through any plateau on the bench press.

Remember, you’re not going for speed here, you’re going for perfection. Having the right form will help keep you safe when you start adding more weight to the bar. Rest as needed between sets and don’t give up.

Bench Business

The bench press is all it’s cracked up to be, and then some. There’s a reason you see it performed in powerlifting competitions and the NFL Combine alike. There are few better uses for the barbell than getting horizontal and blowing your pecs up with a heavy set (or two, or five). 

If you’ve been on the fence about it, it’s probably time to get on the bench instead. Your strength, and chest, will thank you. 

Make Use Of Daily Undulating Periodization To Increase Bench Press

And the best way to vary your rep range for strength improvements seems to be with something called daily undulating periodization (DUP). Which simply involves changing your rep range and intensities every single bench workout but in an organized fashion. 
And illustrating the effectiveness of this method is a paper from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning research, which compared the effects of:

  1. Sticking to the same rep range for a month at a time before switching it up versus
  2. Switching up the rep ranges for every bench workout…

…In well-trained lifters.

After 12 weeks, despite both groups putting in the exact same amount of work towards their bench press, the DUP group experienced exactly double the strength gains when compared to the other group. 
And other papers have shown similar results like this as well. With DUP on average across these studies leading to roughly 26% faster bench press gains than when it’s not implemented.

Suggesting that if you want to increase your bench press as quickly as possible, it would likely be wise to incorporate a different rep range during each of your bench sessions.

How to Avoid Damaging Your Shoulders

We asked Dan Roberts, former athlete and trainer to film stars, models and other PTs, what to do if you’re worried that bench pressing is ruining your shoulders.

(Image credit: Unknown)

The classic answer would be to do more pulling movements – face pulls and pull-aparts especially – but that’s not the whole story. If you’re developing a hunch, then focus on correcting the bench-press movement itself, so that you can do it damage-free.

Try this: lie on a foam roller so that it’s running down the length of your spine. Focus on “pinching” it with your shoulder blades, so that you almost feel as if you could grip it and pull it off the ground, then get a spotter to pass you a pair of fairly light dumbbells – about 50% of what you’d usually bench. Use them to do a couple of sets of five, and this will “cue” your shoulders into the right position for the rest of your bench session.

Additional reporting by Scott Blake (@Scott_Blakey)

Tags