Bench Press

Bench Press

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The third of the ‘big three’ exercises. Squats, Deadlifts and Bench Press are the heaviest lifts that you can do. The Bench Press is a compound exercise that bodybuilders and power lifters use to build strength and muscle in their chests. However, you don’t have to be a power lifter to feel the benefits of the bench press. You can build a much bigger chest if you bench press regularly; and a stronger one too!

What muscles does the bench press work out?

The question of what muscles does the bench press work out is one that is asked constantly. Almost every time I’m in the gym I overhear novice lifters talking about what muscles the bench press works. The Primary muscle the bench press work is the Pectoral muscles (or pecs for short). These are the muscles in your chest. The other primary muscles that are engaged when bench pressing are the Triceps and your core muscles.

Secondary muscles that the bench press work out are smaller stabilising muscles. Most notably the anterior deltoids (shoulders), rhomboids and finally the Latissimi dorsi (Lats). The lats are an important part of the bench press because you need to squeeze them together to keep balanced and keep the pressure off the rotator cuff to avoid injury. The bench press work out the forearms as well as basically every muscle in the upper body. SO YEAH IT’S IMPORTANT!

Form

  1. Getting the form right is important. If you don’t then it can have serious effects on your shoulders and rotator cuff. Trust me, you don’t want to screw them up.
  2. Lie down on the bench with your back flat on the bench.
  3. Squeeze your lats together and bring your shoulders back. Like you are trying to hold a pencil with your back muscles.
  4. Arch your back slightly by bringing your bum back on the bench.
  5. Plant your feet flat, firmly on the floor and engage your core. Keep it locked for the whole movement.
  6. Reach up and put your hands on the bar. The hand position is different for most people but aim for slightly wider than shoulder width.
  7. Use a proper grip. NO THUMBLESS GRIP. Your grip should be strong with the bar supported in your palm. Try not to let your wrists bend back.
  8. Inhale a deep breath and engage your entire core. Your body should be solid.
  9. Bring the bar down towards your chest in a controlled way.
  10. Your arms should be at around a 75 degree angle to your body. If you flare your elbows out you will injure your shoulder and rotator cuff. Squeezing your lats together should help with this.
  11. Let the bar touch your chest.
  12. Force the bar back up in an explosive but controlled manner. Don’t allow your shoulders to stretch forward during the movement. keep them back and keep your lats tight.
  13. Force the weight up until your elbows are locked.
  14. Re rack the weight after your last rep. Do not try to re rack during the rep.
  15. when re racking try to aim for the uprights and not the hooks.

5 Beginners Mistakes to Avoid

1.Hips Off The Bench – Your hips should be firmly attached to the bench. If you raise your hips off of the bench you are risking injury in your lower and mid back. raising your hips also reduces the power you can get into the bench press. Bonus tip: Keep your head, upper back and hips on the bench at all times.

2. Bouncing the Bar Off Your Chest – Lifting weight is all about control. If you are bouncing the weight off of your chest then you are not in control. This is painful when the weight gets high and its not activating your chest as much as keeping a controlled motion all the way down and all the way up.

3. Having Your Spotter Do All The Work – You can absolutely use a spotter but don’t rely on them for every rep. You wont make any gains if you’re not the one lifting the weight. So check your ego at the door and get ready to lift weight that you can actually handle.

4. Shoulders Forward – If you want to actually see any real gains in your chest then you need to make sure that is what you are training. If you let your shoulders creep forward then your chest is hidden behind them and is not activated. Do we want this? No. Keep your shoulders back and down and keep those lats squeezed together.

5. Range of Motion – Partial reps can help with fine tuning the muscles when they are bigger but if you want to train your chest to get bigger then you must use a full range of motion. For the bench press this is from your chest all the way up until your elbows are locked.

Variations

Close Grip Bench Press

The Close grip bench press targets the triceps more than the regular medium grip press. Because of this, expect to bench 20% less with close grip than you do regular.

The close grip bench press is also really handy if you have shoulder issues that mean you can’t do the regular bench press. Keeping you hands close keeps your shoulders out of harms way. This isn’t a substitute for the regular bench press but if your shoulders are hurt then it is much better than doing no bench press.

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