The bench press is one of the most popular weight training exercises; you can find a bench and a barbell at any gym, making it a great skill to learn. Although gym equipment can look intimidating to beginners, especially when there are no instructions on the machines, Fit Societe is here to break it down for you, one exercise at a time.
We will go over basic bench press form and technique in this blog, starting with just the barbell - no weights added.
There are a lot of ways to tweak and perform the bench press; set up and execution of the movement will be based on an athlete's size, flexibility, and of course, control. The main goal, however, is to create tension head to toe. Wait, did I say to toe? Isn't the bench press a chest, arm, and back exercise? Well yes, but in order to create power, we must create tension. If we leave the lower half of our body loose and relaxed, we are eliminating a high percentage of muscle recruitment and drive from the floor. Variations like an arms-only bench are a great accessory, but you're missing out on a lot of power. With this guide, you can learn how to bench press effectively within 3 minutes!
Bench Press Form
Start by laying on your back just under the rack that holds the barbell. Your eyes should be directly underneath the bar looking straight up. Press your body against the bench, with a small arch in your back to create a flat upper surface of your shoulders, see the picture above for reference. Draw your shoulder blades back to keep you from rounding them as you lift, using the picture to the right as a guide. Lastly, make sure your toes are pressed into the floor.
Using an overhand grip, grasp
the barbell with both hands a thumbs distance away from the edge of the knurling. The edge of the knurling is the part of the bar that goes from a smooth to a rough texture. Place your thumbs right on the edge of that rough surface before it hits the smooth, and get a good wrap around the bar, making sure your thumbs are over the top.
Pick the barbell up from the rack and lower it, ensuring that your forearms stay perpendicular to the floor. Lower it to your chest, creating a 45-degree angle from your shoulder to your forearm which will help you refrain from tucking the elbows in or flaring them out. Give a strong press upward and then repeat this process as many reps as you'd like. Once you are finished, place the barbell back on the rack by locking your elbows, and moving the barbell back until it rests on the rack. Congrats, you've mastered bench press basics!
Bench Press Tips
Open your shoulders: When you pull the barbell down toward your chest, your shoulders should be rotating externally, or opening outward.
Bend the barbell in half: While lowering, pretend you are trying to snap the bar in half in a downward motion. This will help with opening your shoulders and keeping proper form.
Create tension: Try to create as much tension as possible within the arms, body, and bar to get a full-body lift.
Pull the barbell apart: When you push back up on the barbell, pretend as if you are trying to pull it apart, splitting it in the middle. This will keep your shoulders back and your chest flat.
See the full bench press tutorial video in our movement library!
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Scott Ryan, BS, CSCS, CF-L1, CF-W, BFRC is a professional coach who specializes in Applied Functional Science, Strength and Conditioning, CrossFit L1, and Olympic Lifting. He attended New England College in New Hampshire obtaining a bachelor's degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis on Biomechanics. He has a passion for injury prevention and coaching, as he was a collegiate athlete who suffered sports injuries. His goal is to get athletes back to optimal shape as well as prevent future injuries.