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Fundamental Exercises: Bench Press February 2, 2008

Posted by Matt Brown in Fitness, Strength.
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Simply stated, the bench press is probably the best upper exercise you could possibly do. That’s not to say it’s the only one you should do, but your unlikely to find a better test of upper body strength. If you’ve been in a gym you’ll have noticed that most of the weight lifting equipment is dedicated to this lift. That’s not an accident. The bench press primarily works the pectoralis major, the deltoids and the triceps, effectively targeting half of the major muscles in the upper body. Besides it’s exercise benefits, there’s something appealing about being able to press more weight than anyone else in the gym, and it’s a well established fact that guys love showing off the benefits of this lift, namely a big chest and arms. Unfortunately for some people, weight takes precedent over safety. Not everyone performs this lift with proper technique, which you’d think would be important when lifting a few hundred pounds over your face. So, without further ado, lets jump right into proper bench press technique.

Step 1: Lay down on the bench with you feet planted firmly on the floor. Your butt and your shoulders should be in contact with the board. Depending on which muscle groups you want to emphasize your grip could vary, but a good basic grip is to have you hands slightly more than shoulder width apart. I do not recommend using a false grip, having the thumb besides the fingers rather than over them, due to the risk of the bar slipping from your grasp. Use at you own risk.

Step 2: Raise the bar from the rack, this may require help depending on the weight you are lifting, and bring it to a pause above you. Ensure that your ready to continue, then proceed with the lift.

Step 3: In a slow controlled motion bring the bar down, bringing it to a stop just barely touching your chest at the bottom of the lift. The bar should be positioned so that it more or less lines up with the nipples. Do not bounce the bar off your chest. Not only is this bad for your chest, as if that needs to be sad, but it also lessens the amount of work your muscles need to do in order to get the bar back up. You’re here to get a workout dammit, don’t cheat!

Step 4: After the bar touches your chest, push the weight back up, again in a smooth and controlled manner. If you want a harder workout, pause for a second when the bar touches your chest. It will make it harder to get the bar back up. Raise the bar up until your elbows are locked out. Repeat for as many reps as you want.

I want to stress one point I made at the top of the article. The bench press is a great lift, but it is not, I repeat not, the only lift. To many times I have walked into a gym to see a guy with a massive chest and triceps, but with skinny little legs and no back. There is more to fitness then the bench press. Remember that.

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