Bro Basics: How to Bench Press

Welcome back to Bro Basics, a series that covers exercises that are popular and can be helpful but are often done improperly and shows the broader function of exercises and how to perform them correctly.

Bros do a lot of isolation moves like the exercises we’ve covered in this series so far: the triceps extensionthe bicep curlsand the lat pull down. When they do one of the main “big four” lifts, it’s usually the bench press.

The bench press is popular with bodybuilding brothers and serious powerlifters because it is an exercise that produces both functional and aesthetic results. Additionally, it provides a quick (if not comprehensive) measure of someone’s overall strength. Guys enjoy asking each other, “How much is the bank?”

If you want to bench more tonnage, you need to know more about this lift than how to put more plates on the bar; you have to learn to bank efficiently. We’ll cover that below, as well as much more on the basics of this mother of all siblings.

What muscles does the bench press work?

The bench press primarily works the pectoralis major (chest), anterior deltoids (front of shoulders), and triceps.

The fact that he works those last few muscles allows him to help you build big weapons. As we discussed in our article on triceps extensions, the triceps muscles make up the majority of the circumference of your arm. If you want big arms, you have to exercise them. You work your triceps muscles on the bench press during the lockout portion of the lift.

In addition to the chest, shoulders, and triceps, the bench press also works the forearms and lats. It’s a great all-around exercise for the upper body.

Why do the bench press?

You get a lot for your money. As mentioned above, the bench press works several large muscles in your upper body, particularly your chest. So you get a lot for your money with a single lift. If you want to build upper body strength and size, the bench press will help you do that.

It helps give you that masculine V-shaped torso. This is, without a doubt, one of the main reasons why men bench press. Among the physical traits that make men sexually attractive, the V-shaped torso (large muscles in the chest, shoulders, and back that tapers to a narrower waist) is arguably king supreme. To increase the size of the top of the v, you need to work your shoulders, chest, and back. The bench press does that.

It’s fun. The bench press is a fun exercise. You are lifting a lot of weight on your face while lying on a bench. If you do not lift correctly and safely, you could be seriously injured or even killed. That element of risk gives the bench press a bit of a manly thrill.

How to bench press

Setting up your equipment

J-cups are set up so that when you grip the bar, your elbows are slightly bent.

If you’re using a bench with built-in uprights, a setup you’ll find in most commercial gyms, setting up the equipment for the bench press is a no-brainer. Simply place the bar on the studs and you’re good to go.

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If you’re working out at home in your garage gym, you’ll likely be using your power rack for upright support, so you’ll need to think about the optimal height to position the J-cups so you can get into your starting position correctly. bench press and dismount the bar.

You want to position your cups in a J-shape on your power rack so your arms are slightly bent when you grip the bar.

If your J-cups are too high, your arms will be straight when you grip the bar. To get the bar out of the J-cups, you’ll need to shrug your shoulders forward or lift your butt off the bench. This, in turn, will get you out of the proper position for an efficient bench press.

If the J-cups are too low, your arms will be too bent when you grip the bar. Pulling the bar out of the J-cups will require you to do half a rep of the bench press and will likely put you out of position to bench efficiently.

So position the J-cups so that your arms are in the Goldilocks position when you grip the bar: not too straight and not too bent.

Lie on the bench, eyes an inch in front of the bar

Lie down on the bench and slide up or down so your eyes are about an inch in front of the bar when you look up at the ceiling. This position will prevent the bar from hitting the J-cups when you push it up.

flat feet on the floor

Place your feet flat on the floor so that your knee forms a 90-degree angle. It’s okay if the knee angle is slightly acute. This foot position will give you the stability you need to bench press safely and allow you to use your feet to push off the ground as you raise the bar.

Some people like to place their feet back so they are closer to their hips and create a very acute angle with the knee. To achieve this sharpness, people often just have their toes on the ground. They do this because it helps arch the lower back. While, as we’ll discuss in a moment, you want your back to arch a bit as you lift, this foot placement creates too much arch, causing your butt to come off the bench and leading you to bridge your overhead press. banking. Not only would this be illegal in competition, but you’re cheating yourself by working every muscle involved in this lift.

If your legs are too short to lay flat on the floor, you can place plates under your feet.

grab the bar

Hold the bar so your hands are about a hand’s width from the break in the knurling in the middle of the bar. An easy way to check for proper hand placement is to make sure your little fingers are close to the first grip mark on the bar.

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As you grip the bar, turn your hands slightly inward so the bar sits in your palm.

Squeeze the bar with your hands and wrap your thumbs around the bar.

Don’t use a thumbless grip! It’s called the “suicide grip” for a reason. If the bar slips in your hand, there’s no thumb in the way to keep it from slipping out of your hands and crashing into your face or chest.

Thumbs around the bar at all times when you’re bench pressing.

Put the bow on your back

When most people bench press, they lie down with their entire back flat on the bench. This is incorrect.

You want a bit of an arch in your back so there is some space between your lower back and the bench, while your upper back and butt stay in contact with the bench.

The rear arch does a couple of things.

First, reduce the range of motion of the bench press. When you don’t arch your back and therefore don’t bench while your back is flat and your chest is lower, you have to push the bar higher. When you arch your lower back, your chest rises, shortening the bar’s travel.

Second, the lower back arch puts your shoulders in a position to generate more force when you bench press.

Setting the bow on the back is challenging for beginners, so it may take a little practice to get it right.

With your hands gripping the bar, imagine yourself trying to pinch the vinyl or leather of the bench between your shoulder blades. This will cause you to retract your shoulder blades, causing your chest to puff out.

You want to keep your shoulder blades tight throughout the lift. This becomes difficult to do as the weight increases or you do more reps. But it is essential to ensure an efficient bench press.

To add a bit more to the arc, use leg drive. We’ll talk more about the leg drive here in a bit, but during setup, think about pushing yourself back off the bench with your legs. Doing this will strengthen your bow. You don’t really want to move back on the bench; just use this as a physical cue for the correct position.

Move the bar to the starting position

With your hands gripping the bar and your back arch tight, you’re ready to lift the bar out of the J-cups and move it to the starting bench press position.

Straighten your elbows. This will bring the bar out of the J-cups. Keeping your elbows straight and locked, move the bar forward until it’s directly over your shoulder joint. This is the starting position of the bench press or lockout position (what it looks like shown above).

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Be sure to perform the leg drive at this point by pushing yourself back off the bench with your legs. You want to maintain this leg drive throughout the lift.

Lower the bar to your sternum

Perform the Valsalva maneuver.

Keeping your wrists straight, lower the bar to your chest.

When most guys bench press, they lower the bar down so that the bar touches their upper chest. This will prepare you for shoulder impingement and is also inefficient.

Instead, lower the bar and touch it somewhere near your sternum. Where the sternum touches depends on the anthropometry of your body and the width of your grip. Lowering the bar towards the sternum will result in a diagonal bar path. It will also make your elbows slightly in front of the bar when the bar touches your chest.

You want the bar to lightly touch your chest. Don’t let it bounce off your chest. Imagine that you have a piece of glass in your chest and you want to hit it with the bar but not break it.

I like to pause for about a second with the bar on my chest instead of just tapping and coming back up.

Continue to drive your legs forward and continue to perform the Valsalva maneuver.

Push the bar up and back to the starting position

Push the bar up and back to the starting position with the bar over the shoulder joint. Again, this will result in a slightly diagonal bar path. For many beginning bench lifters, this barbell path is counterintuitive; they want to push the bar up.

Some cues I use to help me keep the bar path up and back are “eyes” and “elbows.”

“Eyes” reminds me to push the bar towards my eyes.

“Elbows” reminds me to keep my elbows in. Keeping your elbows in will help keep the trajectory of the diagonal bar up. I have a tendency to let my elbows flare out when I’m pushing the bar up, especially when things get heavy, and this results in a bar path that goes up but not back.

Take a deep breath; Perform Valsalva; Repeat

After completing one rep, take a deep, cool breath, perform the Valsalva, and repeat the prescribed reps.

Bench Press Safety

The bench press can kill you. It’s the only lift where the bar is directly over your throat and vital organs in your upper body, and there’s no escape if you miss the lift.

Because the bench press can potentially kill you, you need to take extra precautions to ensure your safety during the lift. One such precaution is to use a spotter.

But there is a right and wrong way to spot someone on the weight bench. Check out our guide on how to spot someone on the bench press for more details.

If you don’t have someone who can position you on the bench press, follow these four safety rules so you can bench press alone and live to tell the story of your legendary PR.

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