How to Bench Press: Techniques, Benefits, Variations

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The bench press helps to build more muscles in the upper body. You can do this exercise with barbells or barbells. Do regular chair presses as part of an upper body workout to build strength and build muscle.

Target: Chest, triceps and shoulders

Necessary equipment: Weight bench and dumbbells (or dumbbells)

Level: Intermediate

How to Make a Bench Press

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

If you can’t afford a dedicated ice press rack, you can use a standard flatbed press. You can also do chair presses with dumbbells or barbells. Whichever one you choose, remember to choose the right weight for you.

Lie on a bench, under a barbell rack. Your eyes should be in line with the front of the barbell rack. Your butt, shoulders, and head lie flat on the bench with your spine neutral. Your feet are flat on the floor and relatively wide apart.

If your feet are not comfortable flat on the floor, use blocks or weight plates under your feet rather than on a bench, which reduces stability.

  1. Draw your shoulder blades back so you don’t get pressed with rounded shoulders.
  2. Grasp the bar with your hands, placing your thumbs outside the closed fist. Your arms are slightly wider than shoulder width, and the angle of your upper arms is about 45 degrees from your body.
  3. Remove the barbell from the rack, locking your elbows. (Do not move the bar in an arc from the rack directly to the chest position.)
  4. Inhale while lowering the barbell to your chest, near your nipples.
  5. Exhale as you press the dumbbells up over your chest, extending your arms. Don’t look at the bar — focus on the ceiling.
  6. Lower the bar so that it is directly above your chest. This is the starting position for the next bench press.

Once you’ve completed the desired number of reps, place the barbell on the rack with your elbows in the unlocked position. Move the bar backward gradually until you feel the rack upright, then lower the bar to the rest of the barbell.

Do not try to hit the stand directly. If you slip, you may lose control, which can be dangerous.

Benefits of Bench Press

The bench press is a combination exercise that involves the major chest muscles, the anterior deltoids of the shoulders, and the triceps of the upper arms. It builds strength as well as encourages the growth (hypertrophy) of these muscles.

Gaining muscle is not only desirable for bodybuilders, but it benefits everyone as muscle mass typically declines with age. The muscle bench is a functional exercise that makes it easy to perform everyday activities that require pushing or carrying.

Bench presses can help restore muscle balance for athletes who primarily use pulling muscles. This includes wrestlers, climbers and swimmers. The dumbbell on the bench is also a counterweight lift in the weightlifting sport, the other two being the deadlift and the squat.

If you are training to increase your strength in competition, contact a professional trainer for personalized guidance.

Other variations of Bench Press

You can do this exercise in a variety of ways to better meet your goals and fitness level.

Bench Partial Press Machine

If you have any concerns about shoulder stability, don’t lower the weight so much that the upper arm falls below parallel. While you may not get the benefit of the full range of motion, this variation helps reduce stress on the shoulder area.

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Various handles

Once you have experience with the table press, you can change the grip to work slightly different muscles. For example, a slightly wider grip will increase the efficiency of the pectoral muscles, while a narrower grip will increase the use of the triceps.

Tilt the press

An additional variation involves performing presses when on an inclined bench. Lifting from an incline emphasizes the anterior deltoid muscles of the shoulder.

You can do side presses with dumbbells or barbells. Sit on an incline bench with your weight just above your chest. Press the dumbbell up, toward the ceiling, then lower it slowly to return to the starting position.

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Rejection of bench press

Another option is to do this exercise on a bench, which places more emphasis on the pectoralis major. To perform a rejection bench press, you follow the same basic steps as a standard bench press, just from a rejection position.

Common mistake

Avoid these common mistakes to keep your bench press safe and efficient.

Rod moves across mouth or neck

Make sure the bar’s path is not too low — across the mouth and neck area — when mounting or opening the bar. This means that you should move the weight to and from the rack from an arm-wide position, not as low as your neck and face.

Handle width is not suitable

Your grip on the bar should usually be wide enough so that your elbow joint is at a (minimum) right angle and your forearm is on a perpendicular plane. If your grip is too wide and your elbows stick out too much, you run the risk of injuring your pectoral muscles.

Incorrect thumb position

Another gripe mistake has to do with thumb position. Your grip should be more forehand with your thumbs under the bar and across the tips of your fingers. Do not place thumbs behind bars or buckles below fingers.

Sudden elbow lock

Contrary to some weightlifting safety advice, you maybe “lock” your elbows while performing the chair press. The key to performing this action safely is not to lock the elbow suddenly or too forcefully.

Push head to the bench

Keep your head flat on the bench and feet flat on the floor for stability, but don’t push your head into the bench to assist with lift — tone your neck muscles instead.

Back arch and butt lift

Your butt should stay flat on the bench while pressing. Don’t emulate the powerlifter as arching your back to the point where your butt lifts off the bench. If you do, this can lead to low back pain.

Safety and Precautions

If you have any shoulder injuries, you should avoid this exercise. If you feel shoulder pain while pressing the chair, change the weights and end the movement immediately.

Beginners can benefit from doing weightless presses on the bar to warm up, get a feel for the bar, and learn good form. If you are already lifting higher and therefore the bench is pressing a heavy weight, do so only with the support of the exercise machine.

If pressing heavy weights, using an electric stand is also very good. This type of rack has bars on the sides, which are level with your chest. This way, if your lift fails, the bars will prevent the bar from pressing on your chest.

Start with three sets of 10 reps with a weightless dumbbell. Once you can do this exercise safely and in good form, start adding weight. Each week, add 2.5 pounds to each side of the bar (5 pounds total per week).

Do not add more weight until you can lift your current weight with good form.


Incorporate this and similar moves into one of these popular exercises:

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