The Bench Press is the foundation for nearly all athletes' muscle-building programs. It is one of the fundamental exercises for developing strength, size and power in the upper-body pushing muscles—the chest, triceps and anterior delts (front area of the shoulders). What makes the Bench Press so great is that multiple joints work in unison to press the bar off the chest, similar to any pressing or blocking movement performed in a sport.
Quite often many athletes—both young and experienced—perform the Bench Press incorrectly. This reduces the effectiveness of the exercise and raises the risk of injury. Below are the five technique tips you should always consider when performing the Bench Press.
Points of Contact
You must maintain five primary points of contact throughout the entire exercise to ensure stability and safety. Make sure your feet are fixed on the ground and your head, shoulders and butt are firmly positioned on the bench.
Use a grip that is slightly wider than shoulder-width. However, you can adjust this based on your arm length. Simple physics tells us that athletes with longer arms should have a wider grip than those with shorter arms. The closer your hands are to each other, the more the lift focuses on your shoulders and triceps, preventing you from lifting heavy weight and challenging your chest. As you widen your grip, you engage the pecs.
Once the bar is lifted from the rack, it is not a race down. Make it a slow and controlled descent to your chest. Touch the bar to your chest, but do not bounce it. Finally, drive the bar up as quickly as possible. Make sure to keep your elbows close to your sides throughout the entire movement and maintain your five points of contact.
It's best if your head and eyes are fixated during the entire exercise, so focus on a specific point on the ceiling. This will help you concentrate on the task at hand.
As with all lifts, proper breathing is an essential component of the exercise. Inhale during the downward phase and exhale on the upward phase to help complete the rep. Do not hold your breath, since this can increase fatigue and even cause blood vessel damage.
See proper Bench Press form in action by checking out Dwight Howard's Bench Press.
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