Movement of the Month: Bench Press by Glenn van der Veen

Main muscles worked: pectorals, deltoids, triceps

Capsule descriptionlie on your back, bar at arm’s length, lower it to your chest, then push it up.

The barbell bench press is one of the main exercises to increase upper body strength. The main muscles worked are the pectorals (chest muscles), deltoids (shoulder muscles) and triceps (backside upper arm).

The bench press is done lying on your back on a horizontal bench. Start position: A barbell is held at arm’s length above your chest. Movement: lower the bar to your chest touches your chest and is immediately driven back to lockout.

Positioning

Plant yourself on the bench with your feet, hips,back and head all solidly in position. Avoid stress from your lower back, minimize the space between your lower back and the bench. Bench press with a platform under your feet if the bench is to high. Do not place your feet on the bench because that would reduce your stability.

 

While the bar is at the line of your lower pecs, take a hand spacing that puts your forearms in avertical position when viewed from the side and from your feet. Your elbows should be directly under your wrists.

 

Do not use a thumb less grip because it reduces your control over the bar. Unless you are more experienced in bench press. Grip with your hands equally distanced from the bar’s center. Before a set, know precisely where your hands should be.

 

The “thumbless” grip on the right, and the correct grip on the left.

Performance of the bench press

After you get the bar out of the saddles, pause until the bar is steady at arm’s
length above your chest. Now retract your shoulder blades, i.e., try to pinch them together, and then immediately lower the bar, under control. Take about two seconds for the descent.

Never bounce the bar off your chest. Touch your chest and then press immediately, or pause very briefly on your chest before driving the bar up. In either case, squeeze the bar, tighten up further, spread your lats and press.

In the end position lock out your arms, pause briefly. Keep the bar where it was at the top of the ascent, i.e., somewhere between about the middle of your pecs, and your clavicles.

Inhale while the bar is overhead, hold the breath during the descent, and exhale during the ascent.

The first few inches of the ascent should be verti- cal, or very near to vertical, butnever moving away towards your feet. To be sure that the bar does not move even slightly towards your feet, move it up and slightly back towards your face rather than perfectly vertical. Keep your forearms as vertical as possible during the ascent. Do this by keeping your elbows directly beneath your wrists.

Other tips for the bench press

Use chalk on your hands to improve your grip on the bar, and keep the knurling clean. Then your hands will not slide outwards during a set.

Never turn your head while you are lifting or lowering the bar. If you do, the bar will tip slight- ly, your groove will be ruined, and you could hurt yourself.

Prior to each rep when doing bench presses, be sure that the bar is centered over the pins, and that the distance between the bar and the uprights is the same on both sides.

First work on the form of your bench press before training with your personal best weights. Using half your usual poundage for the reps concerned. The improved form will increase your bench press potential and reduce your chances of getting injured. But if you rush to build your poundage’s, you will destroy the form and start injuring yourself.

An illustration of bench pressing to the upper chest. NEVER DO THIS. It has permanently damaged the shoulders of count- less trainees.

Once you know and can apply good technique in the bench press, drill yourself on a fixed setup and approach-to-the-bar procedure. With the bar already loaded, approach and get positioned on the bench in an orderly, focused, serious and consistent manner.

As seen from the side view of your bench press, get feedback from a training partner or assistant, or record yourself with a video camera. This is critical because the form you think you use is almost certainly not what you actually use.

When applying chalk, cover each hand well, including the area on the inside of your thumb and index finger.

Once you have mastered the new bench-pressing technique, you must still give 100% attention to ensure that you deliver perfect form on every rep you do. Never become overconfident and think that you can deliver good technique even if your attention is not 100%. Even a slight slip of concentration can lead to lowering the bar slightly out of position, or having one hand out of step with the other. Either of these will ruin your groove. This will make the weight feel heavier, make your reps harder, cause frustration, and risk injury.