How to Beast the Bench Press
‘Weightlifting’ – Such an intimidating word with such a simple meaning.
It is merely the lifting of heavy weights in the form of exercise or athletic competition, yet so many people try to complicate its purpose. It’s supposedly ‘too dangerous’ for women or ‘too difficult’ for the average guy and those are both very unfair stigmas.
With some basic information, pointers and a barbell buddy for added safety, you will be fully capable of navigating your way around the weight room! One of my favorite moves and one that has proven to be very effective in the definition of my arms is ‘The Bench Press’.
What’s A Bench Press?
The bench press has a very literal translation – it is a press that one does while using a bench! (Did I lose you yet?) The movement targets 3 main parts of your upper body – the tricep, the deltoid and the pectoralis muscle (or pecs!). The tricep muscle is made up of the 3 muscles that line the back of your arm and join together at the elbow. The deltoid is the muscle that rounds out the shoulder and your pecs, well those are the muscles that make up your chest of course!
What Are the Different Types of Bench Press Techniques?
The 3 most common ways to bench press are the ‘Incline Bench Press’, the ‘Decline Bench Press’ and the ‘Floor Press’. The incline bench press is pressing from a bench that is at an inclined position, creating more of an emphasis on the shoulder muscles. The decline bench press is pressing from bench that it is in a declined position – this can potentially allow for more weight to be added. The floor press is essentially a bench press sans bench. You complete the movement while on the floor and this can potentially create more emphasis on your triceps.
Barbell Vs. Dumbbell
Among many of your decisions when weightlifting, including how much weight you actually want to lift, will be what kind of weight to use.
Dumbbells are a type of free weights that are highly recommended for beginners. They are safer than a barbell because you can drop them at any time and not run the risk of being trapped under the weight. They also help beginners develop the proper form for each movement as they allow for more range of motion. This is the best way to develop an even distribution of strength in your upper body because each side has to ‘fend for themselves’. If one arm is weaker than the other, you will be able to tell.
Barbells are obviously much bigger in size and therefore allow for more weight to be lifted. It is much easier to progress when lifting with a barbell because you can increase your loads in increments as small as 2.5 lbs (When added to each side that would equal a 5lb increase). And come on, just holding a barbell can make you feel like a badass!
So, What’s the Proper Bench Press Technique?
Weightlifting, like anything in life, comes with some serious risk of injury – but knowing the proper grip, form and technique that are involved will keep risk and injury to a minimum. Like I said before, it’s a good idea to have a gym buddy around whenever you are lifting, in order to ‘spot’ you. They will be right there if you need help setting the weight back on the rack and their encouragement could help you reach a new personal record or ‘PR’!
Bench Press Grip
The biggest thing to remember when gripping the bar is to wrap your thumb around it so that it meets your other four fingers. Apparently there are people who fancy ‘the suicide grip’ (wanna guess how they came up with that name?) which is when you rest your thumb behindthe bar with the rest of your fingers. This means there is no support to keep the weight from falling right out of your fingers and onto you – OUCH!
In regards to the placement of your hands, a general rule of thumb (ha!) is the wider the grip is, the more you will work your chest and a more narrow grip will work your shoulders and triceps. A ‘Close Grip Bench Press’ is when your arms are shoulder width apart and a ‘Reverse Grip Bench Press’ is when your palms are facing towards you, the same way you would hold the bar in a chin-up.
Bench Press Form
BODY: Lay on your back and if using a barbell, roll the bar until it reaches the curve of the ‘J Hook’ (The metal piece that holds the bar on the rack). Then, position your body so that your eyes are directly lined up with the bar. The person spotting you should be able to look down and see the bar shielding your eyesight.
GRIP: Set your hands into whatever your preferred grip is and if you aren’t sure, the standard is to align your arms with the outside of your shoulders. You also want to visualize bending the bar in half, as if you are trying to bring both sides of the bar to meet in the middle of your body – you know, like all the muscley super heros do to break trains and stuff in half! This will encourage you to keep your elbows rounded close to your body. And don’t forget – Wrap those thumbs around that bar, make them kiss your fingers!!
SHOULDERS: When setting up for your lift you want to make sure that your weight is evenly distributed across your back and shoulders. You want to ‘cement’ your upper body to the bench and focus on ‘tightening’ your muscles – you will need all of this strength!
FEET: You may not realize it, but utilizing the lower half of your body can make a huge difference in the amount of weight that you are able to bench press. You want a stable foot stance and if you’re shorter (like me!) and can’t reach the floor, you can add some weights underneath your feet. During your lift, think about driving your feet into the ground and using that strength to push the weight up.
Ok, Now How Do I Bench Press?
Now that you know the proper grip, correct form and choices for weights you are ready to be a bench press beast!
Once in the proper stance, grip and form, tighten your core and remember to keep the weight in your chest and shoulders evenly distributed. Lift the bar straight up and lock out your elbows. Breathe in and hold – always breathe with the weight above you, not when it is close to your body. You shouldn’t need to bring the bar forward – once above your head you should be able to lower the bar to the space between the bottom of your ribcage and your stomach. Press the bar back above your head and visualize pushing the weight away from your body while driving your body into the bench. With the help of your buddy, lower the bar safely back onto the rack.
Look at you – You just did a bench press!! Soon you’ll be upping your weight, increasing your reps and channeling your inner Arnold. ‘Hasta La Vista Arm-Jelly!’