Bench Press - The Specifics
- Exercise Type - Compound or Multi-Joint
- Primary Muscles Worked - Pectoralis Major (Sternal Origins)
- Secondary Muscles Worked - Pectoralis Major (Clavicular Origins), Triceps Brachi, Deltoid (Anterior)
- Stabilisers - Humerus Stabilisers (Subscapularis, Infraspinatus, Teres Major, Teres Minor)
- Core Stabilisers (Transverse Abdominus, Obliques, Multifidus, Erector Spinae, Quadratus Lumborum), Scapula Stabilisers (Serratus Anterior, Trapezius)
Bench Press - Why Is It So Good
''How much do you bench?"
One of the most common questions asked by weight trainers everywhere. Why? Because to many, it is widely considered the true test of upper body strength. The Bench Press is one of the most popular weigthlifting exercises and is one of the first exercises you will be introduced to as a new trainer. A compound exercise, the Bench Press uses a number of muscle groups including the chest as well as the triceps and shoulders. Good Bench Press form will also help to train neural activation of several major stabilisers including the stabilising muscles of the humerus (arm), the core and the scapula (shoulder blade), which can help to prevent injury from other exercises.
It is a staple of bodybuilders, powerlifters and professional athletes worldwide because of its ability to add mass fast to the chest area. EMG studies show that the flat bench chest press is able to recruit 85% of the fibres in the chest making it one of the top exercises for chest muscle activation. The stability of a barbell is also a great way to teach stabilisation to a beginner trainer and to build up confidence in working out at the gym.
Another benefit of the Bench Press is the number of ways it can be utilised to train for ultimate results throughout the chest. For example, to train for strength and mass heavy weights should be used in conjunction with a low numbers of repetitions. If you are training for for endurance and better muscle tone lighter weights with higher rep count will reap better results. Regardless of your fitness goal it is important to use good form on each set, avoiding injury and gaining ultimate results.
Bench Press - Exercise Workout & Technique
- Make firm contact with your back on a flat bench with your sacrum, head, and shoulder blades. Maintain the natural arch in the lower back throughout the entire movement.
- Pull your shoulder blades together, and hold them there throughout the exercise.
- Take a medium-wide grip on the bar, so that when you lower the bar to your chest, and your hands are wide enough apart so that your forearms point straight up, forming a 90 degree angle with your upper arm. Avoid lowering the arms below this level, or bending the wrists.
- Raise the barbell above you until your arms lock out, as you breathe out. Pause.
- Now bring the weight down as you breathe in, moving the bar in a strict and deliberate manner to the point that it makes contact with the middle of your chest.
- Note that the time it takes to lower the bar should be about twice that it takes to raise it.
- Exhale, and press the bar upwards (without bouncing it off your chest) to fully engage the chest muscles, with the bar stopping at the top, as you contract the chest muscles.
- Repeat this movement for the desired amount of repetitions, and when completed, return the bar back to the rack.
Bench Press - Tips & Safety
- Use a spotter if you are new at this exercise, or to use conservative weights at first until you get a feel for how much weight you can safely use. Using conservative weights will also teach you the correct activation of muscles for the exercise and to teach recruitment of the stabilisers.
- Maintain control throughout the movement and try not to let the bar go out of the desired range of movement where it may drift forward.
- Maintain full control of the barbell at all times, and don’t cheat by bouncing the weight off the chest.
- Avoid gripping too wide which may restrict the range of motion reducing its effectiveness on the chest.
- Avoid gripping too close as this would shift the work from the chest to the triceps.
Bench Press - Alternatives
- Try this exercise with dumbbells for variety, as well as with a variety of incline and decline angles.
- Doing a bench press on an unstable surface such as a Swiss Ball is also another way to add variation to the exercise and to further increase the difficulty of the exercise.
Bench Press - The Final Word
While the Bench Press is a great exercise to build mass for the chest, it is important to know that the range of motion of the Bench Press means that we stop before full contraction of the muscle, which occurs when the hands are closer together. As a result, it is important to supplement the Bench Press with Dumbbell Chest Presses to work the muscle throughout the complete range of motion.