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Bench Press: How-to, useful tips, Common mistakes + FAQ

Nice old-fashioned bench press. An exercise is known as one of the best for building strength and mass. The exercise is performed by recreational gym-goers, avid strength athletes, bodybuilders, powerlifters, and everything in between.

The bench press is often also called after its English name: the bench press. But what exactly is bench press? In a nutshell, it is a bar with weight pushing away from your chest, while you yourself lie on a bench. Further on in this blog, you will find a step-by-step plan on how to perform the exercise correctly.

Most famous exercise

The exercise belongs to the compound exercises. A compound exercise is a movement in which you need multiple joints and muscle groups to perform the exercise, such as a squat or deadlift. This is in contrast to an isolation exercise, which targets only one joint and muscle group. It is also often seen as a gauge of one's strength. 

The question 'how much can you bench press?' will therefore not sound strange to someone who regularly goes to the gym.

bench press chest workout

Which muscles are used during the bench press?

As already mentioned, the bench press belongs to the compound exercises, and several muscle groups are put to work hard during the movement. The first and of course the most logical are the pectoral muscles. After all, you push a barbell away with your chest during the bench press.

Your pecs aren't the only muscles that need to work hard. The triceps in your upper arms also play a big role when performing the bench press. Especially in the last part of the exercise, the triceps are often used to stretch the arms.

The shoulder muscles are also used to perform this exercise correctly. Since your shoulders are often more sensitive to injuries than other muscle groups, it is very important that you perform the exercise properly.

Below you will find an explanation about how you can bench press safely and correctly. Use this as a guideline to reduce the risk of injury and to perform the exercise as efficiently as possible.

How do you bench press? The explanation

The steps below ensure that you can perform the bench press correctly. An explanation like this is very useful to start with. If you then want to further perfect your performance of the bench press, you can, for example, film it yourself in order to analyze where there are areas for improvement. In addition, you can of course also enlist the help of an instructor at the gym or a personal trainer.

  1. Lie down in the starting position

    Make sure the barbell is at a comfortable height so that you can easily lift it off the rack. Lie on the bench and grab the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width. Put your feet firmly on the floor and push your shoulder blades down and together. This should create a slight concave curve in your lower back. Now lift the barbell off the rack and keep your arms straight.

  2. Lower the barbell

    Tighten your upper body, buttocks, and legs well. Take a deep breath and hold it. Now lower the bar in a controlled manner until it touches your chest at the height of the bottom of your chest. Make sure your upper arms come out at an angle of about 45 degrees to your torso. Are your arms closer to your torso? Then grab a wider grip. Are your arms further from your torso? Then take a narrower grip.

  3. Push the barbell up

    Then push the weight up in a controlled manner as you exhale. Avoid bouncing the bar off your chest to avoid using momentum. In principle, you should be able to briefly stop the barbell on your chest.

  4. Repeat

    Repeat the above steps for the desired number of reps.

It can feel very strange, especially in the beginning, to bench press. Therefore, do not increase your weight too quickly, but make sure you become familiar with the exercise and then build up the weight in small steps. You will gradually notice how the bench press feels best for you.

Most common mistakes

The bench press is one of the most performed exercises, but also one of the most difficult to really master. Many people in the gym can be caught making one or more mistakes. Wondering if you can bench press flawlessly? Check out the most common mistakes below and avoid making them yourself.

  1. Using Momentum Using
    momentum is probably the most common mistake made during the bench press. Many a person is guilty of it; bounce the barbell on the chest at the bottom of the movement. It looks like you can lift more, but in fact, you shorten the time under tension and thus limit the stimulation of your pectoral muscles. Try to prevent this by performing the lowering movement in a calm and controlled manner. In principle, you should be able to briefly stop the bar on your chest. Can't you do this? Then you are probably using too much weight.
  2. Overusing Shoulder Muscles
    Another common mistake while bench pressing is overusing the shoulder muscles. The top part of the pushing motion is often the hardest, causing people to use their shoulders. They often push their shoulders forward or pull them up as with a shrug. This can lead to overloading of the shoulders and ultimately result in nasty injuries. Therefore, push your shoulder blades in during the entire exercise and pull your shoulders towards your buttocks, as it were. This should give your lower back a slight concave curve.
  3. The wrong angle of the upper arms
    An incorrect angle of the upper arms in relation to the upper body is also common. Most people keep their elbows level with their shoulders, overusing the shoulder muscles. Other people, on the other hand, keep their elbows very close to their torso, putting much of the load on the triceps. They are basically doing a close grip bench press with this. In both cases, the chest muscles are not optimally stimulated. Typically, your upper arms should form an angle of about 45 degrees with your torso.

Bench Press FAQ

Do you still have some questions about bench press that are not completely clear or not covered in the above text? Here you will find a selection of some frequently asked questions about this exercise. Is your question not listed, but would you like an answer? Let us know and maybe we'll add your question to the overview!

How to improve bench press?
In order to improve your bench press, of course, you need to know what you could improve. A useful way to do this is to film some of your sets so you can see where your technique can be improved. You can also show this video to a trainer or specialist in the field of bench press. These people can probably also help you improve your technique.
What is the bench press good for?
Bench presses are good for a lot of muscles. The exercise mainly targets your chest muscles but also strengthens your triceps and shoulder muscles. It is a good exercise to increase both your strength and muscle mass.
Is 100kg bench press a lot?
Believe it or not, the question of whether 100kg of bench press is a lot is often asked. Of course, this depends on many different factors, such as your body weight or how long you have been training for. This makes 100kg of bench press a lot for some people, but not for others. Try first to be able to press your own body weight, then you are at least a step in the right direction!
How deep bench press?
The aim of deep bench presses is to lightly tap the chest with the bar. This is an obligation in powerlifting, but it is of course not a must for regular gym visitors. How deep you should bench press is therefore entirely up to you, but usually, the aim is to be able to touch your chest with the barbell. This way you make the most complete movement possible.
Why bench press?
Why you should bench press is very simple. Well, of course, you don't have to, but why would you skip an exercise that is good for your mass, strength, and also looks badass. So, why bench press? Therefore!
Shoulder Pain With Bench Press, Now What?
Shoulder pain with bench presses is unfortunately a very common ailment. If you experience shoulder pain, it is best to stop the exercise for a while. Please try again a week later. If you still experience pain or pain again, you can try to take a longer period of rest. If it still doesn't go away, you can visit a physiotherapist. There is a chance that you really have an injury in your shoulders. Shoulder pain on bench presses can also come from the execution. Have someone who has a lot of experience take a look at your performance.
The bench press or dumbbell press?
There are people who wonder whether they should opt for the bench press or the dumbbell press. We wonder why people think they should choose. Why not just do both exercises. Each exercise has its own pros and cons, so if you have to choose between bench press or dumbbell press, go for both!

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