Exercise Technique- The Bench Press

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Alright it is Monday. You pull up to the parking lot of your gym and it seems busier than the middle of last week. People are feeling inspired to get the week started off well.

During your warm up you take a look around. Not an empty bench press in sight.

It is chest day. I hope you didn’t plan on doing upper body today because it is International Bench Day, the only holiday that occurs every Monday.

I have no clue why this happens but it is the case at most busy commercial gyms. You can also look around at all of these people at see a lot of different techniques going on.

Some people have a really wide grip and some people have their feet on the bench (or up in the air). Some people have never moved anything so quickly in their life; others appear ready to lower the bar to sleep.

A lot can happen with the bench press and cleaning up your technique is a safer way to make you strong. Benching incorrectly over time will do some serious damage to your shoulders.

The Setup

-Maintain five points of contact. Both feet flat on the ground are two. Tailbone, upper back, and head should all be on the bench for the last three.

-Your eyes should be under the bar. This ensures that you will not hit anything on the rack during the movement. It also gives the bar a proper path to follow.

– Your hands should be about shoulder width with a closed grip on the bar. This means the thumb should wrap around the bar and not just resting on the palms.

-Use a spotter. This is for safety in two ways. First, they prevent the bar from crushing you. Second, the hand off they give you ensures stability in the shoulder that reduces injury risk.

The Descent

-Your upper arm should make a 45 degree angle with the torso. Often times the arms will wing out, putting the shoulder in a compromised position.

-The wrists should stay rigid. There is no advantage to allowing them to bend backwards.


-The bar needs to touch (NOT BOUNCE OFF OF) the chest. This provides optimal depth. The risk of injury to fragile bones on the torso is increased without controlling the bar down.

The Ascent

-The arms should stay at 45 degrees. They have the tendency to wing out again on the way up.

-Keep your butt on the bench. Try to avoid an excessive arch that results from lifting the hips up.

-Drive your heels into the ground. This creates whole body stability that will allow you to put more force into the bar.

– The arms should lock out, not hyperextend. This ensures full range of motion throughout the lift without excess stress on the joints.

So that’s 11 of the possible 13,254 cues for the bench press. A lot can go wrong with this exercise but I want to set everyone up for success.

Performing the exercise with the right technique is going to allow you to lift more weight and get the most out of your program. It will also help to keep you healthy.

Follow these guidelines and, when next Monday comes, you will be able to bench with the best of them. Just remember you should still rack all of your weights because some people would like to use less than 135 pounds.

I get it, it takes a lot of work to put your weights away because you’re so strong and use so many. Respect gym etiquette and strip the bar. Your mother isn’t here to clean up after you.

Once your technique is cleaned up you will be proud to load and rack those plates that you use after increasing your strength. 

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