Muscles Used • Exercise Type • Form Instruction • Tips and Techniques • Recommended Reps • Common Variations • Substitutions • Equipment Needed
See all the exercises at the:
Weight Training Exercises Database
– Flat Barbell Bench Press –
AKA: Chest Press, Standard Bench Press
Compound Exercise, Push Movement
Lying face up on bench, grab bar from rack with wide overhand grip (slightly wider than shoulders), lower bar to upper middle of chest and then raise until arms are nearly locked.
Tips and Techniques:
When you lay down on the bench, the racked barbell should be straight above your eyes. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and then grasp the barbell. A resulting slight arch in the back is acceptable. Your feet should be firmly on the floor.
At the bottom of the exercise where your elbows are roughly equal to your shoulders (your elbows should stay even with or just go slightly lower than your shoulders), your upper arms should forming a 45 to 90 degree angle with your upper torso. The 90 degree angle may help keep the focus on the pectorals but can cause shoulder strain for some – if you feel pain lessen the angle. Where you naturally gravitate to within the 45-90 degree range is likely best for your build.
To keep the focus on your pectorals, do not bring the back and glutes into the exercise by flexing the back on each rep. Doing so constitutes a “powerlifting bench press” (see “common variations” below). While a slight arch in your back is fine with your initial positioning, outside of your arms you want to keep the body basically motionless.
Do Not “bounce” the barbell off the chest with each rep (barbell should stop just short of or graze the top of the chest).
For reasons that should be obvious, always have a spotter or competent self-spotting apparatus when bench pressing regardless of the weight being lifted – there is no reason to turn the lift into a life-threatening situation.
Recommended Reps For Muscle Building:
6-12 the majority of the time, trying higher or lower reps on occasion.
- Dumbbell Bench Press
- Decline Bench Press
- Incline Bench Press
- Close-Grip Bench Press
- Powerlifting Bench Press – As mentioned above, the difference in this variation is that you are arching your back and allowing the back and glutes to become involved. With the powerlifting bench, your primary goal is not gaining muscle size but maximizing the weight lifted.
- Reverse-Grip Bench Press – Same basic motion but using the reverse grip. This can be a dangerous way to bench and it was banned in powerlifting competitions due to accidents. The weight is much more difficult to control with this grip. The proposed benefits are simply a different way to to stress the exercise’s target muscles (likely shifts more focus to the triceps) but most trainers should avoid the reverse-grips. Those that do attempt them should use extra caution.
- Guillotine Bench Press or Neck Press – Another dangerous variation. Here you are bringing the barbell down to your neck. Besides the danger of decapitation, this can also cause shoulder pain.
- Machine-Based Bench Press – Cable, lever and Smith machines all give you ways to perform the bench press.
The incline and decline variations can be used as quality substitutions for chest development (the decline, like the flat, focuses on the lower pecs – sternal head of the pectorals major) as can Bar Dips and Push-Ups. In addition, there is the Machine-Based Chest Press which is performed on a lever or cable machine. For this exercise you are in a seated position and pushing out as opposed to up as you would do on the bench press.
Bench with rack, barbell, weights
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