20. January 2022

There’s a lot to control: Your complete guide to the bench press


When it comes to exercising at the fitness center, getting your method proper is essential. In this sequence, physiotherapist Luke Pickett takes us step-by-step by means of the massive three actions: the squat, the deadlift and the bench press.

By Luke Pickett

There is not any train that’s extra status-defining in the health world than the bench press. “How much do you bench?” is the catch-cry of fitness center junkies the world over.

It’s one in every of the staple workouts of an higher physique coaching routine, however it’s additionally one in every of the best workouts to get improper and thus, trigger damage. So let’s shed some mild on this traditional transfer.

Physiotherapist Luke Pickett performing a bench press.

Physiotherapist Luke Pickett performing a bench press.Credit:Justin McManus

An overview

The bench press is a simple approach of placing extra load or weight on a push-up. For the uninitiated, a simplified rationalization can be to think about a push-up flipped on its again. Whilst mendacity in your again, along with your arms out to the facet, the arms push away from the physique into the air after which return to chest degree. It’s a compound motion that predominantly targets the chest (pectoral muscle mass), shoulders (deltoid muscle mass) and again of the arms (triceps).

Like any weighted train, there may be a larger danger of damage in contrast with a physique weight equal. This danger is elevated once more when a motion entails a number of joints, subsequently requiring a lot of management.

It’s value noting that should you focus an excessive amount of on the bench press and neglect the opposing again muscle mass, then you definately’ll create a muscle imbalance. You will begin to spherical your shoulders (pulling your shoulders forwards and in the direction of the sternum) main to poor posture. This rounding will danger shoulder damage over time and trigger ache, which will likely be exacerbated by extra bench urgent over time. But there may be a protected approach to carry out the train.


Start with the weight. There are two choices with the bench press. A barbell (one bar about two metres lengthy with spherical weights stacked on every finish) is the extra conventional methodology and extra generally used. You also can go together with two dumbbells (a person weight, held in every hand individually), which is my private desire because it promotes symmetry and when carried out with good method is way safer.

To arrange, lie on a horizontal weight bench along with your again flat. It’s essential to maintain your lumbar (decrease again) and cervical (neck) backbone impartial to forestall damage (this implies it isn’t curving both approach, and there shouldn’t be a hole between your decrease again and the bench, although a very slight hole is appropriate). The traditional set-up is to have your toes planted on the floor and knees bent at about 90 levels. But it may be arduous to keep the appropriate backbone place in case you are of shorter stature or extremely versatile, or in case your bench isn’t low sufficient. It’s why in my work, I often advocate folks put their toes flat up on the bench, so their hips are bent at 45 levels and the knees bend at 90 levels.

Keep your back flat on the bench, Luke Pickett recommends.

Keep your again flat on the bench, Luke Pickett recommends.Credit:Justin McManus

To maintain the cervical backbone impartial, give attention to a level on the roof instantly above your head, holding a delicate nod all through the motion. Don’t elevate your head off the bench or tilt it backwards so the chin strikes away from the chest. Concentrate in your elevate. For novice bench-pressers and people rehabilitating from a shoulder damage, I’ll usually have the affected person mendacity on the flooring to work by means of the fundamentals on this supported place.

Pay close attention to the positioning of your elbows.

Pay shut consideration to the positioning of your elbows.Credit:Justin McManus

There are a lot of parts to the motion, so let’s go so as. For ease of rationalization, we’ll start with the weight at the decrease, chest place.

  1. Hold the barbell or dumbbells horizontally, along with your thumbs closest to your physique as if punching away from you.
  2. The most vital place is that of your elbows. They needs to be out to your facet with a 45-degree angle between your higher arm and torso. This ought to line your arms and the bar up along with your nipple line. And the elbow joint needs to be at 90 levels, with the weight instantly over the shoulder. To practise this place now, sit or stand upright, have your arms by your facet and bend your elbows to 90 levels so your palms face one another. Clench your fists and elevate your arms out to the facet to about 45 levels, to line up your arms along with your nipple line – and that is your approximate begin place for the bench press. Lying in your again after all!
  3. Your shoulder blades needs to be “set” – so, maintain them at a impartial place all through the motion to guarantee they don’t slide round the ribcage and observe the weights up into the air, which can compress the shoulder tendons. By stabilising the shoulder blades, we’re “dissociating” the motion, in order that the arm can transfer in isolation with out taking the remainder of the physique with it. If we give attention to this idea with the bench press, we’ll go a good distance to avoiding damage.
  4. Exhale to transfer and push the weight instantly up into the air. Finish the elevate over your shoulders. Perform this in a gradual, managed motion with a constant tempo of about 1.5-2 seconds per elevate.
  5. Do not snap your elbows once you complete a elevate. This is one in every of the largest errors in all weight-lifting workouts. Keep the elbows comfortable and simply shy (a few levels) of a fully locked out place. This will defend the elbow joint and avoids compressing your triceps tendon.
  6. Inhale to decrease the bar and management this a part of the train, once more for a 1.5-2 second interval.
  7. Return to the beginning place along with your elbows not passing beneath the line of the physique. This is about defending the shoulder joint as a result of it decreases the danger of the bone ball shifting forwards in the socket of the shoulder joint once you elevate the weight in the direction of the roof, which over time can lead to harm or dislocation. Technically, the elbow can lengthen decrease than shoulder peak however this have to be assessed on a case-by-case foundation.

      The commonest errors with bench urgent come from folks lifting too nice a weight, holding their breath, curving their higher again forwards, letting the shoulder blades slide round the rib cage, lifting their decrease again off the bench or transferring their neck throughout the elevate. There actually is a lot to management!

      Feel the burn in your pectorals, entrance of deltoids and triceps. Take word of the place the burn is and it will guide you on which physique half wants to be focused subsequent. You can actually study a lot by being conscious of those particulars – and that goes for all of your workouts.

      If you’re utilizing a barbell, construct up from a low weight. Consider utilizing simply the bar itself to start with. Being pinned or choked by an inanimate object isn’t the finest approach to begin your bench-pressing enterprise.


      Start with three units of 8-10 repetitions and as the final repetitions of the third set turn out to be simple over a few weeks of coaching, then be happy to enhance the weight (most of 10 per cent enhance per development).

      Keep in thoughts that the bench press places important load by means of the acromioclavicular joint (the place your collarbone meets the outer most level of the shoulder blade) and may contribute to osteo-arthritis, so be wise along with your weight choice and method.

      Always be certain that you stretch your pectoral muscle mass post-workout and don’t skip on coaching the opposing again muscle mass with power workouts like seated rows or one arm rows.

      Luke Pickett is a physiotherapist who has labored as a head physio for AFL, AIS and Australian sporting groups. He is director of Melbourne Physio Clinic.

      Also take a look at his complete guide to the squat. And subsequent week we’ll be again with a guide to the deadlift.

      Make the most of your well being, relationships, health and vitamin with our Live Well publication. Get it in your inbox each Monday.

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