What is it?
The bench press is a compound upper-body pushing exercise that involves pushing weight upwards above the chest from a supine (back-lying) position. There are many variations of the bench press such as narrow-grip, wide-grip, incline and decline. Traditionally it is performed with a barbell or dumbbell weights.
More than just making those mirror muscles look good…
- Increases push strength
- Improves bone density in upper body
- One of the most effective upper-body muscle mass builders
- Increases your ability to pec dance (hahaha)
Main muscles worked
- Pectoralis major
- Latissimus dorsi
- Serratus anterior
- Other back, shoulder and chest muscles
Common errors and remedies
Flaring elbows – Probably the most common error we see in both bench press and push ups, flaring the elbows whilst bench pressing can lead to shoulder impingement. Having the elbows in this position also results in the bar sitting too high up on the chest towards the neck. Flared elbows occur when your elbows are 90 degrees out at the bottom of the press. This causes the humerus to squeeze your rotator cuff tendons against your AC joint as you lower the bar/dumbbells, leading to irritation and inflammation.
To avoid this tuck your elbows at about a 75 degree angle at the bottom of the press and keep the bar on your mid chest rather than up toward your neck.
Bent wrists – Bench pressing with bent wrists will likely lead to wrist pain and strain as the wrists are forced backwards when pressing and lowering the bar. Bending the wrists will also make more weight harder to press as less force is transferred from the main pushing muscles of the chest and arms into the bar.
Avoid wrist injuries by gripping the bar low in your hands, squeezing the bar to hold it in place and ensuring your wrists stay straight, in line with your forearm bones as you press and lower.
Lifting feet off the floor – This usually occurs when the weight is too heavy and you lift the heels off the ground in an attempt to get that last little bit of push. When the feet come off the opposite occurs as you lose utilising your leg strength in the press.
Get more power in your press by grounding the feet firmly on the floor when you bench, heels under knees and feet shoulder-width apart for stability. Drive your feet into the floor and engage your glutes and quads when bench pressing for optimal power.
A few bench press variations for a slightly different focus
Single-arm swiss ball bench press – Awesome for engaging core stabilisers as well as the legs for a full-body strength and balance exercise. This one isn’t for pure strength in the chest as the weight will be a lot lighter than a standard barbell press. You’ll work glutes, hamstrings, abdominals, internal and external obliques and spinal erectors along with a host of other muscles including the usual chest and arm muscles. To perform this movement, bridge off a swiss ball with your shoulders, neck and head resting on the ball and feet flat on floor. Engage glutes and abdominals to stabilize the body and stop the torso and back from twisting as you work the DB press, one arm at time.
Palms facing in dumbbell press – Keeps shoulders in a safer position and emphasizes engagement of lats and triceps, as well as chest muscles. This press is similar to a regular DB bench press except the palms are facing inwards towards the body and elbows are tucked close to ribcage with the forearms travelling up in a straight line as the DB’s are pushed and lowered.
Standing chest press with resistance band – A great sport-specific exercise for those sports that involve pushing off movements. Recruits lots of core and leg muscles as well as chest, back and triceps. This exercise is performed by attaching the resistance band to a fixed unit, then stepping inside the band (if a loop band) and pressing the band away from you. A split stance works well for this one to keep balance and you can mix it up with single/double arm presses and different stances such as pressing whilst holding a deep lunge.
We hope your bench press month is going well.