With proper bench press form, the bench is the GOAT of upper body exercises. Learn how to bench press properly and you’ll see massive gains in your chest, shoulders, and arms. But get your bench press technique wrong, and even if it doesn’t happen right away, you risk seriously injuring your shoulders and elbows to the point where you may never be able to barbell bench press again. But don’t worry, perfect bench form is actually quite simple. Learn how to bench press for chest growth in 5 steps.
The most important part to getting your bench press form right is with step 1, setup. To find the perfect grip width for you, lay down on the bench with your arms straight in front of you. Pull your elbows back until they make a 90 degree angle. Then, bring your elbows in towards your sides until your thumbs line up with your nipples. The distance between your hands is your ideal grip distance on the bar. Then, for a smooth unracking, position your body such that your eyes are directly under the barbell. And when you grab the bar, for the most secure grip, I’d recommend keeping your thumb around the bar. Finally, walk your feet back under your knees and plant them firmly into the ground.
Step 2: create whole body tension. Before you even consider unracking the bar, you need to activate various muscles that will help unlock your bench press strength and keep you stable as you lift. Use your quads to push your feet down into the ground and use your glutes to drive your knees out. Then, activate your lats by bringing your armpits down to your hips. You can imagine there was a band attached to the bar pulling it back as you try to pull it forward. Next, we want to create an arch in your upper back by thinking about opening up and extending your chest. Once you’ve set your arch, straighten your wrists by pointing your knuckles to the ceiling. Then, through your nose take a deep 360 breath into your abdomen, and brace your core.
Now, step 3: unracking. This is where most people lose all their tension and mess up their bench press technique before they’ve even started it. To avoid this, maintain your arch and stay tight, then push the bar up to get it off the rack. From there you want to use your lats to “pull” the bar into the starting position right above your shoulders. Then, re-engage your lats by thinking about bending the bar in half.
Step 4: descent. The most common mistake people make here with the barbell bench press has to do with the bar path. During a proper bench press the bar should not travel straight up and down. Instead, you’ll want to bring it down and slightly forwards. To do so, focus on pulling the bar down towards your lower chest, right around the level of your nipples. As you do this, avoid tucking your elbows too close into the body and also avoid the more common mistake of flaring them out to the sides. Instead, to maximize chest activation and minimize shoulder discomfort, keep them tucked at about a 45 to 70 degree angle away from your body. Now as for how deep to go, ideally, you want to touch your chest with the bar. But if your shoulders roll forward at the bottom (which can cause discomfort and potential injury), stop an inch or two above your chest or wherever is most comfortable. But once you do reach the bottom position, your forearms should not be bent inward or outward. If they are, try narrowing or widening your grip to get your elbows stacked directly under your wrists.
Step 5: ascent. Most people lose out on chest gains by letting the bar bounce off their chest. Instead, force your chest to work even harder by pausing here for half a second. But do NOT completely relax and let the bar simply sit on top of you. Keep the tension in your legs and upper back and feel your chest working to keep the bar stable. After the slight pause, use your quads to push your feet forward against the ground as if you were doing a leg extension, and then drive the bar up off your chest. Drive the bar back up towards your head so that from the side view, the bar travels in a slight arc. As you get to the top, keep your chest up by maintaining the arch in your upper back and squeeze your biceps into your armpits until your arms fully straighten over your shoulders. Exhale through pursed lips as you come to the top, take another deep breath in your stomach, brace, and then control the weight back down for another rep.
And … congrats! You now know how to bench press for chest growth.
Found this useful? Click below for a step by step plan training plan that shows you how to properly train to maximize growth and minimize injury:
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