Bench Press Exercise Guide

The bench press is the most popular (and arguably the most hard hitting) upper body muscle building exercise. The bench press is a pushing exercise that targets the pectoral, front deltoid and tricep muscles. For years the bench press has been used by guys (and girls!) to increase upper body mass and strength.

The bench press is often used to measure someones overall strength. Have you ever been asked the question, "how much do you bench?". Pratically every man who has entered a gym has been asked. The bench press has now developed into a world wide competition with big men competing from all over the globe.

As with all muscle building exercises, the bench press must be executed with strict form and good technique to get the maximum benefit. You can read our article on bench press technique here. Ok, let's get down to business, here's how you correctly perform the bench press.

How to correctly perform the bench press

Bench press setup. Prepare mentally, then lie face up on a flat bench. Set your feet firmly on the floor wide apart. Grip the bar at your correct grip. See the "top tip" below to find out how to find your correct bench press grip.

bench press top tip An easy way to check if you're using the correct bench press grip is to grab a bar with no weights on it, adopt your normal grip, and bring the bar down to your chest. Now look at the angle of your forearms. They should be pointing straight up (vertical) at a 90 degree angle to the bar. You have your maximum power at this angle.

bench press start position

While keeping your wrists straight, slowly lower the bar down to the middle of your chest (just above your nipples). Stop the bar about 1 inch from your chest, pause, the push the bar back to about 2 inches short of your starting position (this prevents you from locking your elbows out and keeps the tension in your chest muscles).

bench press endposition

Bench press tips and safety advice

  1. Keep your wrists straight. I know it's hard to resist, and it makes it harder to press, but this could lead to wrist problems in the future.
  2. Don't cheat! Don't rest the bar on your chest or lock your elbows out at the top of the movement. If you want maximum muscle growth and bench press increase use strict bench press technique!
  3. You can change your grip to focus on different muscles. Close grip will hit your triceps and shoulders hard (see close grip bench press) and a wider grip hit your pecs hardest. For your main bench press, use your natural grip. For extra work on other muscles change your grip.
  4. If you're lifting close to your maximum bench press, and you're not sure you can bench it, use a spotter! The no.1 serious home gym injury is people dropping the bar on their chest and not being able to get it off.