how to bench press properlyThe bench press is the most popular exercise there is.  It even has it’s own weekly, national holiday.  We call this holiday “Chest Day” and it is celebrated every Monday.

Also, many people will simply ask, “How much do you lift?” and they infer that you already know they are referring to the bench press.  To be spiteful I often will reply “I deadlift around 500.” The look of confusion is well worth the efforts of real life trolling.  But I digress…

It is a bit ironic that the bench press is so popular, yet 90% of people do the exercise completely wrong.  In an attempt to fix this issue, we will discuss bench press form, go over some key points to the bench press and also give you a video breakdown of the exercise.

The Set Up

The set up is where most people fail miserably.  I see too many people flopping around like a fish out of water while bench pressing, which ultimately leads to failure every single time.

Instead of flopping around, create a firm foundation with both the bench and the floor.  To do this contract your glutes, press your feet into the floor, and  retract and depress your shoulder blades.  You should take in a big breath of air and contract your abdominals just before you lift the bar off the rack.

Eccentric Portion (Lowering the Bar)

Lowering the bar should be controlled.  It should never bounce off the chest.  In fact, I advocate pause benching for most people. More about this later…

The bar should touch just below the nipple line, or where the rib cage meets and forms a “V”.

Your upper arms should form approximately a 45 degree angle to the torso.  Your elbows should NOT shoot straight out.  If this is an issue, you are most likely not lowering the bar to the correct point of the chest.

Concentric Portion (The Press)

As the bar hits your torso, focus on contracting your chest, triceps, and the front of your shoulder to push the weight back into the starting position.  The bar path should have a very slight arc toward your eyes.  I emphasize very slight.  From the perspective of an on looker, this arc should be almost unnoticeable.

Why I Advocate the Pause Bench Press

I advocate the pause bench press because the barbell bench press exercise puts your shoulders into a compromised position that isn’t very natural.  I personally have found that most of my issues and joint pain come from using heavier weights while doing a “touch and go” style bench press.  The stretch and quick contraction of the muscles that support the shoulder can beat the joint up over time.  I find doing a pause bench alleviates this issue and builds my chest and secondary movers just as well, if not better than a “touch and go” style bench press.

Powerlifters will benefit from a pause bench press considering that this is the form used when competing in meets.  The only people that may want to consider using a “touch and go” bench press are athletes. Building power off the stretch reflex can be crucial, particularly for offensive linemen in football.

Unless you fall into this outlier group, the pause bench press is where it’s at!

Here is a video and commentary that I have made to help you utilize the bench press and get the most out of it.  It covers all of the points made in this article and will definitely help you stay injury free and maximize your results.

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