Great bench press benefits and massive muscles worked is why the bench press is one of the most popular exercises in the gym.
It’s a staple of bodybuilding training, and one of the three big lifts contested in the sport of powerlifting too.
The bench press is also one of the exercises used by the NFL to assess new players.
So, what makes this exercise so good, and how do you do it?
Bench Press Benefits
The barbell bench press offers several important advantages and benefits, especially when compared to other chest exercises, such as dumbbell bench presses and machine chest presses.
The main advantages and benefits of bench presses are:
#1. Building upper body strength
Because, during this exercise, you on a stable, flat bench, you are free to focus almost exclusively on lowering and raising the bar.
While the legs are involved in bench presses, they only really act as stabilizers.
This makes the bench press very useful for building upper body strength.
#2. Increasing muscle mass
The bench press is a popular chest-building exercise.
In fact, very few bodybuilders don’t include the bench press in their pec building workouts.
If you want to sculpt a bigger chest, the bench press will help.
#3. Bigger, stronger triceps
While the pecs are the primary muscle during bench presses, the triceps also play a crucial role.
Bench presses are a very valuable triceps-building exercise.
#4. Easy to learn
While you shouldn’t lift heavy weights until you have mastered proper bench press form, it’s a relatively straightforward exercise to learn.
With practice, it won’t be long until you can increase the amount of weight you are using.
#5. Pushup Alternative
The bench is an excellent alternative when you are not yet able to do bodyweight pushups.
Don’t let overweight or obesity stop you from training.
Get a pair of dumbbells or a barbell without weights and start to bench.
If laying down on a flat bench is not yet comfortable, use a chest press machine.
Bench Press Daily Will Do This To Your Body
What Muscles Does Bench Press Work?
The bench press is a phenomenal compound exercise, which means it involves several joints and muscles at the same time.
There is a lot going on during the bench press but, despite the complexity of the movement, it’s still possible to identify the main bench press muscles worked and as a result-developed.
#6. Pectoralis major
Known as the pecs for short, these are your main chest muscles.
Most people bench press because of its effect on this muscle group.
#7. Anterior deltoids
The pecs always work alongside the anterior deltoids.
These are your front shoulder muscles.
#8. Triceps brachii
Usually just called the triceps, this is the muscle on the back of your upper arm.
The closer your hands are together, the more work the triceps do.
#9. Rotator cuff
This is the collective term for the stabilizer muscles in your shoulder joint.
These muscles are small, but they are very strong, and play a crucial role in bench pressing.
#10. Serratus anterior
This is the saw-tooth-shaped muscle on the side of your upper ribs.
Its main function is stabilizing your shoulder blades during bench presses.
Safety and Avoiding Shoulder Pain
While the bench press is a safe and effective exercise, there are a couple of things to consider when doing this exercise that could affect your safety.
Firstly, you should bench press with a spotter close at hand so that, if you are unable to complete a rep, you won’t end up pinned under a heavy weight.
Alternatively, you can do your bench presses in a power rack or squat rack.
Also, bench presses can be hard on your shoulders.
Avoid shoulder pain during bench presses by always warming up first, using proper bench press form, and not lifting weights that are too heavy, too soon.
How to Properly Bench Press
Get every bench press benefit with as few drawbacks and risks as possible by doing them correctly.
Follow these step-by-step guidelines or ask a personal trainer for more information.
- Lie on your bench so that your eyes are directly below the bar.
- Reach up and hold the bar with an overhand grip.
- Your hands should be just wider than shoulder-width apart so that, when the bar is touching your chest, your forearms are vertical.
- Pull your shoulders down and back and press them into the bench.
- Arch your lower back slightly and lift your chest up toward the bar.
- Brace your abs.
- Finally, drive your feet into the floor.
- Your shins should be vertical and not move once you start your bench press set. There should be tension in your legs and glutes.
- Unrack the bar and hold it directly over your chest.
- Inhale, bend your arms, and lower the bar down to the highest point of your chest.
- Tuck your elbows in slightly to your sides as you lower the bar.
- Lightly touch the bar down on your chest.
- Do not bounce!
- Exhale and press the bar back up until your arms are straight, but your elbows are not locked.
- That’s one rep – keep going!
Please note: You can use different bench press grip widths to work different parts of your chest.
A wider grip tends to target the outer chest a little more, while a narrower grip emphasizes the center.
However, the closer your hands are, the more work your triceps have to do.
Avoid These Bench Press Mistakes!
The flat barbell bench press is a great exercise, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only variation you can do.
Liven up your upper body workout with these other bench press exercises.
Incline bench presses
With this variation, your body is inclined between 15-30 degrees.
This puts a little more stress on your upper chest, also known as the clavicular head of the pectoralis major.
Most gyms have a dedicated incline bench press station but, if yours doesn’t, just put an adjustable bench inside a squat rack.
Other than the angle of the bench, incline bench presses are performed the same way as flat bench presses.
Decline bench presses
The decline bench press emphasizes your lower pecs, properly called the sternal head of pectoralis major.
Decline benches are usually set to around 15 degrees.
While most gyms have a dedicated decline bench press, if yours doesn’t, you can do decline bench presses by placing a couple of weight plates under the lowermost feet of a regular bench.
Narrow grip bench press
This variation is useful if you want to build triceps strength or size.
Simply grip the bar with your hands about shoulder-width apart, and keep your elbows tucked close to your sides.
You won’t feel this variation much in your chest and may not be able to lift as much weight, but this is still a very functional exercise.
To get the most from bench presses, you should adjust your rep and set scheme to match your training goals.
For strength, focus your efforts on sets of 1-5 reps using heavyweights.
Rest 3-5 minutes between sets to ensure you can give each set your best effort.
For muscle hypertrophy or growth, do sets of 6-12 reps using heavy to moderate weights.
You should rest 60-90 seconds between sets.
To increase muscular endurance, do sets of 13-20 reps using light weights, resting only 30-60 seconds between sets.
If you want to build a better than average bench press, consider bench pressing twice a week, using different bench press variations and different set and rep schemes.
- Flat bench press – 3 sets of 5 reps
- Narrow grip bench press – 3 sets of 10 reps
- Incline dumbbell flyes – 3 sets of 15 reps
- Incline bench press – 3 sets of 8 reps
- Decline bench press – 3 sets of 12 reps
- Push-ups – 3 sets of 20 reps
Push-Ups VS Bench Press
Regarding push-ups vs. bench presses, these two exercises use more or less the same muscle groups.
However, with bench presses, your body remains stationary while your hands (and the weight) moves, while with push-ups, your body moves, and your hands remain stationary.
Also, with push-ups, while you can make them a little harder by raising your feet, the main method of progression is doing more reps.
With bench presses, you can do more reps or add more weight.
There is no need to choose between these exercises – both deserve a place in your split or whole-body workouts.
If you do bench presses at a gym, they will have everything you need to do this exercise successfully and safely.
That said, there are a few things you can add that will make your bench press workouts more comfortable or productive.
If you work out at home and have a barbell and squat racks already, you have everything you need to do bench presses.
All you need is a flat bench.
Make sure your bench is sturdy enough to support your weight as well as the weight you are lifting.
Is your home gym looking rather empty?
Start off by getting a good combo bench so you can bench press, squat, and even dip to your heart’s content!
Elasticated wrist wraps support your joints when you are lifting heavy weights.
They are very stiff and help to keep your wrists straight, reducing your risk of injury.
Sweaty hands can make heavy bench presses dangerous.
Dry up sweat by putting some chalk on your hands before each set.
If your gym doesn’t allow you to use chalk, try wearing a pair of training gloves to soak up sweat and also protect your hands from blisters and callouses.
Neoprene elbow sleeves
Bench pressing can be hard on your elbows, especially in cold weather, if you are an older lifter, or are using heavy weights.
Wearing neoprene sleeves will provide warmth and support for sore elbows.
The Mark Bell Sling Shot is an ingenious device that allows you to lift more weight during bench presses.
If you are serious about increasing your one-repetition maximum in the bench press, are a powerlifter, or want to give your shoulders and easier time during this exercise, the Sling Shot can help.
Skinny To Muscular Weightlifting Transformation
Bench Press Benefits – Final Thoughts
Whether you are a bodybuilder, powerlifter, strength competitor, or just a fitness enthusiast, the bench press should be a staple of your upper body training.
It’s one of the best exercises for developing muscle size and strength, and it also a great measure of performance.
It’s useful in sports, too, especially if you want to increase your ability to punch, push, or throw.
That said, the bench press is just one of many chest exercises, and some people find it’s a little too hard on their shoulders for comfort.
If barbell bench presses hurt your shoulders, try using dumbbells instead.
They are every bit as useful and tend to be a little easier on the shoulder joints.
Besides the bench press for upper body training, you need to add at least two more big compound lifts to target your entire body.
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