The bench press is one of the most common strength-building exercises, and rightly so. Bench presses are a great way to build strength and definition in your chest, but if done incorrectly, it can hamper your gains and lead to injury.
We’ve collected some rules for benching that will help you stay safe and get the most out of your bench press workout.
1. Use A Spotter
One of the most basic (but most important) bench pressing tips is to train with a spotter. Having someone there to spot you can obviously make your workout safer, but the benefits don’t end there. When you have a spotter, you can push yourself closer to your limit, meaning you get a more intense workout and better results. Having a spotter can also help you to lift the bar out of the starting position without losing form, which is otherwise an easy mistake to make. If you can’t train with a spotter, try lifting inside of a rack using safety pins. This can help to keep you from being crushed if you lose control of the bar.
2. Keep Your Elbows In
Sometimes when people bench press, they let their elbows flare out too far to the sides. This can result in wear-and-tear and shoulder pain, and it’s one of the reasons the bench press can lead to shoulder injuries. Your bench press workout will be better if you keep your elbows in. Try shooting for about a 45-degree angle between your torso and your upper arms.
3. Squeeze Your Shoulder Blades
One of the best bench press tips is to set a good foundation for your movement. This helps you move properly and safely and to put the strain on the muscles that you want to work. One important part of setting a good foundation for your bench press is to slide your shoulders together and back while you push. This will help to keep your shoulders safe and focus the work on your chest, where you want it.
4. Avoid Over-Training
When you’re trying to build your bench press, it can be easy to overdo it. Often we think that the way to better gains is to always be doing more. However, this mindset often causes people to over-train, which can lead to injury, lack of motivation, and a lack of progress. One of the easiest bench press tips to follow is simply let yourself rest from time to time.
5. Don’t Bounce The Bar
Sometimes people try to make their bench press a little bit easier by bouncing the bar on their chest. While this might initially seem like a good idea, it breaks the rules for benching safely. Bouncing the bar against your chest can cause damage to your ribcage, and it also cheats you out of some of your potential gains. Bouncing the bar means that you’re letting momentum, not your muscles do the work.
6. Take Care Of Your Wrists
The bench press is meant to tax your chest, not your wrists! However, some people grasp the bar in an improper way, putting undue strain on their wrists and lowering the amount of force that they can use to lift the weight. To avoid this, don’t put the bar too close to your fingers as you lift. You want a slight bend in your wrists, but not for your wrist to completely bend backward.
7. Relax Your Neck
Sometimes when people are really straining to press up the weight during a bench press, they’ll pull their head and neck upward as if they were doing crunches. This won’t help you do the exercise any better and will just lead to neck strain. Relax your neck and focus your effort on the area that’s actually working.
8. Fix Your Grip
A lot of people use far too wide of a grip when they go to bench press. A grip that’s too wide can make it harder to lift correctly, and it can make it more likely for your elbows to flare out, increasing the strain on your shoulders (see tip 2). On the flipside, a grip that’s too narrow will work your triceps and forearms rather than your chest.
Your ideal grip placement will depend on your own unique body and, in particular, the length of your arms. Ask a trainer for help if you’re unsure. A good rule of thumb is a medium grip, gripping the bar with your pinky inside the ring marks of your bar. Your forearms must be vertical to the floor when the bar touches your chest. Your build determines the grip width you need for this but medium usually works.
9. Press Through The Floor (But Keep Good Form)
You can get more power in your bench press if you tighten your body and press your feet into the floor as you push upward. This will help you to get more force, increasing the amount that you can bench. However, as you push, avoid excessively arching your back or doing anything that would put undue pressure on your back.