Powerlifting bench presses often require a spotter or two for added safety

Bench Press

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About the bench press exercise

The bench press is one of the earliest exercises developed for working the upper body. Whether the person performing the movement is using dumbbells or a barbell and no matter what angle the bench is at, the common position is for them to be on their back with their feet on the floor and lowering the weight to their chest before pressing it back up until the arm is straight.


What to look for when buying a bench press

[one_half]The most important thing to look for when choosing a bench press station for home use is how much weight it can support. This is for both the bench itself and the barbell rack.

You need to be sure of how much weight each can support, as with some models of bench press the bench will support considerably less than the weight rack.

Although not offering as many extra exercise stations as a multi gym, you can buy bench press stations that have additional attachments for performing other exercises such as leg extensions, preacher curls, pec flys and even seated rope crunches.[/one_half]
[one_half_last]The Universal Workstation is an excellent example of a bench that comes with a full weight selection and offers a variety of exercises[/one_half_last]

A good example of a bench press that offers a strong bench and rack system, together with additional lever systems that allow you to perform other chest exercises such as chest flys is the Universal Workstation with 108kg weight plate set. As well as being a very strong and well made example of the bench press, it also comes with a full weight plate set as well as dumbbell bars, an EZ curl bar and the main barbell.


Variations of the bench press exercise

Close grip

Usually performed on a bench that is parallel to the ground, the close grip places much more emphasis on working the triceps. It often comes down to personal preference and flexibility when deciding how wide to space your hands, but as a guide most lifters will have their hands just wide enough apart so that when the bar is lowered, your thumbs can just about touch the outside of your chest.

Decline barbell bench press

Often considered a safer style of the lift due to placing less emphasis on the rotator cuff and overall shoulder joint, the decline bench press is performed by lowering a bench below its usual parallel level. This places more emphasis on the lower chest and is usually performed after the incline bench press so as to prevent overdeveloping the lower chest and creating the ‘teardrop’ shaped chest.

Incline barbell bench press

[one_half]With the bench in an incline position, the focus is placed more on the clavicular head of the chest muscles (the inner part of your upper chest, just below the neck line).

Often thought of as the hardest part of the chest to develop, always focus on controlling the weight at the lowest portion to engage these muscle fibres as much as possible.[/one_half]
Make sure the bench is adjusted to no more than a 45 degree angle to reduce emphasis on the shoulders

Flat barbell bench press

Performing this exercise on a flat bench with a barbell will work both portions of the pectoralis muscle but focuses on the anterior deltoid (front of the shoulder) more heavily than decline.

This is the most common style of bench press, possibly due to a heavier weight being possible than incline bench presses, and not as many benches being adjustable to a decline position.

Incline dumbbell bench press

By performing the bench press with dumbbells this has the benefit of being able to lower the weight further than a barbell which can activate more muscle fibres and is particularly effective for the incline press. You can’t use as much weight as with a barbell, and you will require a spotter to help get heavier weights into position but if you can do this exercise then really focus on the stretch on the upper chest at the bottom of the movement.

The angle of the bench should be similar to the incline barbell bench press and incline dumbbell fly, and is best performed at an angle no more than 45 degrees so as not to involve the front head of the shoulder muscles too heavily.


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Main muscles worked by the bench press


  • Pectoral muscles (Chest)
  • Deltoids (Shoulders)
  • Serratus Anterior
  • Trapezzi (Traps)
  • Triceps
  • [/checklist][/box]


    Safety precautions to take when performing the bench press

    1. Never use an “open hand” grip where the thumb is behind the bar. Always wrap your thumbs around the front of the bar to prevent dropping the bar on your chest. Serious injury or death can occur from dropping the bar.
    2. Never lift the head off the bench as this can lead to neck strains.
    3. Always keep feet on the ground as this could lead to a loss of balance.
    4. Keep the back flat on the bench unless properly trained otherwise. This can lead to back injuries.
    5. Do not lower the barbell to the chest unless that’s the point where the elbows are even with the shoulders.
    6. Maintain control of the weight at all times.
    7. Do not lock out the elbows as this could lead to joint damage.
    8. Do not bend or curl the wrists as this could lead to joint damage and loss of control.
    9. Use a spotter if lifting heavy or a beginner to this exercise.
    10. Make sure to breathe during the incline bench press to prevent any black outs.
    11. This exercise is not recommended for those who have joint problems in the shoulders or elbows.
    12. If using a heavy weight for just a few reps to take your muscles to failure, think about wearing thick padded wrist wraps to restrict the movement of your wrists and provide added support and protection


    Bench press in powerlifting

    The barbell bench press is one of three main lifts in powerlifting, with deadlifts and squats making up the other two. Although the exercise is the same, the training methods and body position when performing the exercise are very different.

    The bench press in powerlifting uses much heavier weights for lower reps, and requires spotters to take the bar if needed

    A person’s body position and technique for the powerlifting style of bench press deserves an entire article of its own, but in summary the aim is usually for the bar to travel as short a distance as possible as long as it comes to a stop just above or just touching the chest without bouncing.

    To do this powerlifters will often slide their feet back to build more tension in the lower body muscles, and arch their back to push their chest up and give the bar less distance to travel.


    Compare Bench Press products

    Whether you are looking to replace your existing weight bench or buy an entirely new bench press system, we take a look at a range of bench press products to suit all requirements.

    From weight bench products that just supply the bench itself, to products that more closely resemble a multi gym due to how many additional exercises are possible[/two_third]
    [one_third_last]Bench Press[/one_third_last]

    There are also added features on some designs including a pec fly section, overhead cable extension section and even allowing you to perform exercises such as leg extensions and hamstring curls.


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