Bench Press Technique

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barbell - bench press techniqueHow to perform the bench press

Good bench press technique requires proper preparation, positioning, grip and execution. To begin the bench press, get into the correct bench press position and carefully unhook the weight off the rack, keeping your arms straight.

If you are using free weights you will need a spotter to pass you the barbell using proper spotting technique.

Once in control of the bar, move it so that it is directly above your chest. Look straight up at the ceiling not at the bar.

Keeping abdominals braced throughout the motion, lower the bar down to the mid-line of your chest in a slow and controlled motion, while breathing in through the nose.

Keep wrists neutral and straight while you bring the bar down. Do not let your wrists curl back as this will bring the bar closer to your head than your chest and decrease stability.

Good bench press technique requires that you do not let the bar drop with the pull of gravity – you should maintain a slow and controlled motion throughout the descent.

This controlled movement exercises your muscles most effectively and reduces any risk of injury. If you feel you have to rush the motion or use gravity, you are lifting too heavy.

It is far better for muscle development to take it slow and steady with great control over the smooth movement.

Bench press technique

Using good bench press technique includes keeping your upper back tight, shoulder blades pulled back, glutes, hips and abdominals tight, and feet pressed flat into the ground.

Lower the bar until your elbows are at about 90 degrees, so that your elbows are just below shoulder height. The wrists should be directly above the elbows.

When you reach the bottom of the press, be careful not to bounce the bar off your chest to gain momentum for the upward push – you need to keep that 90 degree bend and maintain total control.

As you reach the bottom of the press, you should press into the ground strongly with your heels and keep your abs tight to help drive the bar back up as you exhale.

Extend the arms fully but do not lock out at the elbow. Once you are at the top of the ascent, you are back in your starting position.

Once you have performed the desired number of reps, return the bar safely back to the rack, using a spotter if using free weights.

My Strength Training Tip:

To perfect your bench press technique, during the pressing motion pull your shoulder blades together and push your chest out.

Pulling the shoulders together forces the pectoral muscles to do the work, which is what is supposed to happen in the bench press. This will help engage your chest fully and give you the best workout.


Common bench press errors 

  • Not using the thumbs. Thumbs should be curled around on the opposite side to your fingers when gripping the bar. If you try to use a thumbless grip, the bar can slide out of your grasp and fall back on top of you.
  • Lifting too heavy. Start light to perfect your bench press technique and work up slowly to heavier weights.
  • Not using the overhead press alongside the bench press. The bench press works your front shoulders (anterior deltoids) much more than your back shoulders (posterior deltoids). You need to perform an overhead press to even up the muscle imbalance and develop good overall shoulder and arm strength.
  • Gripping too narrow. This will cause you to lose strength in your press and you won’t be able to lift as heavy.
  • Bar gripped too close to fingers. This will cause wrist pain as you will lack stability in your wrist and it will have to bear more pressure. You won’t have the control you need. Make sure to keep the bar gripped deep into the palm.
  • Bending the wrist. This will cause wrist pain and de-stabilise the press. Ensure strong, straight wrists at all times for proper bench press technique.
  • Arched back with glutes rising off the bench. This decreases stability and makes the bench press artificially easier as there is a shorter distance for the bar to travel. Keep feet flat on the floor to keep glutes pressed into the bench.
  • Bouncing the bar off the chest at the bottom of the descent. This could cause injury. Only lower the bar so your elbows are at about 90 degrees. Bouncing the bar might feel like it will give you more momentum for the upward push. However, to develop the chest (pectoralis major) well it is always best to do all the work with a slow and controlled motion.

Read more about bench press technique:

Introduction to the bench press

Types of bench press

Bench press grip and position

Safety and the bench press

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