The Definitive Guide for Proper Bench Press Form
If you are even moderately interested in weight lifting, you probably know that bench pressing is one of the most effective forms of exercise. However, it’s not quite as simple as lying down on a bench, blasting out a few reps, and instantly getting huge. If you want to actually get good results from bench pressing, it is important to have proper form. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about improving your bench press form.
Proper Bench Press Form: The Definitive Guide
Before getting further into how to improve bench press form, it is a good idea to start with the basics. If you learned how to bench press from a random buddy or YouTube video, you might be doing things wrong without even realizing it. Consider your average set of chest exercises and make sure you are following these five basic steps.
Starting Position: Begin by lying flat on the bench with your eyes underneath the bar. Your feet should be flat on the floor while your knees should be positioned directly over your feet. You may need to adjust the height of the bench to make sure you are in the correct position. Your chest should be slightly lifted, and your shoulders should be back.
Gripping the Bar: Now it is time to sort out your hands and take a hold of the bar. Place each pink on the ring marks of the bar. Place the base of your palm on the bar and wrap your fingers and thumb around it. Keep your wrists straight.
Unracking Your Weights: To unrack the bar, take a deep breath and straighten your arms. Slowly bring the bar forward until it is over your shoulders. Keep your arms straight and your elbows locked throughout this part of your chest exercises.
Lowering the Bar: This can be one of the trickiest parts, because you need to keep control while fighting against gravity. While keeping forearms vertical, lower the bar to your mid chest area. Figuring out the right bench press elbows position is also tricky, but aim to keep them at around a 75 degree angle.
Raising the Bar: Slowly extend your arms to move the bar from your mid chest to slightly above your shoulders. During this step, try to think of it as pushing the bar away from you, so you keep your neck in a neutral position and your butt flat on the bench. As you reach the top of the press, breathe in again before you rack the bar.
Top Bench Press Form Mistakes to Look Out For
Even if you are following this guide, there are still quite a few places where you can mess up. Whether you’re a new beginner looking for the best chest exercises or an expert weightlifter, you might still be making a couple of these mistakes.
- Not wrapping your thumb around the bar properly
- Flaring elbows inwards too much
- Allowing wrists to bend forwards or backwards during a press
- Letting the bar drift over your head during the press
- Keeping your chest flat during the lift
- Letting your butt rise while you bench press
- Lifting your feet during the press
The Right Technique for Each Body Part
Now that you know a bit about the basic dos and don’ts of bench press form, let’s take an in depth look at each part of the body. By learning exactly how every part should be positioned, you can fine tune your form a little more. Follow these bench press form tips for the most effective workout possible.
Head and neck: When you lie on the bench, your eyes should be roughly under the bar. This positioning will help make unracking easier while still allowing for effective chest exercises. During the lift, avoid pressing your head into the bench because this can strain muscles in the neck and shoulder. Just let it lightly rest there. You also need to make sure to keep your head and neck straight, so you don’t tweak any neck muscles.
Palms: The best grip is one that keeps a roughly 90 degree angle between your arms and elbows. If you prefer a close grip bench press, you can move them slightly inward, but pay close attention to elbows. The majority of people use an underhand grip, where the bar rests on top of their palms. Some claim an overhand palm position can activate certain chest muscles better, but it is easier to hurt yourself with unconventional grips during chest exercises. Finally, make sure the bar is resting on your lower palm, so you do not bend your wrists during the press.
Fingers and thumbs: Lightly wrap your fingers on the top of the bar without curling them entirely around the bar during your chest workouts. Then use your thumb to secure the bar in place. Skip a thumbless grip. Though some claim it helps them activate their triceps, it’s called a suicide grip for a reason. Without a thumb wrapped around the bar, it can slip out of your hands easily.
Forearms: The ideal bench press form for forearms should be vertical to the floor when the bar reaches down to your chest. Your wrists should form a straight line with your forearms instead of bending forward or back. You also need to make sure your grip is spaced enough that your forearms do not incline inward or outwards. Make sure your arms are straight when you view your position from the front.
Elbows: The right bench press form elbows is always tricky. While lowering the bar, you want to slightly tuck your elbows, but when you raise the bar, you want to slightly flare them. Ultimately, the goal is to just keep your elbows in a position where you can maintain vertical forearms. In addition to keeping your elbows in a neutral position during movement, make sure they are locked at the top of your press.
Shoulders: Pay close attention to keeping your shoulders back throughout your chest exercises. You want them pressed firmly against the bench during your press. Shrugging them forward raises the bar higher and puts more strain on the shoulder joints.
Chest: Keeping your chest entirely flat can damage your shoulders. Your chest should be slightly lifted to allow for a natural motion. Slightly tip your ribcage upwards while squeezing your lats to achieve this position. Avoid arching it up excessively though, because this keeps you from getting in a full bench press.
Upper back: According to top bodybuilders, a common tip to boost bench press form is to squeeze your back muscles together while unracking and lifting your weight. In addition to keeping your upper back tight, press it into the bench. This gives you more power to push through your exercise.
Lower back: When you are bench pressing, you do not want your lower back entirely flat because this will decrease your range of motion. However, arching it up too much can strain spinal discsk. Try to aim for a slight, yet natural arch that allows you to pass your hand under your back while you do chest exercises. Ideally, your back will curve about as much as it would if you were standing up even during incline bench press.
Butt: One of the most important things to remember for chest exercises is simply to keep your bottom on the bench. Letting it rise will start involving other muscles in your press, so you won’t be able to properly target your shoulders, arms, and chest.
Knees: Try to aim for a roughly 90 degree angle at your knees. Your knees can be angled slightly away from the bench, but avoid having them pointing sideways or angling inwards.
Feet: Keep feet on the floor flat and avoid letting your heels rise. For the best bench press form, your feet should be straight under your knees, but it is also okay to have them very slightly behind your knees.
A Word of Caution
Even the best form in the world cannot overcome major safety issues. First of all, know how much weight you should be using. Ideally, an intermediate person’s bench press should be somewhere between 70 to 100 percent of your body weight for men and 70 to 50 percent for women. However, it’s always okay to start slow and work your way up. Trying to immediately press far more than you can handle is just a recipe for disaster.
Whether you are doing a gym or home workout, try to work on your chest exercises in a power rack. This both keeps you safe and gives you the confidence to try higher weights in a safe environment. If you do start to fail, knowing the right form will help you avoid serious injury. When you feel yourself unable to continue, lower the bar back down until it is on the rack and almost touching your chest. Then you can flatten your chest and slide underneath the bar to exit safely.