Bench Press 101

bench press

The bench press is the most hyped, overused and badly performed exercise that is done in the gym.

It is also an essential upper body mass and strength builder that you should be doing. Ironically, most people’s bad bench press form is due to the fact that they think the exercise to be too simple. As a result they don’t take the time to learn technique the way that they do with moves like the squat or deadlift. In this article, you’re about to learn everything you need to know to master your bench.

bench press

Bench Press Basics

The bench press is a compound upper body exercise. It’s main target is the chest, but it also develops the triceps and the front deltoids. It can be done in a range of ways, from dumbbells to cables, but, if you want to move the maximum amount of weight, which is key to packing on muscle mass, you need to be doing the flat bar bench press.

When you are bench pressing, you should always have a spotter with you, just in case you get stuck in the bottom position. Be sure also that you secure the ends of the bar with collars. However, there is a proviso here; if you are working out at home on your own, you may prefer to leave the collars off the bar. That’s because, if you get stuck with the bar on your chest, your only option short of crushing your chest, is to angle up the bar so the weight slides off one end.

The bench press can be done for two reasons:

  • To build muscle
  • To push heavy weight

A lot of guys get confused about what their training goal really is. If it is to develop your chest muscles, your mindset will be very different than if you are solely focused on getting as much weight up as humanly possible. In this article, I am going to assume that your primary focus is to build your chest.

Bodybuilding Exercises

Setting Up For The Bench Press

  • Place the bar on the bench press supports so that the knurling is lined up with the middle of the bench.
  • Set the bar supports so that your arms are not fully quite extended when you reach up to grab the bar
  • Lie on the bench so that your eyes are looking directly up at the bar.
  • Take a hold of the bar just a little wider than shoulder width distance. Use a thumb around the bar grip with the bar resting in the meat of your palm.
  • Set your feet securely on the floor underneath your knees.
  • Make sure that your hips are down on the bench.
  • Open up your chest by pulling your shoulder blades together and contracting your lats.

Performing the Bench Press

  • Unrack the bar and bring it over your chest.
  • Lower the weight down to the mid chest just until it touches your t-shirt. Control the descent so that you are not bouncing the bar off your chest.
  • Squeeze your glutes and push your feet into the floor as you power the weight back to the start position.

bench press

How to Max Out Your Bench

Once you’ve mastered the basic form on the bench, it’s time to start getting serious about getting heavy, while maintaining proper form. Here’s a proven program that will significantly boost your bench in 12 weeks.

You will need a training partner for this program. Make sure that he’s as dedicated as you are in making serious gains.

On the first day of this program you need to determine your one rep max. For our purposes we will take it as 300 pounds. To work out your training poundage, multiply your one rep max by .45. So, our 300 pound bencher would do his first set with 135 pounds.

On each successive set, you increase the weight by 5 percent of your one rep max. So, for a 300 pound one rep max, you would add 15 pounds (300 x 0.05) on your next set.

Here’s how your first workout will look . . .

  • Do a max out set to determine your one rep max
  • Do a set with 45 percent of your one rep max for 10 reps
  • Add 5 percent of your one rep max and do 10 more reps
  • Do 3 more sets of 10 at that weight
  • Drop the reps from 10 to 5 while adding the same amount of weight on each succeeding set for 3 sets
  • Drop the reps to 3 and continue increasing by the same 5 percent on each successive set
  • Drop to two reps and add another 5 percent
  • Drop to one rep and add another 5 percent

Here’s how your workout will look based on a 300 pound one rep max.

Set Reps Weight
1 10 135
2 10 150
3 10 165
4 5 180
5 5 195
6 5 210
7 3 225
8 3 240
9 3 255
10 2 270
11 1 285

 

Your rest between sets should be limited to the time it takes your partner to do his set. Do this workout once per week for three weeks. In week four, you again test your one rep max. It should have gone up significantly. You now repeat the three week program based on your new one rep max. Do this for four rounds for a total of 12 weeks.

bench press

Summary

The bench press is the king of weightlifting exercises. It is also a potentially dangerous move that can put you out of action if you don’t do it right. The first step to proper bench press execution is to work out for yourself whether you are a bodybuilder or a powerlifter. Regardless of the answer, do not let your ego get in the way of your bench press performance. Then use the form pointers we’ve outlined to get your technique on point. Once you’re at that stage, unleash the max bench program described here to take your bench to the next level.

Check out the Enhanced product line to help with your bench press. Enhanced is the home of Big Ramy, Mr. Olympia 2020, Champion Big Ramy, 11x Olympia Competitor Dennis “the Menace” James, and hundreds of other professional bodybuilders, athletes, fitness enthusiasts, and bio hackers.

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*Images courtesy of Enhanced and Envato

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Austin Letorney is a writer, actor, and fitness enthusiast. As a former rower, he has shifted his focus to sharing his knowledge of the fitness world and strength sports with others.