When thinking about bodybuilding, most people think of the bench press first. It’s iconic for its simplicity, yet causes frequent injuries if not done properly. Here I would like to explain the proper technique for performing bench presses so that you can build size and strength in your chest without raising your risk of injury.
What is a bench press?
Quite simply, a bench press is done when you’re laying face-up on a flat bench with a barbell suspended over you in some fashion. You grab the bar, lower it to your chest, and then push it back up using your pectoral muscles. When you’ve done the desired number of repetitions, you set it back on the supports in the upright position.
How to perform bench presses safely
– First of all, always squeeze the bar into your palm with your fingers and thumb, while having your thumb wrapped around the bar. In other words, no “thumbless” grips.
– Second, always start with a lighter load than you think you can do. This will both prime your muscles for more heavy lifting later, and allow you to work your way up to a heavier weight with less risk of injury.
– Third, when in doubt, get a spotter. If you’re not absolutely positive you can lift the weight, have someone standing by just in case.
How to avoid shoulder pain
– In order to avoid shoulder pain, you must keep in mind two important facts. First, the bar should travel in a straight line off of your chest, and maintain a 90° angle with your chest at all times. If you let the bar drift toward your feet or your head you will put too much strain on your shoulders and cause an injury.
– Second, you should be looking at the ceiling when pressing, not the bar itself. Looking at the bar causes it to naturally drift off of its proper 90° position, causing shoulder strain. Press the bar up for the first time, and look at where on the ceiling the bar ends up. Keep your eyes on that point, and press the bar toward it. Insuring that the bar ends at the same point on the ceiling after every rep ensures proper angle.
Use proper form
– Along with taking the steps necessary to avoid injury there are three pointers to aid in proper form. First, squeeze your shoulder blades together before you lay back to do your lift. This gives you a good base to push off of and promotes a tall chest
– Second, as previously stated, push your chest out. These two points work hand-in-hand: If you press your chest out it promotes clenched shoulder blades, and vice versa. Pressing your chest out ensures that your pectoral muscles are doing the lifting, and not your triceps and shoulders.
– Third, keep your feet planted in a wide stance on the floor. Since the bench press is a completely vertical lift, you may have a tendency to have the weight drift from side to side. By keeping your feet wide you create a triangle effect with your upper back, thus keeping the weight centered.
By using these safety and form tips you can ensure that you will increase your maximum load over time, and build the size that your desire.