Walk into any gym in Uganda, regardless of its size, location or clientele, and you’ll find they all have one thing in common: there will be a bench positioned underneath a secured barbell ready for the next man to start bench pressing.
It’s not surprising that the bench press is such a popular move. Once you’ve mastered the basic movement pattern you will see rapid progress in how strong you are, as well as size gains to three major muscle groups: the chest, the front shoulders and the triceps.
But if you are new to the gym or new to lifting weights, how do you know if you are ready to take on the bench press? Here’s how.
When Are You Ready To Take On The Bench Press?
First, before you get underneath the bar you need to make sure you have the strength on your chest, shoulders and triceps to manage the weight of the empty bar. That may or may not sound like a lot depending on your weight training experience. If it does, then you need to get up to speed with press-ups first.
If you’ve never done a press-up before then you need to focus on doing one quality rep at a time, and gradually building up your strength until you can do ten good reps without stopping. Read on for our comprehensive guide to the bench press to add muscle size and strength across your upper body.
How to Bench Press
Let’s go through the basics, before we talk about tweaking and improving the move.
a) Lie flat on your back on a bench.
b) Grip the bar with hands just wider than shoulder-width apart, so when you’re at the bottom of your move your hands are directly above your elbows. This allows for maximum force generation.
c) Bring the bar slowly down to your chest as you breathe in.
d) Push up as you breathe out, gripping the bar hard and watching a spot on the ceiling rather than the bar, so you can ensure it travels the same path every time.
Bench Press Form Tips
For maximum strength and size gains, forget about the weight on the bar and focus on being as stable as possible on the bench to create tension from head to toe and get the most out of every rep. See more tips below
a) Get a grip
Your hands should grip the bar about shoulder-width apart to maintain the best position to press the weight up. If your grip is too wide you risk placing too much pressure on your shoulder joints, and going too narrow places a strain on your elbows.
b) Big up your chest
Lowering the bar to nipple level allows you to lift the heaviest weight because it keeps your shoulder and elbow joints in their strongest and most stable position. Keep your chest up and “proud” throughout the entire rep. Inhaling deeply as you lower the bar and exhaling forcefully as you press it back up will help keep your torso stable.
c) Keep your feet on the floor
As you drive your head, upper back and Butt into the bench, you need to do the same with your feet on the floor. This creates total-body tightness that allows your muscles to fire at their maximum potential. Press your feet hard into the floor to flex your quads.
d) Arch your lower back
You need to maintain a strong arch in your lower back as you lift and lower the weight, so focus on getting into this position before you even put your hands on the bar. Your butt needs to be in constant contact with the bench too, and tensing them hard enables you to maintain an arch in your lower back and keep your core braced, which is essential to keeping both your upper and lower body stable.”