How to Bench Press Properly: 5 Steps for Chest Growth


 How to Bench Press Properly: 5 Steps for Chest Growth

The bench press is often hailed as the GOAT (Greatest of All Time) of upper body exercises. When performed with proper form, it can lead to massive gains in your chest, shoulders, and arms. However, if you get your bench press technique wrong, you risk serious injuries to your shoulders and elbows, which can prevent you from ever bench pressing again. But fear not, mastering the perfect bench press form is simpler than you might think. In this article, we will guide you through the five essential steps to bench press properly for chest growth.

Step 1: Set Up the Bench Press

The first and most crucial step in bench pressing is setting up your position correctly. This involves ensuring a fixed back position against the bench and a fixed hand position on the bar. By maintaining the right grip width, you can prevent your joints from being forced into uncomfortable positions. While a closer grip involves more tricep activation, for maximum chest growth, it's recommended to use a relatively wider grip. Research suggests that a wider grip can also enhance your bench press strength.

To find the perfect grip width for you, lie down on the bench with your arms straight in front of you. Pull your elbows back until they form a 90-degree angle, then bring them in towards your sides until your thumbs line up with your lower chest. The space between your hands is your ideal grip distance on the bar.

Step 2: Create Whole Body Tension

Before unracking the bar, it's crucial to activate various muscles to unlock your strength and maintain stability during the lift. Start by using your quads to push your feet firmly into the ground and engage your glutes by dragging your knees outwards. To further activate your core and upper body, bring your armpits down towards your hips, as if there was a band pulling the bar back.

While some powerlifters take arching their upper back to the extreme to reduce the range of motion, a slight arch can make the bench press more comfortable and recruit more chest fibers. To create this arch, think about opening up and extending your chest, which will create a small gap between your back and the bench. Additionally, straighten your wrists by pointing your knuckles towards the ceiling.

Step 3: Unrack the Bar with Control

Maintaining tension and proper form, unrack the bar by pushing it up from the rack. Use your lats to pull the bar into the starting position above your shoulders. Re-engage your lats by imagining bending the bar in half. This will help create stability and activate the necessary muscles for a successful bench press.

Step 4: Descend with the Right Bar Path

The most common mistake people make during the descent phase of the bench press is following a straight up-and-down bar path. This can place unnecessary strain on the shoulders and limit chest activation. Elite lifters, who can bench press well over 400 pounds, bring the bar down and slightly forward, instead of straight down.

To execute the descent properly, actively pull the bar down by squeezing your shoulder blades together. Focus on bringing the bar down towards your lower chest, around the level of your nipples. Keep your elbows tucked at a 45 to 70-degree angle away from your body, forming an arrow shape. Avoid tucking your elbows too close or flaring them out to the sides.

If you have difficulty touching your chest with the bar due to limited mobility, stop an inch or two above your chest. It's crucial to maintain proper form and avoid discomfort or potential injury. Ensure that your forearms are not bent inward or outward, and adjust your grip width to stack your elbows directly under your wrists.

Step 5: Ascend with Purpose and Control

To maximize chest growth and minimize shoulder strain, focus on the stretch position of the exercise, specifically the bottom position when your chest is fully stretched. Many people lose out on chest gains by bouncing the bar off their chest. Instead, force your chest to work harder by pausing for a half-second at the bottom. However, be sure to maintain tension in your legs and upper back to keep the bar stable.

After the slight pause, use your quads to push your feet forward against the ground, as if performing a leg extension. Drive the bar up off your chest by pulling your biceps in towards each other. Avoid collapsing your upper body and rounding your shoulders forward at the top of the movement. Keep your chest up by maintaining the arch in your upper back and squeeze your biceps into your armpits until your arms are fully extended over your shoulders.

Congratulations, you have now completed the perfect bench press! By following these five steps, you can optimize your bench press technique for chest growth and minimize the risk of injury.

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Remember, proper bench press form is key to achieving optimal results and maximizing your gains. Incorporate these techniques into your bench press routine and watch your chest, shoulders, and arms flourish.


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