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How to Do the Bench Press Exercise

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Updated June 19, 2014

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How to Do the Bench Press
Starting the Bench Press

Starting the Bench Press

(c) Paul Rogers / Cooloola Fitness

The bench press builds the muscles of the chest as well as the triceps of the back of the arms and the front deltoid shoulder muscles.

You can do this exercise with barbells or dumbbells -- or with a Smith machine, which constrains the path of the barbell and makes the exercise a little easier. Other variations include inclining or declining the bench to emphasize the upper or lower chest muscles.

If you're training for competition powerlifting, you should contact a professional coach for personal instruction.

Starting Position

  1. Lie flat on the bench under the rack that holds the bar. Your eyes should be approximately aligned with the front of the barbell rack uprights.
  2. Butt, shoulders and head should be flat on the bench with a slight (neutral) bend in the spine. Feet should be flat on the floor and relatively wide apart.
  3. Try a few lifts without any additional weights to warm up and to get the feel of the bar.
  4. When you're ready to add weight, fit the appropriate barbell plates to the bar and position yourself for the lift.
  5. Grasp the bar with your thumbs on the outside of your closed fist, overhand grip, with arms slightly wider than shoulder width apart. The angle of the upper arms should be at about 45 degrees to the body.
  6. If you don't use the specialized bench press rack, a standard flat bench can be used with dumbbells or a light barbell. Or you can use a Smith machine.
  7. If you are not at ease with feet on the floor because of short legs, use blocks or weight plates under the feet to boost height rather than placing legs on the bench, which reduces stability.
Related Video
Weight Lifting Exercises for the Chest

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