Have you ever taken the time to understand bench press form and setup? Boost your bench numbers now, and pack on some serious chest and tricep mass!

Let’s do an experiment. I'm sure you’ll figure out how it ends.

Take a buddy to the gym today. But don’t say a word about the workout. Let him slip on his workout gear, tighten his lifting belt, and grab his water bottle. As he enters the gym, what piece of equipment will he be looking for?

The bench press, of course!

Every freak that’s ever touched a weight wants a beastly bench press. There is just something so behemoth about being able to toss heavy loads off your chest. And to have two steak-sized slabs of beef hanging on our chest – well that would be priceless. Nothing screams leave my girlfriend alone like massive pecs.

Bench press freaks, get ready to hit the “print” button. Take these tips with you to the gym. Memorize them, and sleep with them under your pillow. It’s time to go Hulk Smash crazy.

"Train heavy and hard. Work every aspect of the lift. Off the chest, lockout etc. Keep plugging away, but at the same time, don't be scarred to change things if they stop working." - Brian Carroll

8 Bench Press Tips

Tip 1 – Titanic Triceps

Whoa, Nelly! The first thing you need to do if you want a big bench press is to train the triceps. I’m not talking about performing 12-20 sets of isolation or shaping exercises either.

To strengthen your triceps, you must use pressing movements that involve heavy weight. Exercises like the JM press, close grip bench press and incline bench press. You also want to add in heavy overhead dumbbell and barbell extensions.

And remember this... the bench press is about triceps strength, not pec strength. Focus on the triceps, first and foremost.

Tip 2 – Plane Back Training

Notice, I said plane... not plain. When working your lats, train them primarily along the same plane that you train the bench press. This removes pull-ups and pulldowns from the equation.

Stick with exercises that “pull” the weight towards your chest, like dumbbell rows, Yates rows and (especially!) barbell rows. Barbell rows should be your staple. You can also use low pulley rows, and t-bar rows.

Plane training adds balance and strength to your bench press.

Tip 3 – Shoulder Blades

This is an often neglected aspect of bench pressing. You need to pull your shoulder blades together, and keep them clenched tightly together during a bench press.

Keeping your shoulder blades tight creates greater pressing stability, and shortens the distance that the bar has to travel. Both of these factors aid in pressing more weight.

Tip 4 - Bend the Bar

You need a tight grip on the bar. With a tight grip, un-rack the weight. From this position, visualize yourself bending the ends of the bar together along the horizontal plane. This technique serves two purposes.

First, by bending the bar, you will be focused on keeping a tight grip during the full range of the movement. Secondly, the visualization of bending the bar will assist you with keeping your elbows in tighter towards your torso.

Pressing with your elbows flared out at a 90 degree angle is a sure-fire way to lower your bench press total, and a good way to strain the shoulders.

Tip 5 - Leg Drive

The bench press starts with leg drive. The first movement of any good bench press effort is an explosive push with the legs. This leg drive will assist you in putting your weight properly on your upper back and traps, and will help propel more weight up.

On the other hand, if you lay completely flat on the bench, and use no leg drive at all, you are short-changing your performance. It takes practice to master leg drive. Take your time, and use lighter weight at first to get the feel for this technique.

Tip 6 – Proper Breathing

This might seem like a trivial tip, but it’s not. Listen up! You need to learn how to breathe into your stomach when you bench. Do not, under any circumstances, breathe deeply into your lungs. If you’re a chest-breather – someone whose chest rises and falls as they take deep breaths – you will be creating lift instability.

Suck the air into your belly, and hold it during the pressing movement. Try not to breathe in and out during the lift. This is a mistake, and might weaken your press attempt.

Tip 7 – Upper Back and Traps

Not much to this tip. When you set up for a press, grab the bar, clench your shoulder blades tightly together, lift yourself slightly upwards, and lower your body so your weight is resting on your upper back and traps. Got all that?

It will take practice to master this slight benching nuance, but it’s worth it. Placing your weight on the small of your back will reduce the effects of leg drive, as well as lengthening your total pressing line. Keep your weight on your upper back and traps.

Tip 8 – Strong Shoulders

Developing strong shoulders can really propel a bench press to the next level. The shoulders are an often neglected muscle. It is quite common for bodybuilders to use laterals as the staple of their shoulder workout routines.

This won’t cut it if you want a big bench press!

It was only when I began pushing serious weight with overhead dumbbell and barbell presses, that my bench press hit 400. And don’t rule out the importance of incline dumbbell and barbell presses either.

Hit the Gym!

These 8 tips are enough to get your bench press up, and moving in the right direction. Take time and learn how to bench press properly.

Don’t go slapping heavy weight on the bar while trying to learn these techniques…that’s a good way to injure yourself. Practice these tips and techniques with light weight and good form. Slowly integrate them into your bench press. Soon, they will become second nature.

Posted on: Sun, 12/07/2014 - 15:46

I've had to walk away from the beach due to shoulder issues. What stretching techniques would you recommend?

Posted on: Sat, 10/15/2011 - 10:50

Very informative one especially the kind of grip distance....is there any particular chest part being affected well regarding gripping distance??

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Tue, 10/18/2011 - 13:39

Not really. Proper setup allows for maximal weight, and can lead to better performance and better chest development.

Bobbie Jo
Posted on: Sun, 09/04/2011 - 10:34

Thanks for the great tips! My chest area is so week & it is one of the areas I would love to improve my strength! It makes so much sense when ya lay it all out like this! I love the fact that the focus is on chest strength not size! Awesome stuff! Thanks Buddy! :)

Posted on: Sat, 06/11/2011 - 22:45

also, focuse your eyes on one spot. don't look at the bar. look at a spot on the ceiling and DRIVE the bar to that spot. everytime.

Posted on: Tue, 05/24/2011 - 01:03

I read this and understand what you are saying, for example a leg drive will help with your life. However, I have read that to utilize your pecs, your legs should be up. By using a leg drive you are allowing yourself to put up more weight but not exactly get a stronger chest. right?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 05/27/2011 - 18:26

Hi Mike,

This article is about bringing up bench strength and not about isolating the chest muscles. Leg drive will help you push more weight, and more weight will help with chest strength. The muscles work synergistically.

raw power
Posted on: Wed, 02/23/2011 - 16:12

instead on a 45 degree angle can you do the grip in inches please....

Posted on: Wed, 08/25/2010 - 00:24

In order which is more important, or do you have them in order?

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 08/26/2010 - 08:11

Hi Gatorade,

The most important, in mu opinion, are the fundamentals...working on strong rowing, overhead pressing and triceps. Mastering leg drive and proper setup will really help to multiply your strength gains.

Posted on: Sat, 07/24/2010 - 08:09

thanks for all ur tips n everythin... which is so helpful... keep continuing d great work...... thank u boss...

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 12/25/2009 - 21:35

You arms should be in about the same spot - at about a 45 degree angle.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 12/25/2009 - 16:34

Stand up and raise your arms to a 45 degree angle. This is a good start for your bench press arm width.

Posted on: Fri, 12/25/2009 - 17:32


Thanks for the guidance on grip width - easy to get it right. What about my arms when pressing - rather than being at 90 degress - where should they be.

Posted on: Sun, 12/07/2014 - 22:48

Ummmm, you must mean 90 degrees... 45 would be very awkward and dangerous...

Posted on: Fri, 12/25/2009 - 16:18

Can you provide some further information to clarify the below statement - I have to admit that I do exactly that.

Pressing with your elbows flared out at a 90 degree angle is a sure-fire way to lower your bench press total, and a good way to strain the shoulders.

Also how wide should my grip be on the bar.

Enjoy your atricles - very informative for a notice like myself.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 12/10/2009 - 07:17


Let me know if you have any questions.

cristofer fores
Posted on: Thu, 12/10/2009 - 04:43

excellent article. I had started doing some of these tips by accident and didn't know if I was supposed to but this cleared up all my doubts and just by applying some of these tips my bench press has already gone up :D
But I'm going to keep it low for a while like you said until I get the technique rock solid like my pecs will be soon :P