Exercise Profile
  • Target Muscle Group
  • Exercise TypeStrength
  • Equipment RequiredBarbell
  • MechanicsCompound
  • Force TypePush (Bilateral)
  • Experience LevelIntermediate
  • Secondary Muscles
    Shoulders, Triceps
Target Muscle Group

Chest

Chest Muscle Anatomy Diagram

Barbell Bench Press Overview

The barbell bench press is a classic exercise popular among all weight lifting circles. From bodybuilders to powerlifters, the bench press is a staple chest exercise in nearly every workout program.

For powerlifters, it is known as one of the “big three” lifts which includes the squat, deadlift, and bench press. For athletes, 1 rep max on bench press is a good indicator for on field/court performance. And for bodybuilders, the bench press is a compound exercise that targets many of the muscles in your upper body.

By performing the bench press, you primarily work your pectoralis major (your chest). Other muscles which assist in moving the barbell during a bench press are other muscles of the chest, triceps, and shoulders.

Not everyone is built to perform the traditional barbell bench press, so several variations have been created to ensure people can train this crucial movement pattern in a safe and comfortable way.

Some of these variations include:

Those with shoulder injuries can also utilize many of the alternative barbells out there that place less pressure on the shoulder to bench press. Some of these variations include hex bar bench press, football bar bench press, and Swiss bar bench press.

Barbell Bench Press Instructions

  1. Lie flat on a bench and set your hands just outside of shoulder width.
  2. Set your shoulder blades by pinching them together and driving them into the bench.
  3. Take a deep breath and allow your spotter to help you with the lift off in order to maintain tightness through your upper back.
  4. Let the weight settle and ensure your upper back remains tight after lift off.
  5. Inhale and allow the bar to descend slowly by unlocking the elbows.
  6. Lower the bar in a straight line to the base of the sternum (breastbone) and touch the chest.
  7. Push the bar back up in a straight line by pressing yourself into the bench, driving your feet into the floor for leg drive, and extending the elbows.
  8. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Barbell Bench Press Tips

  1. Technique first, weight second - no one cares how much you bench if you get injured.
  2. Keep the bar in line with your wrist and elbows and ensure it travels in a straight line. In order to keep the wrist straight, try to position the bar as low in the palm as possible while still being able to wrap the thumb.
  3. If you want to keep more tension through the triceps and chest, stop each repetition just short of lockout at the top.
  4. Don’t worry about tucking the elbows excessively, much of this advice is from geared lifters using suits. A slight tuck on the way down may be advisable for some lifters but other lifters can use an excellent cue from Greg Nuckols that will accomplish the same thing: “Flare and push”.
  5. Arching may be advisable depending upon your goals but ensure that most of the arch comes from the mid to upper back and not your lower back. If your lower back is cramping as you set up for the lift, you’re out of position and putting yourself at risk for potential injury.
  6. The bar should touch your chest with every single repetition. If you want to overload specific ranges of motion, look into board presses or accommodating resistance with chains or bands.
  7. As the bar descends, aim for your sternum (breastbone) or slightly below depending upon the length of your upper arm in order to promote a linear bar path.
  8. Intermediate and advanced lifters may use a thumbless or “suicide” grip but for the majority of lifters, it would be wiser to learn how to bench with the thumb wrapped around the bar at first.
  9. Fight to the urge to allow the wrists to roll back into extension, think about rolling your knuckles toward the ceiling.
  10. Experiment with grip width - if your have longer arms you may need to use a slightly wider grip. However, if you’re feeling pressure in the front of the shoulder during the exercise, you may need to widen your grip, improve scapular retraction, or slightly lessen the range of motion via exercises such as floor or board presses.
  11. Squeeze the bar as tightly as possible to help enhance shoulder stability.
  12. Some lifters prefer to tuck their toes while other prefer to keep the feet flat in order to optimize leg drive - experiment with both and see which one feels and allows for greater power production.
  13. Ensure the shoulder blades remain retracted and don’t allow them to change position as you press.
  14. The bar should descend under control and touch the lifter’s chest - no bouncing or excess momentum.
  15. Think about trying to push yourself away from the bar instead of pushing the bar off of you.
  16. Tightness through the upper back should be one of your main priorities throughout the course of the lift.
  17. Ideally, use a spotter to help assist with the lift off in order to maintain tension through the upper back.
  18. Keep the feet quiet throughout the lift and utilize leg drive by pushing your feet into the floor and squeezing your glutes to stabilize the pelvis.
  19. Focus on pulling the bar apart or trying to “bend the bar” in order to activate some of the intrinsic stabilizers in the shoulder.
  20. The glutes and shoulder blades should maintain contact with the bench throughout the entirety of the movement.
  21. If you want to learn more about about the intricacies of benching, Dave Tate’s benching bible is a great place to start.
83 Comments
James
Posted on: Thu, 01/23/2020 - 03:26

I'm not sure I understand the tempo thing. Is the 5 like meant for 5 seconds ? What is the x about?

Jeremy R
Posted on: Tue, 09/03/2019 - 15:44

I was MAS would post either in the video or the written tips WHEN to breathe. Breathing is arguable the most important thing about ANY exercise, but sadly a lot of their posts don’t tell you when you should breathe

Rick Sherman
Posted on: Thu, 07/27/2017 - 08:17

I do not have a bench with supports for a bar or a partner, sad, will dumbbells work as well

Nick
Posted on: Tue, 05/02/2017 - 10:11

I don't have any strength to bench press. Put 2.5kg weight on each side of the bar and can't even lift that. Really down and embarrassed. I tried the squats and just about managed them. How can I get more strength to do bench press?

Reia
Posted on: Sat, 05/13/2017 - 16:24

Nick don't be ashamed if u can't lift that much weight just start with an empty bar and work your weight up. Everyone had to start small to make big things happen. A tip is to do pushups every other day to get more strength in your chest and triceps.

Christian
Posted on: Fri, 12/29/2017 - 09:54

Push ups!

David
Posted on: Sun, 05/12/2019 - 14:57

Building muscle is all about repetition the more you do it and the more muscle you get the better your bench press will be right now I am 14 and my 1 rep max is 125 and I started out doing 65 and I kept going and I kept going to the gym and working out my muscles and I ended up getting stronger and better at lifting. As I said it's all about repetition and keep increasing what you do on your lifts.

abdelrahman
Posted on: Mon, 07/22/2019 - 05:11

Hi neck! we all been there bro. just do what you have to do and make good friendships with people who will take you a couple of steps into the right direction. cheers

Pat
Posted on: Thu, 06/18/2015 - 09:57

Why hasn't anyone asked:
How many reps and sets for each excersis ???

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MikeWines
Posted on: Fri, 06/19/2015 - 09:49

Pat,
It's just a exercise demonstration video, not a workout.

thasve
Posted on: Mon, 03/14/2016 - 03:39

how many reps for each workout?? In group A and B

Shelley
Posted on: Sat, 08/13/2016 - 21:31

Slide the screen to the left on the screen that show the list of exercises.

Bobby
Posted on: Tue, 12/20/2016 - 10:54

10reps, 3-4sets an exercise

Xu
Posted on: Mon, 05/08/2017 - 09:00

10-8-6. With maximum weight

MuscleBuilder
Posted on: Thu, 09/18/2014 - 09:41

I want to do this exercise but I don't have any weights. Is here any other way for do this exercise? Please reply!

Wolfwell
Posted on: Thu, 05/14/2015 - 18:22

Push ups but nothing is ever the same as just doing bench press

Ambious
Posted on: Fri, 12/04/2015 - 06:51

Of course. Start with flat pushups first. Then slowly progress to doing one-arm pushups as shown in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7v1Tng8N4U.
Else you can progress on the flat pushup by placing some heavy objects between your shoulders for added resistance. Anyway I'll recommend the One-Arm Pushup.

SAMMY
Posted on: Tue, 09/09/2014 - 15:27

HELP PLEASE GUYS.. can you substituted the bench for just a carpet floor as there is no gym near me????

eslam
Posted on: Mon, 08/25/2014 - 11:52

This is the first time i see this website and workout programs . Thanks for working people here .

we dont have like this technology in middle east .

Appreciated !

Eslam

Elliott
Posted on: Sun, 03/23/2014 - 14:55

Wow, that's what I was looking for, what a information! existing here at this web site, thanks admin of this web page.

Jonathan L
Posted on: Tue, 03/11/2014 - 06:42

If im doing the dumbbell press and the barbell press during a workout.
Which exercise should i do first?

Dave
Posted on: Sat, 01/04/2014 - 16:18

Since this is on power day, shouldn't we be lifting the weight explosively while locking the elbows out and touching the chest? From a powerlifting perspective, are we not supposed to be able to do the most weight possible at low reps? I'm more for saving the slower, non elbow locking movements for hypertrophy days.

David T.
Posted on: Thu, 10/31/2013 - 09:24

When I bench press now I don't let the bar touch my chest because I feel the tension leaving the chest slightly. But whether you touch your chest or not is personal preference. But in reality it is not necessary. When I do pushups, I don't let my chest touch the ground for the same reason but also it is another case of personal preference according to what's comfortable to the user.

GENE
Posted on: Sat, 12/05/2015 - 09:25

The only comment I have is if you are competing in a bench press contest you have to touch your chest with the bar or it will not count. yes it is much harder if you do not touch the chest but as long as you do not bounce it off your chest and pause at the bottom it will be very good for increasing your weight on the bench press,it has worked for me,bench pressing 280lbs,189 body weight and 75yrs old

Jamie
Posted on: Sun, 10/13/2013 - 19:25

How about the reclined bench, and the incline, both effective

Bilal Abbasi
Posted on: Tue, 10/08/2013 - 16:55

Sir I am not feeling any force on my chest during barbell bench press. What mistake am I doing?

Jeremyw
Posted on: Wed, 09/11/2013 - 02:48

My question on benching is my hand width placement on the bar vs. how much I tuck my elbows in. My bench has always been one of my weaker chest exercises. A few months back I tried benching with the same, further than shoulder width grip, but tucking my elbows in similar to how I would on a close grip bench(which I've always been good at). I found that I could lift a lot more this way, I'm just worried that I'm turning it into more of a tricep workout by doing this. So, to sum it up, should I match my elbows to my shoulder width hand placement? Or am I good with keeping them in close?

Moerocco
Posted on: Fri, 08/02/2013 - 00:22

Ok iv been doing this workout for a while now(3 months or so) and it works wonders now my only thing is my chest got a nice size on the outside and actually almost 75%, the other 25% is in the inside more like right under my neck. How do i pump that up? Do i switch to close grip or should i stick to wide grib and by time it'll get there too??? And when is it ok to change to a different workout i still want to gain 10 more lbs and its been hard iv been stuck at 168 for a while now(btw i started at 150 and lost a lot of fat too:) so any help guys would be appreciated. Tnx in advance.

Anthony
Posted on: Mon, 03/27/2017 - 12:50

Incline bench and flys

Liverpool FC
Posted on: Fri, 06/07/2013 - 05:04

Ive always had good cardio good shape and im trying to get into lifting and using weights but have no idea what weight to start at Im 25, 155 and pretty strong but should i start lifting at a very heavy weight that i can only do a few reps off or a lighter weight that i can do easier??

Naseeb Kumar
Posted on: Fri, 05/31/2013 - 02:17

how can i fast grow my body? plz tell me . i have made my upper part is very strong. like chest , bicepes, and abs, shoulder ..

so please tell me my zym shedule. and exercise shedule.

kevin
Posted on: Sat, 05/25/2013 - 12:26

should you do 5 seconds up and 5 seconds down to build muscle or how many seconds up and how many seconds down on every exercise cause I heard you gain more muscle that way and that fast reps are only for strength let me no thanks

Cgriffin
Posted on: Wed, 05/01/2013 - 17:02

You should always wrap your thumb around the bar or it can cause serious injury.

HermanGroenpiel
Posted on: Tue, 04/23/2013 - 09:15

Is pushup better than this?

Ananomous
Posted on: Tue, 03/26/2013 - 11:59

How do you properly lift the bar off the rack? is it pull down instead of push up?

chetan bhatt
Posted on: Wed, 03/06/2013 - 01:32

thanks with these all comments, I got more knowledge

roooda
Posted on: Sat, 02/16/2013 - 06:11

Ive been experiencing tingling on my nerves round the shoulders and elbows wen i increased weight, atm i bench press round 110% my body weight. Anyone experience this b4?

david
Posted on: Wed, 01/16/2013 - 17:41

When doing the sets in the 10 week programme should you up the weights for each set as your doing less reps

kronk
Posted on: Fri, 01/11/2013 - 06:34

FYI-When your arm(s) starts to show weakness (shake) during any reps. Focus on energy and water intake, these are the most over looked essentials everyone should include before, during and after training. Once you replenished your body of lost electrolytes the muscles obtains oxygen for even flow and allows you to maximize your gains.

Keys to succeed: Research, read, study, and educated yourself ask someone to spot you or team up. Weight training is basic, if you want bodybuilding or sculpturing it’s beast mode. It’s lots of introductions, magazines, internet sites, and so much more at your finger tips just waiting for you. You have to find that perfect fit for your body type and ride it until you get (Muscle Gain) results.

Enjoy your accomplishments and past it on.
just my .2

david
Posted on: Wed, 01/09/2013 - 15:55

I`m thinking of starting the 10 week programme, A quick question when doing the bench press should I be incresing the weight each set

James
Posted on: Wed, 01/02/2013 - 20:41

I primarily do dumbbell bench press, what would be a comparable weight on barbell bench when I'm using 80lb dumbbells

James
Posted on: Wed, 01/02/2013 - 20:20

I primarily do dumbbell bench press 80lbs dumbbells what would you say a comparable weight for bare bell bench would be?

Brent
Posted on: Fri, 02/08/2013 - 11:07

160 lbs.

Tom
Posted on: Wed, 12/26/2012 - 11:23

I recently had shoulder surgery and can not bench press for at least the next 6 months. I been an alternate exercise than the bench press. Any ideas?

Max
Posted on: Tue, 12/04/2012 - 04:17

I disagree with the suggestion of thumb placement around the bar. Maybe if you are a beginner you should do that for safety reasons but when you get into high weights you are going to want to use a suicide grip or you are risking wrist injury. Carpal tunnel is a very real issue when benching high weight with your thumb around the front of the bar

Mon
Posted on: Wed, 11/21/2012 - 12:51

very good technique and easy to follow

Muthu
Posted on: Thu, 09/27/2012 - 13:50

In the video, he is not following the first point for this xcerise.

"Make sure you grip with bar with your thumbs around the front. "

His thumbs are not around the front..

Avinash
Posted on: Wed, 09/26/2012 - 02:17

My Muscle dont support while heavy lifting how can i gain muscle strenths Kindly advice.

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Steven
Posted on: Wed, 09/26/2012 - 15:44

Simply try to improve by adding one to two addition reps with a weight per week. After you can reach 10-12 reps with a given weight, add more to the bar.

vito
Posted on: Fri, 09/14/2012 - 12:05

i have a question do i have to add weight after this reps ?

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