Bench press is a basic exercise for developing strength in the chest and arms. It is an essential element of any strength and mass program. It is in this exercise that the athlete works with really large weights, as in the squat, deadlift.
Why the bench press is a basic exercise
Basic is considered to be such an exercise that affects almost all muscle groups in our body. For example, barbell squats work not only on the legs, but also on the back, shoulders and some arms.
Let’s take a closer look at what muscles the bench press makes to work.
So, the main working groups:
- Large and small chest. The chest receives the maximum load in this exercise.
- Front deltoid bundles.
During the bench press, the athlete pushes the weight up. At the same time, the chest contracts, the abdominal muscles tighten, the legs try to push the floor, and the buttocks are pressed against the bench, preventing the pelvis from breaking away from it. In addition, the shoulder blades are also reduced, engaging the muscles of the back.
The bench press involves almost the entire body. And this is due to the fact that the weights in the bench are quite large – this is the body weight of the athlete and above.
Is it true that you cannot gain mass without bench press
Muscle growth is the result of increased protein synthesis, which occurs due to increased testosterone production in response to constantly increasing physical activity. Only heavy basic exercises can provoke this process.
If you do not do exercises with large weights (base), there can be no question of any growth. We’re talking about a natural way to build muscle without using exogenous testosterone.
Every time we lift weights in a basic exercise, our muscles are pushing their limits. This stimulates their growth and strengthening. The body is given a kind of signal that the available hormonal reserves are not enough for such hard work. As a result, more testosterone is produced – the main reason for the growth of strength and mass.
Thus, the bench press, as one of the basic exercises, directly affects these processes.
Why the exercise is dangerous
You should be aware that the bench press can be a very traumatic exercise. This is due to large weights.
Situations are especially dangerous when an athlete tries to conquer new weights without using the help of a partner in removing the barbell from the racks and bringing it to its original position. For experienced athletes, this is not critical. But beginners often put their muscles at serious risk, with giant steps moving to the cherished weave.
Another common problem is a frivolous approach to warm-up before the bench press. Some athletes immediately hang the working weight. While they are young, these guys are lucky. Their muscles are elastic and still strong. Over the years, this harsh technique can lead to lifelong shoulder injury. Some become “happy” owners of injuries after the first workouts.
To avoid becoming a victim of a shoulder strain or pectoral muscle tear, remember a few simple rules:
- Warm up your muscles and joints well before pressing.
- Before pressing, do 15-20 intense reps with an empty bar (20 kg).
- Move gradually to the working weight. If your working weight is, for example, 100 kg, hang first 50 kg, then 80 kg. With each intermediate weight, do at least 5-6 reps. Ideally 10.
Do not do bench press at maximum one time more often than once a month. Also, don’t work to failure more than twice a week. It all depends on the speed of recovery of your muscles. Someone will have enough one hard workout in 7 days, someone will be able to work to failure twice in the same period. Everything is individual.
Bench Press Technique
So let’s figure out how to do the exercise correctly.
The classic flat bench press is performed as follows:
- Start with a warm-up. Lie on a bench so that the bar is over your eyes.
- Spread your legs slightly to the sides, press the floor with your heels, as if you will not press with your hands, but with your feet down.
- Bend in lower back, but do not stand in the bridge position.
- Slightly bring the shoulder blades together (straighten the shoulders).
- Grasp the bar so that the index (ring or middle, as it is more convenient) finger is on at the far end of the bar.
- Lift the bar as you exhale, bringing it to such a position that it is just above the bottom of the chest. This will be the top bar for the press.
- Bring the bar down to your chest as you inhale. Be sure to touch your chest, and then, as you exhale, return the bar to the top point.
- Do 15-20 repetitions in this warm-up set. Then smoothly move on to the working weights.
The basic exercise is recommended to be performed in 6-8 repetitions of 3-4 approaches once a week. Or alternate between light and hard workouts, doing a total of bench press twice a week.
And again a huge part of mistakes in the bench press are made by beginners, although sometimes experienced athletes also sin.
Separation of the pelvis from the bench
When you do the classic press lying down, the fulcrum at your body 3 are the shoulder blades, pelvis and heels. The stool is more stable on three legs than on two. But this is not the only point.
When you lift your pelvis from the bench, lifting it up, your lower back gets a very strong load – this can rip your back. The weight of the bar is redistributed between the shoulder blades and the legs.
Thus, lifting the pelvis off the bench during the bench press, you not only risk losing your balance, but also disrupting your back. This is the easiest way to get injured.
Abrupt lowering of the barbell to the chest
One of the worst mistakes leading to rib fracture and stretching of the intercostal muscles. As you all noticed, the ribcage is quite elastic. When you lower on a light barbell, the chest seems to cushion. From this position, the bar seems to bounce, returning back to its original position.
You cannot make your work easier in this way. The muscles of the chest, triceps and shoulders should work, and not the elastic resistance of the chest.
Consider this cushioning effect from an anatomical point of view. What happens at this moment? And the following happens: the internal pressure in the chest increases sharply, the lungs experience shock, the joints and ligaments also experience a shock.
It happens that one such time is enough to get a serious injury and wake up at night from pain with each flip from side to side.
Therefore, do not allow the bar to bounce off the chest. Perform the classic bench press smoothly!
In the bench press, wrong breathing is very dangerous. When you lower the barbell to your chest and hold it there with the strength of your muscles, the internal pressure in the chest rises sharply. If you do this on exhalation, the lungs are empty at the lowest point. There is no air in them, therefore, they cannot support the volume of the chest. And the chest, in turn, cannot fully cushion if you accidentally lower the barbell to your chest.
This is the first. Further – to lift the weight, you need to exhale. And you will breathe in. What will come of it – it is better not to try. Believe me – nothing good.
Breathe correctly while doing the bench press, gentlemen athletes!
You understand, quickly press the bar with a weight for one hundred kg is very unsafe. After all, you will need to extinguish momentum when the bar is lowered to your chest – this is an additional risk of tearing your shoulder.
The same is true on the clean and jerk – an excessive jerk can lead to exactly the same consequences.
Work slowly, build muscle. Movements should be strong but fluid. No jerking. Even in bench press competitions, athletes don’t do that.
The bridge and what to eat it with
If you are bodybuilding, the bridge you don’t need it. By the way, who does not know – the bridge during the bench press is such a position of the body when the athlete flexes the lower back as much as possible in order to reduce the distance from the bar to the chest in its original upper position. This is a kind of officially allowed cheating.
It’s about taking more weight. But not about better muscle pumping. Experienced athletes say that for effective work of the chest and shoulders, the bar should be pressed with a slight (physiologically correct) deflection in the lower back.
We draw a conclusion – if you are not chasing weights, the bridge is not for you. Work your muscles. Of course, for powerlifters, the bridge is a standard part of the program. And the bench press is done only with him. Such is the special technique.
Be sure to learn how to get up in this position correctly, otherwise you will not be able to press large weights. Sometimes you can see how beginners make the bridge by raising the pelvis high up. The buttocks in the case of the bridge touch the bench, and the main weight falls on the legs and shoulder blades.
Other press options
Let’s consider several variations of the classic exercise.
You can press the bar while lying in the Smith machine. The press in Smith is good for those who have not tried free barbell yet. On the one hand, it is better not to start with this, and on the other, why not strengthen the muscles with such an isolated exercise.
The big plus of the bench press in the machine is that you don’t need insurance. At any time, you can fix the barbell and stop the exercise.
The barbell in the simulator is fixed in such a way that it walks only in a vertical plane. This is convenient because you don’t have to make any effort to keep the weight from swinging horizontally.
To press in the Squeeze, place a bench under the bar. When you lie down, the bar should be over your eyes.
Warm up with an empty bar (it usually weighs 20-25 kg in a machine). Then smoothly go to the working scale. The number of repetitions and approaches here is the same as in the classic version.
A separate article on our website is devoted to how to correctly do the incline bench press. Here, we just note that this option is needed to pump the upper chest and the front bundle of deltoids.
The weights in this exercise will be less than in the horizontal bench press. Such a bench press can also be done in the Smith machine.
This position can injure your shoulders during the press. This is often due to the wrong choice of weight. The shoulder just twists out, especially with 45-degree presses. Do not forget about it.
Insurance is a must during the bench press. It will allow you to work to failure, hammer muscles, give your best. Insurance is more than just helping you lift the bar; you need to belay correctly. Let’s take a closer look at how to do this.
- Stand at the head of the bench.
- Bend over the bar from above, help lift the barbell and bring it to its original position (sometimes athletes do this themselves, but it will not be superfluous to ask).
- When the bar is in the desired position, release it. Both people must act in sync. To achieve this, the bench press usually accompanies each movement with a voice.
- Now observe that the athlete independently squeezes the barbell the required number of times. Be careful, do not leave, do not talk on the phone. Your help may be needed at any time.
- As soon as the bench press is no longer able to handle the weight of the bar, use a few fingers to help him finish the rep. Try to dose the effort so that the person works to the limit. Then put the bar back on the racks.
A common mistake when belaying is to bend over the bar too much. Sometimes the belayer falls forward with her. Be careful and keep your balance.
It is important not only to know how to bench press, but also how to belay correctly. Then the execution of this basic exercise will become as productive and safe as possible.