In my elaborate guide to bench pressing you’ll learn how to bench press, how to prevent injuries and find a comprehensive guide on bench pressing technique.
Bench pressing is an upper body strength training technique that can be used to develop your back, chest, abs, butt, shoulders, arms, and legs. Bench Press involves pushing up weights from a supine position. This technique is also employed for weight training and bodybuilding.
How to Bench Press
Follow these steps if you are looking for a guide to bench pressing:
Superstars Maximum Bench Press
Quite often we wonder how much do professional athletes and celebrities bench press. Here is the inside scoop on their strength and how much they can bench press.
When you think of Kevin Durant (star player of the Golden State Warriors) bench press, you will remember the incident where he was left red-faced when he failed to bench 185 pounds during the NBA Draft Combine some four years ago. However, recently a video surfaced where he was seen benching 315 pounds. Skeptics still find it hard to believe the authenticity of the video.
The Carolina Panthers drafted Christian McCaffrey, the American football player. The athlete, Christian McCaffrey, can bench press 225 pounds.
Representing the Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James is considered to be the greatest NBA player of all time. LeBron James can bench press 22 reps of 225 pounds.
Heath Evans is a former American football athlete who played for the Seattle Seahawks and is currently an analyst on the NFL Network. Even at the age of 39, Heath Evans can bench press 40 reps of 225 pounds!
Wilt ‘The Stilt’ Chamberlain was a famous basketball player who was the only NBA player who has scored 4,000 in a single season. Chamberlain could bench press 500 pounds.
Steph Curry is the point guard for the Golden State Warriors and can bench press 185 pounds.
Larry Allen is famously known for once benching 705 pounds, which is the world record for bench press. Larry Allen’s regular bench press regime involves 43 reps of 225 pounds.
Leonard Fournette is an NFL player drafted in Jacksonville Jaguars. Leonard Fournette can bench press a maximum of 345 pounds.
Arnold Schwarzenegger is the role model for all those wishing to sculpt their body. During the prime of his years, the bodybuilder could bench press 440 to 455 pounds, which is equivalent to 2 Kenmore 69313 refrigerators.
JJ Watt has had a fantastic year, especially after being included in Time’s List of 100 most influential people in the World. JJ Watt can bench press over 34 reps of 225 pounds.
John Cena is single-handedly the most loved wrestler and actor. Videos have circulated of John Cena deadlift bench pressing over 600 pounds and he can raw bench press 481 pounds.
Samaje Perine’s workout includes 30 reps of 390 pounds, while Samaje Perine’s maximum bench press is 440 pounds.
Brock Lesnar’s maximum bench pressing capacity is 655 pounds.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
The former wrestler and current actor and producer, The Rock, can bench press 425 pounds.
Injuries from Bench Press
While bench pressing sounds like an ideal way to develop your muscles, it is essential to follow the proper technique to avoid injuries. The improper workout could result in:
Bench pressing helps in the development of the shoulder muscles. Similarly, you can also get a shoulder injury from the bench press. While bench pressing, one has to ensure that their elbows are tucked at 75o since a full elbow flare could result in shoulder impingement. This will inflame your rotator cuff and AC joints. If you are benching using dumbbells, follow a diagonal bar path since a trajectory over the vertical line can result in a shoulder injury, especially if you are using a machine to bench press.
Bench pressing using incorrect techniques can put your sternocleidomastoid muscles under stress. These muscles work in tandem with the chest and shoulder. You could strain these muscles if you push your head back against the bench while bench pressing. Find stable support for your neck or tuck your chin in to avoid any neck injuries.
Chest injuries could be a result of insufficient warm-up. The pectoralis muscles, which are present on either side of the chest, can come under acute stress. Any kind of injury caused to the pecs can be more severe than even the rotator cuff injuries.
Wrist injuries are relatively common due to an incorrect grip. Using a thumbless grip or holding a massive bar too high can cause unnatural bending and damage to your wrist. The thumbless grip can prove to be more dangerous as you may lose the hold over the bar resulting in the slippage of the bar. Keep your wrists straight and do not push the bar too high or lower it too low lest your wrists begin to hurt.
The following are essential safety precautions one needs to develop while bench pressing.
Bench Press Variations
Following are the variations of bench pressing exercises along with a sample bench press routine.
Decline Bench Press
Decline bench presses target the lower chest muscles, especially your middle and anterior deltoids. When using a decline bench press, you push the bar in the forward direction. It allows you to lift more weight than your usual capacity. Do three sets of 10 reps each.
Close Grip Bench Press
The close grip bench press is used to build the triceps. Hold the bar with your hands close to each other. This does not activate your chest as much but can pump your triceps. However, you will be unable to lift heavy weights due to the smaller size of the triceps compared to the chest. Execute three sets of 10 reps.
Incline Bench Press
An incline bench press forces you to push the exercise bar at an upward angle. It makes use of an incline bench. An inclined bench press activates your anterior and middle deltoids and engages your core, chest, back muscles, and triceps. Perform three sets of 10 reps.
Dumbbell Bench Press
If you wish to activate your pecs and your triceps, the dumbbell bench press technique shall assist you in achieving your fitness goal. This variation activates your pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, triceps brachii. Carry out three sets containing 8-12 reps.
Resistance Band Bench Press
Using resistance bands adds extra resistance to your workout movement and in the process subjugates your muscles to constant tension. You should bench press with bands to train your muscles to lift heavier weights. Once you are accustomed to resistance bands, the regular bench pressing will feel lighter, and you can graduate to heavier weights. Execute three sets of 12 reps.
Flat Bench Press
During flat bench pressing, the upper and lower pecs are targeted simultaneously. Therefore, this is the best exercise for the overall development of the pectoralis muscles. It follows a natural movement of the body, making it relatively easier to perform. Perform five sets of 12 reps each.
Floor Bench Press
The floor bench press activates the triceps by reducing the degree of motion. Since the chest muscles are not targeted, the maximum work is carried out by the triceps. If you are a sportsperson participating in sporting activities where large triceps are a necessity, like blocking in football and shooting or dribbling in basketball, you should carry follow the floor bench press technique. Perform three sets of 12 reps each.
Bench Press Techniques
While bench pressing is the best way to work out your upper body, it is essential to follow a proper technique to avoid any injuries.
The safest way to bench press is by keeping your wrists straight. Bending your wrists will pull the bar downwards due to gravity and injure your wrist in the process. Grip the bar low and hold it close to the wrist.
The forearms should align vertically with the floor when the bar is lowered. The bar, wrist, and elbow should also fall along a straight line. The forearms should be vertical to the floor from every angle.
The shoulders should lie flat on the bench. Focus on pushing your shoulders away from the bar rather than pushing the bar away from your body, and this will keep your shoulders flat against the bench. Ensure that a spotter is always around to help you so that your shoulders remain flat against the surface.
Squeeze your shoulders together and raise your chest upwards, do this while rotating your ribcage towards the ceiling and arching your lower back. It is essential to arch your back since flat back forces your torso lower, in fact, you can injure your shoulders if you bench with a flat chest.
While bench pressing your butt should be kept on the bench all time. Holding your butt off the seat constitutes cheating on your workout regime.
Get into proper form before you unrack the weight. Do that while keeping your arms straight and move the bar over the shoulder joint.
The ideal base position involves a straight wrist, a bar on the mid-chest, vertical forearms, and elbows tucked in.
Lock the bar over the shoulder joint and lock the elbows straight in the top position. Don’t bend your arms or wrists as it may lead to an injury.
Follow a diagonal bar path. Start from the shoulders and travel to the chest, then back up. This trajectory is longer than the vertical way.
Tuck your elbows inside while lowering the bar. Touching the torso with the elbow puts stress on the wrists and makes it harder to bench heavier weights. Do not flare out your elbows, instead keep a 75o angle.
Keep your eyes on the bar and position your head on the bench such that you do not have to push your head into the bench. Tighten your neck muscles and if you are using a flat bench, just touch the bench with your hair. Do not raise your head or rest it on the bench.
Do not shrug your shoulders in the forward direction, instead maintain the tightness of your upper back. Push your tightened high end against the bench.
Remember to bench press with an arched back. Keep your lower back arched but do not overarch since it may strain your back. Keep the arch natural so that it keeps your chest up, making it easy to press the bench. Avoid a flat back as it may impinge your shoulders.
While bench pressing, keep your feet on the floor at all times. Do not rest your feet on the bench or leave them hanging in the air as it may only make your workout ineffective. Raised heels offer less stability. Keep the maximum surface of your feet on the floor.
While lowering the bar, do not touch your torso as it may make your workout ineffective. Keep your elbows at 75o instead of 90o to keep your forearms straight. Align the bar, elbow, and forearms in a straight line, and it should be perpendicular to the ground from all angles. Follow this trajectory while keeping the movement of the bar under control. However, this does not mean that the motion should be slow.
Press the weight bar diagonally originating from the mid-chest to above the shoulders. Since the area above the shoulders is the balance point, it will make your workout more comfortable. Flare your elbows outwards. Focus on pushing your body against the bar instead of pushing the bar away from your body. During the entire routine keep your butt on the bench.
Maintain a lockout position with straight elbows. Push your back against the rack and lower it while keeping an upright position.
Breathing is the most crucial section of every workout. Breathe in a while lowering the bar. Inhaling at the top keeps your posture tight while applying pressure to your torso. Hold your breath when you reach the bottom. Do not release your breath or exhale when you hit bottom. Once you reach the top, exhale slowly but do not empty out your lungs.
Bench Press Setup
A proper bench pressing equipment setup is as follows:
Position your barbell on the uprights precisely in the center so that it is unevenly unracked. You should bench press barbells with revolving sleeves. Independent of the bar, the plates should have a degree of freedom to spin.
Keep your uprights at an adequate distance. You shall be wasting your strength if the uprights are positioned too low and if it is placed too high, it will result in shrugged shoulders, which means your joints will no longer be squeezed.
Position your bench in the power rack for maintaining proper balance. Keep the bench at a higher level than your power rack. The bench should support your entire upper back. Make use of a sturdy, heavy-duty bench.
Set your safety pins at a position slightly lower than your chest levels. Thus, if you are exhausted in the middle of your workout, you can rest the bar on the safety pins. You should not be able to touch the safety pins.
Smith machine assists in bench pressing wherein you can bench press a barbell, which is attached to the rails. However, it is advised not to follow the Smith Machine bench press technique as it may make your workout ineffective.
Follow proper posture and technique to enjoy the full-body benefits of bench pressing. The bigger bench you will press, the more you will pump your chest. However, keep in mind to not overwork your body and understand your limits. Do not focus merely on how to increase bench press, instead concentrate on the bench press form. Complement your workout regime with a suitable diet since you can never overcome bad food with only exercise.