Mother doing bench press strength training for women

7 Best Practices To Help You Get the Most Out of The Bench Press

Blast Your Bench To New Heights:
7 Best Practices To Help You Get the Most Out of The Bench Press

“Life is like a bench press. To experience success you must push hard” (Unknown)

The bench press is one of the most defining measures of a man’s fitness and strength. There is something wonderful about the bench press – the sensation you get when you engage the chest, deltoid, and triceps, moving the weight up and down and feeling the burn across your upper body.

There’s no feeling quite like preparing for a huge bench press. You need to get your body and mind all set – whether it’s with your favorite Eminem or heavy metal track. As you breathe deeply, you lie back on the bench and wrap your fingers slowly but firmly around the barbell.

Looking towards the ceiling and the shiny chrome bar, you concentrate just on the weight, you hear nothing but the sound of your own breathing. Now is the time to dig deep to hit your personal best.

With that being said, we’ve seen too many people dream of a big chest, but invest too little in the proper form or techniques. By using a sloppy technique, they not only stunt their gains but may even hurt themselves in the process, setting themselves back days and weeks.

So, what I’d like to do is to give you some of the bench press best practices I give to all beginners. Whether you’ve been doing the bench press for a week or 5 years, these fundamentals will certainly help you make sure that every rep counts. Together, let’s maximize the benefits of the bench press as we work to define a chiseled chest and increase in functional strength.

Table of Contents

Bench press best practice # 1 – Focus only on your chest

Bench press best practice # 2 – Proper form and mechanics

Bench press best practice # 3 – Incorporate progressive resistance

Bench press best practice # 4 – Strengthen your core

Bench press best practice # 5 – Work on your deltoids and triceps

Bench press best practice # 6 – Try different exercises once in a while

Bench press best practice # 7 – Eat more

Bench press best practice # 1 – Focus only on your chest

Knowing how to focus is important at work, at school, and especially on the bench.

It is essential that you schedule a time and day to solely focus on training your chest. Your concern should be on making your chest the main focus of your training. The upper body must be strong as you work to strengthen your other body parts too. In order to do this, you should find a day out of your workout schedule to focus on your chest alone. Do not train any other body part when you work out your chest.

All of your energy must be channeled and focused on your chest. This will, unfortunately, impact your ability to work out other body parts, but just save those for other days. For example, it would be good to have a chest day. As you plan your week, you can also schedule a recovery day, a cardio day, and a day focused on the lower body (squats and deadlifts are a personal favorite). Perhaps even a cheat day. 

But on chest day, make sure to not go all out on your other body parts. Don’t do a 10-mile run, nor try to do wind sprints right before. You want your chest to be in peak form before each exercise, otherwise, you’ll tire your body, and your performance on the bench press will suffer.

bench press photo

Bench press best practice # 2 – Proper form and mechanics

“You can practice shooting eight hours a day, but if your technique is wrong, then all you become is very good at shooting the wrong way.” – Michael Jordan

Fundamentals are important, but often underrated. 

Basketball players who only shoot 3 pointers instead of learning how to dribble and pass, usually end up not being very good players. Football players who learn how to lunge at someone rather than wrapping them up can severely hurt themselves. In the same way, doing the bench press incorrectly not only will be a massive waste of your time but will end up hurting you too.

Make sure your bench mechanics are clean and crisp. Have someone else check your form, or videotape yourself doing so and give yourself feedback. Proper form is the key to getting maximum gains without hurting yourself . Focus on creating and following a rhythm of controlled and fluid movement.

bench press photo
Photo by Tubbygorilla

Drive the barbell up by engaging your chest. By doing so, you will certainly guarantee that you attain the full stimulation of your pecs. Here are some additional tips:

  • Make sure to always warm-up and stretch – don’t bench press while your body is still cold. You could do some cardio, some jump rope, but make sure the blood is flowing in your upper body too. Start by warming up on the bench press by doing 2 sets of 8-10 reps, using a manageable weight. Continue to stretch throughout your sets and afterward, so that your body is ready to take on the heavier weights.
  • For your hand placement, use a somewhat broader than shoulder-width grasp. Make sure your elbows make a right angle and are directly underneath the bar. You can check this by taking an empty bar and lowering it to the bottom position (down to your chest). Your elbows should be a sharp right angle when you lower the bar to your chest.
  • The most vital part of bench pressing is ensuring that you set up your position correctly. Lie back on the bench, take a tight grip, and push your shoulders down into the bench. Imagine you’re trying to squeeze a tennis ball between your shoulder blades. Push your shoulder blades towards each other while you puff the chest out. When you start your motion and lower the bar, thrust your chest forward.
  • These steps are important to engage the pecs to most effectively pushing the weight of the bar back up. It might not be intuitive right away, but make sure to watch videos and try to follow the motion. You can do so without weights just to get the hang of the right range of motion.
  • Always use a spotter when working with heavier weights. Don’t be so macho and confident to think you don’t need a spotter. Especially if you are lifting at or near your personal best, it is best to have the assurance that even if you fail, you won’t get hurt. If you don’t have a friend with you, ask someone nearby to help you with a quick set. Many people have hurt themselves by being too confident. Trust me, you don’t want to be stuck with a couple of hundred pounds resting on your neck as you try to wriggle out.
  • Your feet ought to be firmly planted on the floor with your butt on the bench at all times. Do not raise your legs or place them unemployed. I don’t understand why people constantly do this. It takes away from your core power considering that you want stability, as well as the only method to do this, is to keep your feet strongly planted on the flooring. By doing this you have equilibrium and also you have the ability to adapt to the various stages of the lift. Bear in mind, do not place your feet on the bench and also always keep them flat on the floor. Do not move your feet around while you are doing the lift considering that this will certainly take away from the success of your lift.
  • Improve your grip by applying chalk on the barbell. I’ve noticed that if my grip really feels good, I typically have a better set and am able to move more weight. Just apply some chalk to the bar to notice the difference, and then grip the bar hard to get a feel for the weight.
  • As you unrack the weight, slowly lower the weight and also never ever drop it. Make sure to remain focused, and lower it slowly and in a regulated manner.
  • Always breathe in and out in a rhythmic manner. Try taking deep breaths through your nose, and exhale through your lips on the way up.
  • Allow the bar to lightly tap your chest when you bring it down, but make sure to not bounce it off of yourself or get sloppy in your motions. If you bounce the weight, you’ll reduce the effectiveness of the exercise motion. Keep in mind, you want to isolate and focus on the chest, so always engage the pecs in a slow and deliberate manner.
  • Keep your elbows in vertical alignment with the bar. That is, your joints must be directly under the bar bench. This helps you work the upper body and keep the motion under control.
  • Use an overhand grip. I have seen people using underhanded grips and the weight slid out of their hands. If the weight falls, that’s at least a few hundred points that are lying on your chest.  The overhand grip allows you the most control so you can do the exercise with maximum stability.
  • Always make sure the weight isn’t too much for you. If you’re struggling too much (and especially if you don’t have a spotter), lighten the load. You can do better in the next workout.
  • You want to be warmed up before the bench exercise. When I’m preparing for a difficult bench press, I’ll make sure to get enough rest and drink enough water. You must bear in mind to consume one or two glasses of water to stay hydrated and full of energy.

Bench press best practice # 3 – Incorporate progressive resistance

If you desire to increase your bench press little by little, you’re most likely going to need to constantly add progressive resistance. This means adding more weight over various time periods at different intervals.

What’s a good goal to make sure you are constantly improving. How much do you currently bench? Take that number and multiply it by 110%. For example, let’s say your present bench press is 185 pounds. Take 185 pounds and multiply it by 10% to get 200, which is your new goal.

I believe even the most seasoned bench pressers can aim for and achieve a 10% increase in their bench press. What’s important is planning – to know the steps and the increases each day to achieve your goals. A 10% increase over an 8-week duration is completely possible depending on consistency.

Make sure not to just be solely focused on your one-rep maximums, because that is a recipe for tearing your pec or for early burnout. The slow and steady nature of adding weight, growing, and continuing to improve will reap much greater benefits in the end. 

Your objective is to improve incrementally each time, by adding weight and lowering reps. Make sure to challenge yourself – if you’ve been able to do 10 reps of weight easily, it’s time to move on and push your body.

In each of your progressive sets, you will certainly add more weight to each set. Do this until you are able to take your last set to failure. As you continue to grow, push yourself to the limit, fail, and get back up, this is the key to growth and results.

“Growth and comfort do not coexist.”

Bench press best practice # 4 – Strengthen your core

When I suggest core chest exercises, I’m speaking standard upper body movements that support power and also size. You will certainly want to continue working on the bench press, incline presses, and also dips.

Just focus on the fundamentals. With a full week to rest your chest between workouts, and reducing the intensity for your other body parts, you should be able to max out your weights and hit your personal best. Remember, make use of core movements for your various other body parts too such – for example, with squats.

Squats are essential and extremely beneficial; they should be trained at least once a week. They actually help with the bench press – when you’re pushing the bar up, proper form dictates that you dig your feet into the ground for support and power. When you are doing the bench press, you will use your leg power to assist you in power up the weight, provided your legs are flat on the flooring.

Squats aren’t just good for your thighs, but beneficial to the whole body. This article is all about chest day, but don’t let that distract you from the fact that squats are very important. So hit the squats hard on your leg day. 

Some other great exercises to strengthen your core involve your shoulders, back, as well as arms. Don’t forget to try curls, pullups, deadlifts, barbell bent-over rows, and military presses. Spend more time doing compound and full-body strength training rather than isolation exercises (e.g. just focused on the bicep). As you focus on your core, your strength and body will be more proportional and functional too. 

squats weight photo

Bench press best practice # 5 – Work on your deltoids and triceps

You can’t really isolate and build your chest without also hitting your deltoids (shoulders) and triceps. If you desire solid bench press results, you will need to build up solid deltoids and triceps. These 2 muscles are fundamental and connected to the pecs, so all 3 will dictate how well you do for the bench press.

If you have weak triceps, you will have an underwhelming bench press. Remember that when you do the bench press, the initial muscles to hand out are the delts and also triceps muscles. For that reason, to continue to grow in your bench press, you need to concentrate on enhancing both muscle groups.

You ought to make your program to improve not only your bench press yet additionally to boost the additional muscles that sustain the activity. In a given week, you could work on your chest on the first day, and supplement that by strengthening deltoids and triceps midway through the week. 

This allows sufficient time for your muscles to completely recuperate. The shoulder and triceps muscle workout uses core exercises to support optimal power and toughness. Remember, concentrate on core motion such as close-grip bench pressing for your triceps and army-style pressing for your shoulders.

Bench press best practice # 6 – Try different exercises once in a while

“Variety is the spice of life.”

When people first start lifting weights, many are laser-focused on the bench press. They’ll focus on it for weeks and months at a time. But at some point, they hit a plateau, and they’re not bulking up or improving in weights as they once did.

Here’s some advice: stop bench pressing for a while.

Stop bench pressing! If you’re at a plateau, be honest with yourself and move onto other exercises for a short time to stimulate your muscles in new ways. P90X called this “Muscle confusion.”

So if you have plateaued and are not improving anymore, give it a shot – take a break. Not from exercising, but try new ways to move. Go from barbell to dumbbells. Incorporated some bodyweight movements and pushups. To really obtain an effective dumbbell bench press, you get to experience an even greater range of motion. The bar doesn’t stop at your chest, but you can lower it even further and feel the maximum stretch to your chest.

After a while, you’ll feel refreshed and rejuvenated, and when you return to the bench press, you’ll be able to hit it with vigor and a renewed strength. 

If you’re stuck in a rut, put down the barbells and take up the dumbbells. Mix it up with other chest exercises. Better to keep the muscles confused and working, rather than getting accustomed to the same routine week after week. It’s when the muscles are stimulated that they have a chance to grow.

If you feel like this advice contradicts the first tip (Focus), I would encourage you to think a little more broadly. We are completely focused on the chest, but when the body gets accustomed to one type of exercise, it’s beneficial to try something else to stimulate it again.

Bench press best practice # 7 – Eat more

Let me be real with you: you’re not going to make substantial gains if you’re on a diet to lose weight, or you’re not eating properly. I cannot emphasize the importance of eating right for adding strength and growing bulk.

If you truly want to enhance your bench press, you’re most likely to need to begin eating better – both in quality and quantity. There is just no chance that you are going to get stronger and leaner if you eat too little, or only consume junk food.

What’s necessary is to make sure you get the right nutrients into your body constantly throughout the day. A quick and easy way to remember this is to add 500 quality calories to your diet. There are many resources on how to eat right and make sure you’re taking in protein and vegetables. But understand that if we want to get big and cut, we need to eat the appropriate amount. When Michael Phelps was training for the Olympics, he averaged 12000 calories a day. Let’s train as Michael trained, but let’s also eat like Michael atet.

Maximize Your Bench Today!

With these 7 best practices, we hope that your time on the bench will not be one in vain, but every rep will count towards the pecs and upper body that you desire. From focusing on growing in core strength, the bench press is a form and technique we can all still improve in.

 eat healthy photo

Follow these tips to make sure that you are on your way to a monster bench. Happy exercising!

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