How do I Perform a Bench Press Workout?

D. Messmer

Performing a bench press workout — using both arms to lift weights on a barbell while in a supine position — is a great way to build the chest muscles. A bench press workout also benefits the shoulders and triceps. Performing a bench press requires proper form both for the sake of safety and for the sake of getting the most benefit out of the exercise. There are a few variations of the bench press, but they all require the same basic form.

The incline bench press primarily works the upper chest and shoulder muscles.
The incline bench press primarily works the upper chest and shoulder muscles.

To perform a bench press workout, the first step is for the athlete to set up the lift. Before performing the lift, the athlete must load the weights onto a barbell and get in a supine position — lying on his or her back — on a weightlifting bench. The barbell should be positioned above the athlete, with the bar either resting in brackets or being held by a spotter.

To perform a bench press, the lifter grips the barbell with the hands a little more than shoulder-width apart.
To perform a bench press, the lifter grips the barbell with the hands a little more than shoulder-width apart.

To begin the actual lift, the athlete grips the barbell with the hands a little more than shoulder-width apart. The arms are straight at the beginning of the lift. The athlete then bends the arms, thus lowering the weight toward the chest. When the bar touches the chest, the athlete then uses the chest and arm muscles to push the weight away from his or her body. The arms eventually will be straight once again. At this point, the athlete can continue to repeat the process until he or she completes the desired number of repetitions.

In addition to this common technique for performing a bench press workout, there are also several variations. One of the most common variations is to change the angle of the lift by using either an incline or a decline bench. During these variations of the bench press workout, the athlete lies on a bench that is not horizontal to the ground — if the chest is higher than the waist, the athlete will be performing an incline bench press, and if the chest is lower than the waist, the athlete will be performing a decline bench press. The change in angle of the body results in the weight moving at a slightly different angle in relation to the chest, and this works the chest muscles in a slightly different way.

Another common variation is to use dumbbells instead of a barbell. Performing a bench press workout in this way will help to work a lot of the smaller muscles in the chest and arms, because they have to work to keep the weights stable. An athlete who uses dumbbells also can perform the lift in both the incline and decline positions. Using some combination of all of these variations can make for a very effective bench press program.

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