What is a Bench Press?

L.C. Ray

A bench press is a form of exercise that engages the arms, chest and abdomen. A bench press can be performed on a bench made for the specific training program or from any prone position. To capitalize on the strength training benefits of the bench press, weights are typically used to increase resistance. The bench press can be incorporated into any exercise regimen.

People who use weights to enhance their upper body often do bench presses.
People who use weights to enhance their upper body often do bench presses.

Many body builders will utilize a barbell with heavy weights attached to each end. The bench used in gyms and training facilities is narrow and short. The dumbbell rests on a mount set just above the upper chest and low to the body. Heavier plates can be added to the crossbar to increase the weight and build muscles. To increase muscle mass, bench pressing is typically done to the point of muscle fatigue.

There several types of bench presses which can be incorporated into any exercise regimen.
There several types of bench presses which can be incorporated into any exercise regimen.

Free weights can be used to perform a bench press as well. The weights are held in each hand and lifted to meet above the chest. Free weight benching works a different set of arm and chest muscles than the barbell and can provide a more complete bench press workout when done in conjunction with the barbell.

The bench press can present difficulties that can be prevented with proper preparation. When adding weight to a barbell that is extremely heavy or being used for the first time, the weight lifter should use a “spotter,” someone who stands nearby to catch the weight if the strain becomes too much for the lifter.

Stretching is an important element to be included in any training program. Before a set of bench presses, the person exercising should perform a set of arm and chest stretches to warm up the muscles for the strain of the weights. Stretching after a set of bench press repetitions helps to relieve the muscles of cramping or tightening that could become uncomfortable.

While the arms do the brunt of the weightlifting when performing bench presses, the trainee must also pay attention to the back. Back injuries are one of the main problems incurred after improper bench press exercising. Strained muscles, pulled tendons and spinal misalignment can occur if the back is not protected.

A proper grip on a barbell can help prevent back strain. The hands should be about four to six inches broader than shoulder length apart and firmly wrapped around the bar. Both feet should be firmly planted on the ground, as bent knees on top of the bench can increase the odds of back injury. Once the barbell has been raised above the chest to a full arm extension, the weight should be slowly lowered back into its cradle.

A bench press can be used in conjunction with a weight loss program as well as for bodybuilding purposes. Quick repetitions with lighter weights can add a good workout to an exercise program aimed at losing weight.

Any routine that employs the bench press should begin with lower weights and gradually add weight as the muscles build and the lifting become easier. Additional resistance should be added in response to the body’s reaction and not in comparison to other weightlifters.

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