Log in to BOXROX Pro

How to Maximise Chest Muscle Growth and PR Strength by Perfecting Your Barbell Bench Press Technique

Use these excellent tips to take your skills, strength and physique to the next level when it comes to benching.

Use these excellent tips to take your skills, strength and physique to the next level when it comes to benching.

What are the Benefits of the Barbell Bench Press?

The barbell bench press is a popular exercise in strength training and bodybuilding. It primarily targets the muscles in the chest, shoulders, and triceps, but it also engages various other muscle groups. Here are some of the benefits of the barbell bench press:

Upper body strength: The barbell bench press is a compound exercise that allows you to lift heavy weights, making it an effective way to develop upper body strength. It primarily targets the pectoralis major muscles (chest muscles) but also engages the deltoids (shoulders) and triceps (back of the arms).

Muscle hypertrophy: By incorporating heavy weights and multiple muscle groups, the barbell bench press can stimulate muscle growth and hypertrophy. This can lead to increased muscle mass and strength in the chest, shoulders, and triceps.

Functional strength: The bench press mimics pushing movements commonly used in daily activities or sports, such as pushing a heavy object or performing a powerful chest pass in basketball. By improving your bench press strength, you can enhance your overall upper body strength and functional abilities.

Improved athletic performance: Many sports require upper body strength and power, and the barbell bench press can contribute to improved athletic performance. Increased upper body strength can enhance performance in sports like football, wrestling, martial arts, and many others that involve pushing or upper body contact.

Man bench pressingSource: Michael DeMoya on Unsplash

Core stabilization: While the primary focus of the bench press is the upper body, it also engages the core muscles to stabilize your body during the movement. Strengthening your core is beneficial for overall stability, posture, and injury prevention.

Variety and versatility: The barbell bench press offers various grip widths and angles that can target different areas of the chest and shoulders. By adjusting your grip or using incline or decline benches, you can emphasize different muscle groups and add variety to your training routine.

Progress tracking: The barbell bench press allows for easy measurement of progress. You can gradually increase the weight you lift over time, which provides a clear indicator of strength gains and motivates further improvement.

Increased bone density: Weight-bearing exercises, such as the barbell bench press, can stimulate bone growth and increase bone density. This can be especially beneficial for preventing conditions like osteoporosis and improving overall bone health.

It’s important to note that proper form, technique, and safety precautions should always be followed when performing the barbell bench press to reduce the risk of injury. If you’re new to strength training or unsure about proper technique, it’s recommended to work with a qualified fitness professional to ensure you’re performing the exercise correctly.

Top Bench Press Tips from Mind Pump TV

Watch the video below to learn how to bench press properly.

Why is Breathing and Bracing Vital for a Strong Barbell Bench Press?

Breathing and bracing are crucial components of a strong barbell bench press because they provide stability, increase strength, and help prevent injuries.

Here’s why breathing and bracing are vital:

Core stability: Proper breathing and bracing techniques help create intra-abdominal pressure, which stabilizes the core. A stable core acts as a solid base, allowing you to transfer force effectively from your upper body to the bench. It also helps protect your spine and prevents excessive arching or collapsing during the lift.

Increased strength: When you take a deep breath and brace your core before performing the bench press, you create a rigid and stable torso. This stability allows you to generate more force and exert maximum strength during the lift. It enhances your ability to push heavy weights and recruit the target muscles more efficiently.

Injury prevention: The bench press puts significant stress on your upper body and places your shoulder joints at risk. By practicing proper breathing and bracing, you can protect your shoulders and reduce the risk of injury. The increased stability and core engagement help maintain proper shoulder alignment and prevent excessive strain on the joint structures.

Improved technique: Focusing on breathing and bracing helps you maintain proper form and technique throughout the bench press movement. It encourages a more controlled and stable lift, reducing the likelihood of compensations or imbalances that can lead to injuries or ineffective training.

To effectively breathe and brace during the barbell bench press:

Take a deep breath: Before unracking the barbell, take a deep breath into your diaphragm, expanding your abdomen, and filling your lungs with air.

Brace your core: As you hold your breath, tighten your abdominal muscles, as if you’re preparing to get punched in the stomach. This creates intra-abdominal pressure and stabilizes your core.

AMRAP Chest Workouts push workout Stretch Focused TrainingSource: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

Maintain the brace: Keep your core engaged and maintain the intra-abdominal pressure throughout the entire lift, from the descent to the ascent of the barbell.

Exhale at the top: Once you’ve completed the rep and locked out the barbell, you can exhale and take another breath before the next repetition.

Breathing and bracing should be practiced in conjunction with proper lifting technique and safety precautions.

If you’re unsure about these techniques or want to refine your form, consider working with a qualified strength and conditioning coach or a personal trainer who can provide guidance and feedback.

How Can Pause Reps in Training Help You Get Stronger for the Barbell Bench Press?

Pause reps in training can be a valuable technique to help you get stronger for the barbell bench press. By incorporating pauses at specific points during the exercise, you can enhance muscle recruitment, improve technique, develop strength in sticking points, and build mental resilience.

Here’s how pause reps can benefit your bench press strength:

Increased time under tension: Pause reps increase the time your muscles spend under tension. When you pause at the bottom of the bench press, you eliminate the use of the stretch reflex and rely solely on your muscle strength to initiate the concentric (lifting) phase. This extended time under tension can lead to greater muscle fibre recruitment and contribute to muscle growth and strength gains.

Enhanced muscle recruitment: Pausing at the bottom of the bench press forces your muscles to work harder to overcome the inertia and initiate the lift. This can result in increased activation of the chest, shoulders, and triceps muscles, which are the primary movers in the bench press. By recruiting more muscle fibres, you can develop greater overall strength and stimulate muscle growth.

Improved technique and stability: During pause reps, maintaining proper form and stability becomes crucial. By pausing at the bottom, you can focus on your technique, ensure a tight grip, and maintain a stable core. This helps you develop better body control, reinforce proper movement patterns, and reduce the risk of injury. Additionally, the pause allows you to address and correct any form issues or imbalances that may be hindering your bench press performance.

Strengthening sticking points: Sticking points are specific positions in the bench press where you may struggle to overcome the resistance. Pausing at these sticking points can help you develop strength and power in those particular ranges of motion. For example, if you struggle to push the bar off your chest, pausing at the bottom position can help you build strength in that portion of the lift. By specifically targeting and training these weak points, you can improve your overall bench press strength.

Mental resilience: Pause reps require mental focus and discipline. Holding a paused position can be physically challenging, but it also tests your mental fortitude and teaches you to push through discomfort. Incorporating pause reps in your training regimen can improve your mental resilience, helping you develop the ability to grind through difficult lifts and overcome obstacles.

When incorporating pause reps into your bench press training, consider the following tips:

  1. Start with shorter pauses, such as 1-3 seconds, and gradually increase the duration as you get stronger.
  2. Control the descent of the barbell to the pause position, ensuring a controlled and deliberate movement.
  3. Stay tight and maintain tension throughout your body during the pause.
  4. Focus on maintaining proper form and technique throughout the lift, even during the pause.
  5. Gradually increase the weight over time as you adapt to the pause reps.

It’s important to balance pause reps with other training variations and recovery to prevent overuse or plateauing. Consulting with a qualified strength and conditioning professional can help you tailor your training program to suit your specific needs and goals.

How Does Arching the Back Help the Bench Press?

Arching the back in the bench press can provide several advantages that can help improve your performance and strength. While it is important to note that extreme or excessive arching can be potentially unsafe and should be avoided, a moderate arch can offer the following benefits:

Shorter range of motion: Arching your back in the bench press reduces the distance the bar needs to travel during the lift. By minimizing the range of motion, you can handle heavier weights and potentially lift more weight than if you were using a flat back. This can be advantageous for powerlifters or individuals focused on maximal strength development.

Increased stability: Arching the back increases the surface area in contact with the bench, providing better stability and a solid base of support. This enhanced stability allows for greater force transfer from your upper body to the barbell, improving your ability to generate strength and power.

Engagement of the lower body: Arching the back helps drive the lower body into the ground, allowing for better leg drive and overall full-body tension. This leg drive and tension contribute to generating more force and power during the bench press, resulting in increased strength.

Shoulder position and safety: A moderate arch in the bench press promotes optimal shoulder positioning and reduces the risk of shoulder impingement. It allows the shoulders to retract and depress, providing a more stable and safer position for the shoulder joints during the movement. This can be especially beneficial for individuals with shoulder issues or those seeking to minimize the risk of injury.

bench press with spotter lb to your Bench Press Boost Your Bench Press Bench Press VariationsSource: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

Improved leverage: Arching the back alters the angle of your upper body, placing your chest in a more advantageous position to generate force. This improved leverage allows you to recruit the chest muscles more effectively, potentially leading to greater muscle activation and strength gains.

It’s important to note that arching the back in the bench press should be done with proper form and technique to ensure safety and effectiveness. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:

Maintain a natural arch: The arch should be a result of maintaining a tight upper back and engaging the muscles, rather than excessive hyperextension of the spine. It should feel comfortable and controlled, without straining the lower back.

Keep the glutes in contact with the bench: While arching, it’s important to keep your glutes in contact with the bench to maintain stability and prevent excessive stress on the lower back.

Maintain proper shoulder positioning: Ensure your shoulders are retracted and depressed throughout the movement. This helps maintain a stable shoulder joint and reduces the risk of impingement.

Practice with lighter weights: If you’re new to arching in the bench press, it’s advisable to start with lighter weights and gradually progress as you become comfortable and maintain proper form.

Seek guidance if needed: If you’re unsure about your technique or how to properly arch your back in the bench press, consider working with a qualified strength and conditioning professional or a powerlifting coach. They can provide guidance, assess your form, and help you implement the appropriate technique for your specific needs.

Overall, arching the back in the bench press can be a useful technique for increasing strength, stability, and muscle engagement. However, it’s essential to find a balance that suits your individual biomechanics, goals, and comfort level while ensuring safety and proper form.

How Wide Should You Place Your Hands During the Bench Press Lift?

The hand placement during the bench press, specifically how wide or narrow your grip is, can affect the muscles targeted, joint stress, and overall performance. The optimal hand placement varies depending on individual factors such as shoulder width, arm length, and personal comfort. However, here are some general guidelines to consider:

Shoulder-width grip: A shoulder-width grip, where your hands are positioned directly above your shoulders when you’re in the bottom position of the bench press, is a good starting point for most individuals. This grip allows for balanced muscle activation across the chest, shoulders, and triceps, and it generally provides a stable and controlled movement.

Experiment with grip width: While a shoulder-width grip is a good baseline, individuals may find variations in hand placement that feel more comfortable and effective for their specific biomechanics. Some people may prefer a slightly wider grip, while others may find a narrower grip more comfortable. It’s worth experimenting with different grip widths to find the position that feels most natural and allows for proper form and stability.

Consider individual factors: Your shoulder width and arm length can influence the optimal hand placement. Individuals with broader shoulders and longer arms may find a wider grip more suitable, while those with narrower shoulders and shorter arms may feel more comfortable with a narrower grip. Additionally, if you have any shoulder issues or restrictions, you may need to adjust your grip accordingly to minimize discomfort or risk of injury.

Maintain proper form and joint alignment: Regardless of the grip width you choose, it’s important to maintain proper form and joint alignment during the bench press. Your wrists, elbows, and shoulders should be in a stable and neutral position throughout the movement. Avoid extreme grip widths that compromise joint alignment or cause excessive strain on the shoulders or wrists.

Seek guidance if needed: If you’re uncertain about the optimal grip width or have specific concerns related to your anatomy or performance goals, it can be helpful to consult with a qualified strength and conditioning professional or a powerlifting coach. They can assess your form, provide personalized recommendations, and help you determine the grip width that suits you best.

Remember, the bench press is a compound movement that engages multiple muscle groups, and grip width is just one aspect of the exercise. Incorporating variations like wide-grip or close-grip bench presses can target specific muscle groups differently and add variety to your training routine. Focus on finding a grip width that allows you to maintain proper form, perform the movement comfortably, and achieve your desired training goals.

Learn More

10 HIIT Exercises to Lose Belly Fat Faster

How to Use the Flat Dumbbell Bench Press to Build A Great Chest

How Many Exercises do you Need to Maximise Muscle Growth?

Best Hanging Ab Exercises

Image Sources

Related news