How To Properly Bench Press for Massive Chest Muscle Growth

Increase your gains with these tips when bench pressing.

Learn how to properly bench press for massive chest muscle growth.

When taking into consideration strength training and muscle development, few exercises command the respect and admiration bestowed upon the bench press. Revered as the king of chest exercises, its reputation as a formidable muscle builder has stood the test of time. However, the path to unlocking its full potential is not as straightforward as it may seem. While the bench press undoubtedly plays a pivotal role in sculpting a robust chest, it is but one piece of the intricate puzzle that is comprehensive chest development.

Embarking on a journey towards a larger and stronger chest necessitates more than a singular exercise; it demands a strategic and multifaceted approach. Though the bench press wields undeniable efficacy in fostering chest growth, it is essential to acknowledge the existence of a plethora of alternative exercises that can contribute to the expansion of pectoral muscles. It is within this nuanced context that we explore the nuances of the bench press – a foundational cornerstone in the pursuit of a well-rounded chest.

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Diving into the technical intricacies of the bench press, we find ourselves under the expert guidance of Jeremy Ethier, a kinesiologist and fitness trainer, co-founder of Built With Science. His YouTube channel has over 5 million subscribers and he delivers clear information with sound background research. Ethier’s hallmark lies in his ability to distil complex physiological principles into accessible and actionable insights, underpinned by sound empirical research.

To grasp the art of the bench press and its role in fostering muscle growth, one must first navigate the labyrinth of its proper execution. Ethier delineates a comprehensive roadmap for unlocking the full potential of the bench press within the context of muscle development.

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How To Properly Bench Press for Massive Chest Muscle Growth

Here is everything you need to know on how to properly bench press for massive chest muscle growth.

Grip Width

A fundamental tenet governing the bench press pertains to grip width – a variable that exerts a profound influence on the muscles engaged during the movement. Ethier underscores the delicate balance between grip width and its subsequent impact on muscle activation. Contrary to the prevailing misconception that a narrower grip predominantly targets the triceps, Ethier advocates for a grip slightly wider than shoulder width to facilitate optimal chest engagement.

However, a cautionary note is in order – straying into excessively wide grip territory poses the risk of compromising both range of motion and shoulder integrity. Thus, the quest for an ideal grip width unfolds as a quest for equilibrium, a balance between stimulating chest fibres and safeguarding joint health.

Source: Calibra / Pixabay


Before delving into the orchestrated symphony of muscular contractions that characterize the bench press, mastering the art of positioning is paramount. Ethier imparts a cardinal rule: the eyes should align directly beneath the barbell, a simple yet foundational aspect that often eludes novices. A secure grip, with the thumb wrapped around the bar, lays the groundwork for stability and control.

A strategic interplay between feet and knees forms the crux of optimal positioning. Ethier recommends the calculated placement of feet beneath the knees, with a firm grounding to the floor. This configuration not only fortifies the foundation but also primes the body for the orchestrated sequence of movements to follow.

Body Tension

The moment preceding the unracking of the barbell is a prelude to a symphony of controlled tension. Ethier imparts a pivotal insight – the activation of key muscle groups prior to initiating the lift. Quads come to life, driving knees into the ground, while glutes assume the responsibility of knee stabilization. The convergence of armpits towards hips fosters the activation of lats, an essential contributor to the impending movement.

Herein lies a subtle yet transformative suggestion – a gentle arch in the lower back. Beyond the realms of comfort, this arch serves as a conduit for optimal shoulder positioning and augmented chest fibre recruitment. The imagery of opening one’s chest seamlessly translates into the formation of the desired arch, further underscoring the interplay between mind and muscle.

biggest bench press mistakesSource: Photo courtesy of CrossFit Inc.


Unlike its counterparts, such as the deadlift and back squat, the bench press unfurls a unique trajectory during its descent. The barbell’s path is not confined to the confines of verticality; instead, it embarks on a calculated journey downwards and forwards. Ethier elucidates the intricacies of this motion, akin to orchestrating a choreographed performance.

Engaging the musculature of the back assumes paramount importance during the descending phase. Ethier champions the utilization of back muscles to initiate the downward trajectory, culminating in the gentle convergence of shoulder blades. The barbell descends, embracing the lower chest as its final destination.

A delicate balance must be struck when it comes to elbow positioning. Excessive tucking or flaring of elbows is cautioned against; a harmonious angle, spanning the range of 45 to 70 degrees from the body, emerges as the Goldilocks zone.

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The ascent phase of the bench press embodies a crescendo of controlled strength, an exquisite dance between muscle activation and precision. Ethier’s counsel is succinct – the barbell’s contact with the chest during descent should not translate into a rebounding momentum during ascent. Instead, this fleeting moment of contact serves as a foundation for the impending ascent.

Concentration and control reign supreme as the barbell navigates its upward journey. A subtle shift in perspective is advocated – the barbell’s trajectory should arc towards the head, steering clear of a linear ascent. Ethier’s insights converge into a harmonious tapestry, woven from the threads of biomechanics, muscle activation, and kinesthetic finesse.

Bodybuilding chest workouts What Muscles Does the Bench Press Work?Source: Snoridge CrossFit

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Jeremy Ethier’s elucidation of the bench press transcends the conventional. It is a meticulous choreography of anatomical insight, kinesthetic finesse, and empirical rigour. However, Ethier’s opus extends beyond the confines of technique, venturing into the realms of breathing mechanics and nuanced positioning – facets that beckon exploration for the discerning practitioner.

The art of the bench press, as delineated by Ethier, encapsulates a holistic embodiment of meticulousness and strategic intentionality. Beyond the parameters of a mere exercise, the bench press transforms into a canvas for self-expression, an avenue through which one can sculpt a robust and symmetrical chest. In the intricate tapestry of muscle development, the bench press stands as a cornerstone, an ode to the exquisite synergy between science and artistry.

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Watch the video to see the full explanation of how to properly bench press for massive chest muscle growth from Ethier himself.

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To optimize hypertrophy, it is important to progressively overload the muscles by gradually increasing the weight, volume, and intensity of your workouts over time. Additionally, proper nutrition is important to support muscle growth, including consuming enough protein to provide the building blocks for muscle tissue, as well as sufficient calories to fuel your workouts and support muscle recovery. It is also important to get enough rest and recovery time to allow your muscles to repair and grow between workouts.

Source: Bruno Bueno on Pexels

The frequency at which you should train your chest depends on several factors such as your fitness goals, overall fitness level, and your training program.

In general, it is recommended that you train your chest muscles at least once per week to see improvements in strength and muscle growth. However, some individuals may benefit from training their chest more frequently, such as 2-3 times per week, especially if they are more experienced lifters and are looking to target specific areas of the chest.

It’s important to note that you shouldn’t train your chest muscles on consecutive days as this can lead to overtraining and increase the risk of injury. Additionally, it’s important to allow your muscles to rest and recover between workouts, so that they have time to repair and grow.

Some benefits of strengthening your bench presses are:

  1. Increased upper body strength: Bench presses are a compound exercise that work multiple muscle groups at once. By performing this exercise regularly, you can increase your upper body strength and improve your overall fitness.
  2. Improved muscle size and definition: Bench presses can help to increase muscle size and definition in the chest, shoulders, and triceps, which can enhance your physical appearance.
  3. Increased bone density: Weight-bearing exercises like bench presses can help to increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
  4. Improved posture: Bench presses can help to strengthen the muscles of the upper back, which can improve your posture and reduce the risk of back pain.
  5. Increased calorie burn: Compound exercises like bench presses can help you burn more calories than isolation exercises, which can be beneficial if you’re trying to lose weight.
  6. Improved sports performance: Bench presses can help to increase upper body strength and power, which can improve your performance in sports that require upper body strength, such as football, basketball, and volleyball.

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