Can you build a good chest without bench pressing? Is the bench press the best overall chest exercise? Here’s an in-depth guide to the bench press and how it can help your training.
How Does The Benchpress Work?
Lying on a flat bench, you push the barbell up and down from your chest until your arms extend. Your pectoral muscles are accompanied by your shoulders and triceps to press the weight in an upward direction. Your legs are planted firmly on the ground to help stabilize and draw power.
Any exercise can be dangerous if not performed properly. The bench press can be even more dangerous as a lot of weight is loaded onto the bar. Remember to always stretch your muscles before training to reduce risk of injury. If you are going heavy, it’s a very good idea to have a spotter in case you cannot get the weight back up. Make sure to always keep your head against the bench, as raising it can put strain on your neck.
Perform The Bench Press Correctly
Okay guys, whenever talking about an exercise in the gym, I always like to make sure people are doing it correctly. Going into the gym and slamming weights on with atrocious form WILL result in injury and only hinder your progress. I hate seeing people get injured for making an easy mistake and ruining their progress. So, let me break the exercise down for you.
When you lie down on the bench you want to retract your scapula, pulling your shoulders back and down into the bench. This will shorten your range of motion as your arms will not reach as far. This leads to greater strength output which allows you to move more weight. This leads to more muscle gain from the exercise. It also saves putting unnecessary stress on your shoulder muscles. This instead lets your chest do the majority of the work. This results in more chest muscle gains and lowers the risk of injury.
When pushing the bar up away from your chest, your bar path should be towards the rack. Doing so will allow you to incorporate your legs into the movement. You should also have a slight arch in your back. This allows for further protection of your shoulders. It also makes it a lot easier to keep your shoulders pinned back.
Your feet should be planted as far under you and back towards your body as you can comfortably get them. You should press down hard through your heels when pushing the weight away from your chest. This will incorporate “leg drive.” At first, it will be difficult to master. But, once you can learn to push off your legs as you move the weight up, you will notice a huge improvement in your bench press. Yes, even your legs play a big role in benching.
Here is a more in depth video explaining the bench press if you would like.
When you first use these tips you most likely won’t be as strong. Give it time and you will notice your bench blow up. In addition, you will be performing the movement a lot safer. If all of these tips are too overwhelming, just focus on one or two your next bench session. Once you’ve nailed these, try adding in another one or two.
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What Are The Benefits Of Bench Press?
The bench press provides overall upper body strength. It also strengthens the pectoral, deltoid, and triceps muscles. It also improves muscular endurance and helps assist with strength in other pushing movements. The bench press is a great movement for building the pec major. This is the biggest muscle in the chest that gives it a stronger and wider appearance. There are plenty of studies proving the correlation of a big bench press with a big chest. Think about all the guys at your gym who bench 3 plates or more. How do their chests look? It’s just not possible to press that much weight without a big chest. As it is a compound movement, it works other muscles than just your chest. You will notice gains in the strength and muscle definition of your shoulders and triceps if you bench press regularly.
Other Chest Exercises To Consider When Building Your Chest
Dumbell Bench Press
Very similar to the barbell bench press, except you’re using dumbbells. Dumbbells allow you to get a further range of motion as they can go lower than the bar as it stops as it hits your chest. You can also squeeze the dumbbells at the top of the movement, activating more muscles fibers, resulting in more growth. By having a dumbbell in each hand, it allows you to improve your form and prevent muscular imbalances. A barbell sometimes tends to build more of one side of the chest without you even knowing it. Using dumbbells removes this possibility. The dumbbell bench press puts less stress on your joints as you can rotate your wrists. You are also using less weight, removing added stress.
One of the best things about this exercise is that your chest muscles are constantly under tension throughout the whole exercise. At the bottom of the bench press there is no tension on your chest muscles. However, the cable are constantly pulling and tearing your muscles, leading to more muscle breakdown and growth. The cable crossover has many variations, as just slightly pointing your arms up or down can work different areas of the best. This allows you to easily train your entire chest with one exercise. The cable crossover even has more diversity to it. It can be performed sitting on a bench, or lying on a bench rather than standing. You can have an entire taxing chest workout by just using a set of cables!
Any machine where your hands are pressing in front of your body and come together to squeeze the chest are great. The pec deck puts a great deal of tension on your chest and allows you to fully contract in the middle, and fully stretch the pec when your arms return backwards. Make sure to have the weight low enough that you can perform the exercise correctly, without moving your body and rocking the weight. You should have your shoulders pinned back against the pad and feel constant tension in your chest throughout the entire movement.
The bench press is a great stable exercise to be doing for your chest. It allows you to overload your chest with an increased amount of weight. It should be done once a week by anyone looking to increase their chest strength or aesthetics. Use a spotter whenever going heavy. This is not only for safety, but it will allow you to go as heavy as possible without being scared to drop the bar.
Let me know what you think. Is the bench press your go to chest exercise? What are your other favorite chest exercises? How are often you training chest?