Bench Press Tips

The Bench Press is one of the most common exercise to train the pectoral muscles. Here some tips to help you perform this exercise properly but first some basics.

The main muscle group targeted is the chest composed of the pectoralis major and minor. The pecs are the prime mover in this exercise, but other muscles act as synergists, assisting the pecs: they are the triceps, the front deltoids and the latissimus dorsi (lats).

Muscles are worked differently depending on the angle and the equipment used. For example an incline bench will work more the clavicular portion of the pectoralis and a decline bench will work more the sternal portion.

Lie on the bench and place your body to achieve a 5-point body-contact position:
  1. The head is firm on the bench.
  2. The shoulders and upper back are firm and even on the bench.
  3. The buttocks are even on the bench.
  4. The right foot is flat on the floor.
  5. The left foot is flat on the floor.
Place the barbell or dumbbells directly above the chest with the elbow fully extended.
All repetitions begins from this position.

If you are using heavy weights, be sure to have a spotter for assistance at the beginning, during, and at the end of the set.

During the eccentric portion of the exercise, the lats and posterior deltoids decelerate the weight and control the downward movement.
  • Start by lowering the weight slowly and under control toward the chest.
  • Move the elbows down past the torso and slightly away from the body.
  • Keep the wrists stiff.
  • The forearms are perpendicular to the floor and parallel to each other.
  • Get the bar to lightly touch the chest. If you're using dumbbells, draw an imaginary line between the dumbbells and place that line roughly at chest level.
Always keep the five-point body-contact position.

The triceps and the anterior deltoids are recruited actively to assist the pecs during the concentric portion of the exercise.
  • Press the bar or dumbbells up.
  • Maintain the five-point body-contact position.
  • Keep the wrists stiff.
  • The forearms are perpendicular to the floor and parallel to each other.
  • Press the bar or dumbbells up until the elbows are fully extended (but not locked).
At this point you've done one repetition. Continue for a number of repetitions while continuously maintaining proper form.

  1. Arching the lower back
  2. Lifting the hip
  3. Not maintaining 5-point body-contact
  4. Locking the elbow
  5. Rotating the elbow more than 45 degrees from the body
  6. Not controlling the breathing

By Yannick Le Hellaye
CPT, ISSA, PN Certified Nutrition Coach