Correct Bench Press Form for Fat Burn and Muscle Gain

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Incorrect bench press form can put significant strain on your back, shoulders, and wrists, and could cause you to drop the barbell — resulting in serious injuries. Do it correctly and you get max efficiency for primary muscles, while also engaging those supporting muscle groups.

1. Grip correctly

Once you have the barbell loaded and you are positioned beneath it on the bench, having the correct grip on the bar is vital to executing the exercise. Your hands should grip the bar in an overhand position with your thumbs under the bar. Your thumbs help stabilize the bar as you lift, so do not tuck them under your fingers.

2. Find the right-hand placement

There are a few variations you can choose from, and each one will work the upper body differently (see below for bench pressing variations). For the standard bench press grip, the correct form is to position the hands slightly further than shoulder width apart.

3. Position yourself under the bar

Your back position is going to be different based on your build. But generally, you should set up far enough under the bar that it’s easy to unrack — often, that means your eyes are directly under the barbell — but not so far under it that you hit the pegs when raising the barbell.

4. Keep feet planted

Walk your feet back under your knees and position them there. Your feet should be firmly planted into the ground at a shoulder-width or slightly wider stance. Lower the bench if you have trouble planting your feet.

5. Steady your head, neck, and shoulders

You may want to roll your shoulders forward at the top of the movement, but don’t! Your head, neck, and shoulders should be stable throughout the movement. You do want to keep your neck neutral and loose to prevent neck strain or health issues.

6. Pay attention to the back and butt

Your butt should never leave the bench, as this can cause your back to overarch. There is some debate about the arch in the back because if you do too much, you could strain your back. But if you err on the side of caution, a slight bend can help position your upper body to push with more power.

Which muscles does the bench press work?

Not only does proper bench press form and technique lead to a highly effective way to build strength, but it also targets several key muscle groups. Here’s a breakdown of which muscles the bench press works:

Chest muscles: Specifically the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor muscles, these are the muscles that give your chest that defined, chiseled look. When you perform a bench press, these muscles are the primary movers. As you lower the weight toward your chest, they contract to resist the weight and then lengthen as you push the weight back up. Over time, this constant tension-and-release movement stimulates muscle growth, leading to a stronger, more defined chest.

Triceps: These are the muscles located on the back of your arms, and they play a key role in pressing movements like the bench press. When you straighten your arms at the top of the bench press, your triceps activate to help lock out the weight. By including the bench press in your workout routine, you’ll be able to develop stronger, more sculpted triceps that complement your chest muscles nicely.

Shoulders (deltoids): These muscles assist in pushing the weight up from your chest, and also help to stabilize your shoulders throughout the movement. Strengthening your shoulders is important for overall upper body stability and can help prevent injuries down the road.

Upper back: These muscles, which include the traps and rhomboids, play a supporting role during the bench press. They help stabilize your shoulder blades and keep your upper body in proper form. Neglecting these muscles can lead to poor posture and a greater peril of health issues in the long run, so it’s important to give them some attention during your workouts.

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