Your bench press is a vital and powerful addition to your strength workout. This is without a doubt the best chest exercise you can do. There are many variations of the bench press that you can explore with experience, but first, let’s look at the basics of this exercise.
How to perform a bench press
Start by lying back flat on the bench keeping your feet firmly on the ground. Position yourself so that your head is directly underneath the bar.
The next thing to do in order to prepare for this lift is to press your upper back into the bench, so that your upper body is stable. Next; reach up and un-rack the bar. Keep your arms straight as you bring the weight up directly over your chest. Your arms should be fully extended.
Finally, take a deep breath and lower the bar to your chest until it just touches. Pause for a second before pushing back up through the same controlled movement. Go for reps.
Remember that the bar alone weighs 20kg (45lbs). If you’re not sure that you can manage it, you should work your way up doing the same movement using a fixed barbell and a free bench. Do this until you can confidently manage the load.
Alternatively, you can use the smith machine for assistance until you build up your confidence. That being said; don’t get too confident on this machine because 20kg’s (45lbs) on the smith machine will not feel the same as 20 kg’s (45lbs) worth of free weight. It is important to consider this when using the smith machine for the purpose of progression.
Bench press: Common mistakes to avoid
This is one of those exercises that could easily result in injury if not performed correctly. Above all else, you should pay close attention to your form throughout the exercise. It is important to get this right before you start loading.
Also, remember that this is ultimately a chest exercise, so you should keep the muscle you intend to work in mind when you are performing the exercise. Mind muscle connection is ideal for ensuring targeted results.
Finally; don’t forget to secure the plates with clips and always use the safety bars!
Reps and sets
You should absolutely be building the majority (if not all) of your chest day workouts around your bench press, or a variation of. How many reps and sets you perform with each exercise depends entirely on where you are physically and of course your desired outcomes.
As a rule of thumb; beginners should keep it simple; 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps is an ideal starting point. For the purpose of laying a solid foundation to build upon; don’t over complicate things. The most important thing at this stage is to get started, the rest will come with experience.
On the other hand, more advanced lifters should consider their current strength and goals. See our One Rep Max Calculator for further guidance.