Strength and Conditioning Training: The Bench Press
A key component of strength and conditioning, is weight training. The bench press should probably be called the gym rat’s best friend because this lift is most associated with strength. In fact, this exercise has even formed its own day in most weightlifting cultures: Monday. Haven’t you ever heard of Bench Press Monday? You might also hear this phrase in the gym, “How much do you bench?”, and if you ever hear that phrase, you will know they have not read my blog. That phrase is just bro language for “I really don’t lift weights, I just want to converse as if I do.” Anyway, you must understand that the bench it not as simple as just moving the bar up and down. In fact, it is very technical. This is how you perform the bench:
1. Begin by lying flat on the bench. Think about lying in your bed. Your body should be in a neutral and relaxed position.
2. IT’S VERY IMPORTANT TO MAKE SURE YOUR BACK IS IN ITS NATURAL CURVE. THIS MEANS YOUR LOWER BACK SHOULD NOT BE TOUCHING THE BENCH AND YOUR FEET FLAT ON THE FLOOR.
3. Put your arms out to either side of you. Bend them 90 degrees, and bring them up to the bar. This is where you should grab the bar. (If you are looking to target your pecs, go for a slightly wider grip, and if you are looking to target your triceps, opt for a slightly narrower grip.)
4. When you first begin, practice with just the bar. You will first need to lift the bar off the rack and position it over the middle of your chest.
5. Once the bar is steady proceed to pinch your shoulder blades together. This will shorten the length from your chest to the bar and prevent pectoral tears.
6. Take a big breath in as you start to let the bar descend towards your chest. As the bar comes into contact with your chest, do not let it bounce, but instead keep control. The bounce can cause a serious injury.
7. Begin to exhale, and push the bar upwards. One cue we like to use is “spread the bar”. When we use this cue, it is like we are telling you to try to pull apart the bar. This will create an upward motion. Finally, you will want to lock the bar out on every rep for consistency.
The bench press is a very complex movement and requires many muscles. The muscles required are listed below in order of importance, so that you can focus on these areas in your assistance work.