“How much can you Bench Press?”
A question many of you may have been asked or certainly heard someone ask when on the subject of exercise. It’s usually out of the mouth of a top heavy muscle-head who thinks cardio is a foreign language.
I don’t care how much you bench. However, if you told me you were looking for a good physique, to improve upper body strength and endurance but the bench press wasn’t part of your routine I would certainly have a little chat with you.
The Bench Press may have got a bad rep over the last few years mainly through association to the type of gym character that puts everyone off, but should it be neglected? Certainly not.
It is one of the ultimate upper body compound moves using the big ‘push’ muscles. It is a natural movement challenging the muscles in the way they want to be challenged. Primarily it uses the chest muscles, the Pectoralis Major and Pectoralis Minor. The secondary muscles being used are the triceps (back of the upper arm) and the front deltoids (shoulders).
A powerful chest can have a positive impact in life and in sport; pushing the car or hitting a forehand in tennis for example. Many people feel that extra confidence when they have prominent chest muscles- kind of like a peacock strutting about!
The principles of the bench press are pretty much the same as the press up (see previous blog). The action of pushing against resistance with both arms at the same time is identical. With the bench press you can increase or decrease the resistance to suit your strength and goals (high reps, low weight for endurance and tone; low reps, high weight for strength and size)
Performing the Bench Press in the correct way is by no means straight forward. There are many mistakes I see people make whenever I’m in the gym. Here is my step by step guide to the perfect bench press:
- Get a ‘spotter’. Someone who can stand behind your head and ensure you don’t drop the weight on your neck! (it does happen)
- Lie down on the bench with the bar resting on the stands roughly in line with your forehead.
- Feet flat on the floor, back flat on the bench.
- Grab the bar just wider than shoulder width apart with an overhand grip.
- Take a deep breath and breath out as you lift the bar into position above the middle of your chest, arms straight.
- Take another deep breath and lower the weight to your chest.
- Breath out as you push the bar back up away from your chest.
- That’s one rep. Repeat.
Remember you keep your back flat on the bench and don’t hold your breath. Keep your elbows tucked in towards your torso.
I recommend using a body weight exercise as a warm up to the bench then starting at a light weight and gradually building up so that you limit the risk of injury and allow time for the smaller stabilising muscles to catch up. If you can do 20 flat press ups (and you’re not significantly overweight) I’d start with half your bodyweight on the bar, ie. If you weigh 70kg set up 35kg on the bar. See how you get on. If you can’t do 5 reps it’s too heavy, drop the weight by 5kg.
Don’t forget the spotter!!!