Bench Press: A Beginner's Guide

Bench press is a fantastic exercise for increasing the mass and strength of the entire upper body and trunk. Learn how to perform a bench press safely and effectively!

Author: Todd Bumgardner, Ph.D., a certified specialist in power and general physical training

Bench press is a heavy exercise, which should be the foundation of any program for the upper body. However, newcomers – and surprisingly many experienced lifters – do not know how to make this multi-joint movement safe and effective. I suggest studying the biomechanics bench and developing the right approach that will lead you to success!

The bustle over the head is famous for its profound influence on power indicators and apparent simplicity. You just need to raise the barbell or its closest relatives – weights or dumbbells – over your head to the full straightening of your hands. So you can describe the press in a nutshell, and a pleasant fruit of hard work will be an unrivaled development of the shoulder girdle and the top of the back.

Of course, the development of strength when performing press above the head is standing far beyond the shoulder girdle and hands. The participation of the whole body increases the strength of the whole body. A wrinkle above the head strengthens the abdominal wall and muscles of the pelvic region, and also increases the stability of the legs. But we can not forget about the main goal: shoulders, upper back and triceps. Overturn the mountains of information, and you will not find another exercise that so successfully develops the shoulders and the upper back, like a press above your head.

It is very easy to describe the press above your head, but, in fact, this is a rather complicated press, to which you need to approach with understanding, training and honing your technique. Here's how to do it.

Most lifters do not have direct contact with a qualified coach for strength training, so a small self-test will not hurt. It will show whether you are ready to lift weights above your head. The truth is that some people simply do not have the natural data to perform a press over their heads without risking injury to the shoulder joint. How do you know if you can perform this exercise?

1. Test with lifting hands over your head

Stand with your left or right side to the mirror, hands are located along the trunk. Now lift both arms outstretched. If you were able to raise your hands to the level of the ears without chest movement, you passed the test. If not – if the chest moved before you lifted your arms over your head or your arms are not in the same plane with the ears – you failed it. You do not have to take up a bench press without training, because the upper body and shoulders are not yet flexible enough to safely lift the bar above your head. I'll tell you how to fix it, after another quick test.

Stand upright, hands along the trunk. Raise one hand, wind it by the head and touch the top of the opposite shoulder blade. Do the same with the other hand. If you can carry out the movement with both hands, without moving any parts of the body, except the hands, everything is fine. If something else has moved, you failed the test. This means that the path to the press above the head with the bar is still closed, but you can work with weights and dumbbells.

Now get one hand behind your back and try to touch the base of the scapula on the same side of the body. Repeat with the other hand. Use the same evaluation criteria. If you can complete the test without unnecessary movements, you passed the exam. If not, they failed.

So, where do we go next? If you successfully overcome all the tests, you get full admission to the bench press above your head. If you have passed the scapula tests, but failed the test with raising hands on your head, you can lift dumbbells or weights in other positions – for example, standing on one or two laps – until you achieve improvement. We will talk about these options later.

If you failed the blade tests, then you do not have enough mobility to safely perform the bench press above your head. Perform a press above your head with weights and dumbbells and include in your training program stretch marks.

Although polyarticular exercises are usually performed first in the training session, variants are possible with a press above the head. The barbell barbell should be used as the main workout bench or the first auxiliary elevator. Exercise will become a serious test for the nervous system due to its compound nature and relatively heavy load.

Variants with dumbbells and weights can be performed as the main presses – depending on individual characteristics and goals – or in the middle of the training session as an auxiliary elevator and stimulator of hypertrophy.

The technique and position of the body are important bench press variables, especially when it comes to complex standing movements. Trying to lift too heavy a weight can very quickly destroy your approach. Keep it in your mind, choose a scheme with so many approaches and repetitions that allows you to keep the right position and technique.

In the bar press, limit the approaches in the range from 3 to 8 repetitions in the heaviest set. Having fallen below 3 repetitions, you run the risk of breaking the optimal position of the case for press. Get above the 8 repetitions, and a load of fatigue will also lead to poor execution technique.

Variants with dumbbells and weights may or may not be the main bench press, but they are always performed in a larger range of repetitions. Thus, you reduce the risk of disruption of technique, and lighter weight does not require too much from the musculoskeletal system. Raise dumbbells and weights in the range of 5-12 repetitions. This is a sufficient scope for the development of strength indicators, increasing joint stability and stimulating hypertrophy.

Although the movement itself is virtually independent of whether you are sitting or standing, there are significant differences between the exercise options. Bench press is more effective in terms of developing the strength of the whole body than bench press, as it requires greater stability of the trunk, tension of the legs and gluteal muscles. The bench press does not require such balancing, because the body stabilizes the support in the form of a bench. However, in the bench press, as a rule, it is possible to raise a little more weight due to the stability provided by the support for the back.

Movement starts at the bottom (initial) position. You stand straight, your whole body taut and motionless. Hold the bar against the top of the chest, arms slightly wider than the width of the shoulders. Now draw an imaginary line that runs from the elbows through the wrists and brushes to the ceiling. Raise the bar on this line, bending the elbow joints, and on the same line, return to the starting position.

Press the dumbbell and dumbbells with a small modification. In some cases, the arm presses occupy a neutral (inward-facing) position in the starting position. Start with a neutral position at the bottom. Turning your hands parallel to your ears while lifting the projectile, you make the shoulders work in full range of motion. In the rest nothing changes. Unbend the elbow joints as the shell moves up and slightly back.

Safe transition to the rod press

Most of you have a bench press standing up. However, if you are just getting started with this exercise, start with simplified versions, for example, press dumbbells or weights, standing on two knees or on one knee. When you feel that you have mastered them in perfection, raise dumbbells and dumbbells while standing. Having learned to carry out these options absolutely confidently, grasp the bar.

Start with a light weight and concentrate on the technique. At first leave in reserve 5 repetitions in each set and completely focus on each ascent. For example, if you chose the weight with which you can make 10 technical repetitions, perform no more than five. If you feel that the back is flexing during the press, or you can not finish the repetition so that your hands are aligned with the ears, the load is too high.

Progress, adding to the bar on 2,5 kg per week. To such an increase your body will adapt without risk. Try to perform a total of 15-25 repetitions. This number is the sum of the repetitions in all working approaches.

What other exercises to include in training?

The barbell above the head is best combined with traction, for example, pulling in a cable trainer or pulling, as well as with exercises for the development of mobility of the shoulders and the back of the back. Such combinations will keep the shoulders healthy and improve the technique on which the strength of the bench depends.

Unlike bodybuilding training, these auxiliary movements are aimed at developing skills in the press, in other words, they should make you stronger by improving the main elevator, as opposed to maximizing muscle building. In the future, auxiliary training will develop the top of the back, shoulders and trunk – areas that increase performance in the bench press above the head. These exercises are divided into several levels; the most demanding and effective exercises are immediately followed by press, and secondary and tertiary movements follow them.

Auxiliary exercises of the first level

Choose one exercise and do 3-5 sets on 4-8 repetitions, without leading to muscle failure:

Auxiliary exercises of the second level

Choose one exercise and perform 3-4 sets on 5-10 repetitions, without leading them to muscle failure:

  • Pressing dumbbells or dumbbells, standing on one or two laps

Auxiliary exercises of the third level

Choose 1-2 exercises and do an 3 approach on 4-8 or 5-10 repetitions, not to muscle failure:

  • Variations of bench press (with a barbell or dumbbells on a horizontal bench)

Long live the press above your head!

Bench press is a great exercise that, in fact, controls the training of the upper body. Test yourself to make sure that you are ready to press, start with a press of dumbbells and weights and go to the bar without too much risk. And then pave your way to the muscular shoulders and fantastic power of the upper body!


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