The Definitive Guide On How To Do The Barbell Bench Press

how to do the barbell bench press

I don’t think there is a gym in the world that doesn’t have a bench for bench pressing.

I say this because since the 50’s, the barbell bench press became the most recognized exercise movement in the world. And if it were to compare what movements are done with the worst form by the average Joe and Jane, the bench press would be in the top 3 besides the squat and the deadlift.

Ever heard the famous saying “How much you bench”?

I bet you’ve heard…

The barbell bench press is also one of the best shoulder destroyers out there. It is a fact that many people want to impress their friends by trying to lift weights that are over their safety margin and which can potentially wreck their shoulders.

I want to help you discover the correct bench press form with which you can lift the most weight in the safest way possible.

How To Do The Barbell Bench Press

1. Starting position

Start by laying down on the bench with your feet in a nice and comfortable position, flat on the floor.

Get into the proper position by squeezing your shoulder blades together just like in the picture bellow and shrug your shoulders down. Maintain that position. Look at the feet in the picture bellow:

how-to-do-the-barbell-bench-press-feet-position

2. Lower And Upper Back Arch

lower-back-arch

Arch your lower back. Keep your shoulder blades retracted together. Imagine pinching a pencil between them. Keep your chest lifted high.

In case you have some lower back issues, especially disk issues, and you feel pain when you try to arch your lower back, then it’s safer for you to take a flatter lower back approach.

Keep an arch in the upper back and your shoulder blades squeezed together at all times. This position won’t hurt even if you have lower back issues.

First, you might have to practice getting into the proper bench press position but after a while, everything should come easy. Just remember to stay in the final proper position with shoulder blades squeezed, ass touching the bench, lower back arch and chest high along with proper feet position on the floor for the duration of your bench press set.

DON’T get out of that position!

3. Eye Position

The common mistake many people do when they setup their position, is not taking into account proper eye position. 

You should look slightly in front of the bar. Your eyes will not pass the bar’s vertical path. It should look like this:

eye-position-for-barbell-bench-press

4. Bar Grip

This is how you should NOT grip the bar:

wrong-way-to-grip

This is the proper way to grip the bar:

correct-way-to-grip-the-bar

The bar needs to rest directly over the forearm bone, on the heel of the palm so the power transfer is exactly on the arms without affecting the wrists. Wrap your fingers on the bar!

This will ensure your wrists are safe against any potential injury for the duration of the bench press execution.

There are too many guides on the internet regarding the ideal bar width grip. There are some general numbers you can use like 22-24 inches measured between the index fingers.

In my opinion, there are no ideal numbers but there are guidelines that will help you achieve the safest grip width for your body.

The most common mistake you should avoid like plague when you bench, is the thumbless bar grip which is both dangerous and not practical. 

There is a saying: “what the hands cannot squeeze, the shoulders cannot drive as efficiently”.

Having a thumbless bar grip is out of the question.

The dangerous part is showed well enough in this video:

When you are in the bottom position, your forearms should be perpendicular to the floor and parallel to each other. You can try to get into this position with the empty bar and practice until you get a sense of where your grip should be so that your forearms are vertical on the floor in the bottom position.

bar width grip

5. Proper Starting Position

After steps 1-3 are in place, start looking at the ceiling and keep that position at all times when you bench. Don’t try to follow the bar because you want to achieve the same bar path in the finishing position relative to where you look at the ceiling.

Unrack the bar and drive it into a vertical position just directly over the line of your shoulder joints. This is the starting position because you don’t need to waste any energy to keep it there. This is the proper starting position because you can hold the bar there without wasting energy contracting muscles to maintain that position.

Keep the elbows locked, and your arms perfectly vertical relative to the floor and shoulder joints. Look at the picture bellow:

starting-position

6. Proper Bottom Position

In the proper bottom position, your elbows will be directly under the bar, perpendicular to the floor, and the bar should touch the chest. 

DON’T DO PARTIAL REPETITIONS !

lower-position-for-bench-press

The bar should be slightly in front of your nipples with the elbows tucked in a 30-45 degree angle. This is the position that could  be described as best of the both worlds. Why?

A bodybuilder would have his elbows flared higher with a 90 degree angle. A powerlifter would have his elbows tucked more close to his body.

7. How To Breathe

Learning how to breathe correctly, ensures great support for the bench press.

For the general novices, a big inhalation before starting the repetition and exhaling out at the end of the repetition should be enough to keep in mind. Some advanced benchers like to use the technique also known as “one breath for the whole set”.

All that remains now after the setup is complete, is to start benching.

The last rep should be identical with the first one. The elbows locked up and the bar into a vertical position over your shoulder joint. Get the bar back (keep the shoulders locked) until it touches the bench rails after which you can lower it into position.

Now I have a question for you:

What did you corrected after reading my guide?

Do you know anyone that doesn’t have a proper bench press technique?

Go ahead and send them a link to this article to help them as they will probably thank you and me later.

Also, if my guide helped you, please share it with your friends.

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Comments

  1. Great article/tips. I didn’t know about ‘squeezing” the shoulder blades together. Will try that on my next bench press workout.

    Shawn

  2. Florin, do you think that I should arch in both, the lower back and upper back area? or put the focus on the upper back area?

    • You should maintain a slight arch in your lower back area and focus on getting a bigger arch on the upper back area (you have to minimize the distance the bar is moving from your chest and up so work with the cur: “CHEST UP”)

      Good luck

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