The Bench Press, better known as the staple exercise of any workout routine or starting strength routine that begins in high school strength training programs. There’s a reason that bench presses are part of the foundation of every solid workout regimen. It’s also one of the most widely measured exercises of overall upper body strength and that’s a large reason it gets so much attention. While high one-rep maxes on your bench press are sure to impress your friends, it shouldn’t be the only exercise you focus on in your workout routine. As always, exercise should be viewed only as an addition to proper nutrition and supplementation.
Yes, Bench Pressing is important. But you should never forget your deadlifts. While bench presses are solely an upper body exercise (okay, maybe some core muscles), deadlifts work your entire body so it’s important to remember not to overwork your chest and focus on having a good balanced weightlifting routine. When training with the bench press, the following muscles are the primary muscle groups worked:
- Shoulders (usually your front deltoids)
- Core (due to tightening of the core if done with proper form)
- Forearms (if your grip is firm and you focus your movements)
Most people refer to the muscles that are worked by the bench press as “beach muscles” because they are the most noticeable when you strip down and head out to the beach. Unfortunately that can lead to a lot of people pushing themselves and not using proper form which is a bad idea. Not using proper form when going through a bench press routine can put yourself and others at risk. You run the risk of hurting your lower back if you arch incorrectly, and speaking from personal experience you have a higher chance of getting a hernia if you aren’t careful (I’ve had 2 myself).
When executing proper bench press form, you should:
- Make sure your upper back has contact with the bench.
- “Slightly” arch your lower back.
- Pull the Weight Bar off the rack and down to a 90 degree angle.
- Push back up.
Here is a brief video of the proper bench press form:
I want to stress that doing the bench press with improper form is a formula for disaster. You want to make sure that when you are doing your bench presses, that you do not put yourself at risk of injury and knock yourself out of a good solid strength training routine. The last thing you want is to run into a lingering or bothersome injury, some of which are listed below.
Injuries that can happen as a result of improper bench press form:
- Rotator Cuff Tears
- Tendonitis in the Shoulders
- Herniated Discs in the Back
- Pinched Back Nerves
- Pinched Chest Nerves
- Muscle Pulls
- Muscle Strains
- Worst of all: Muscle Tears
If practiced properly and done with appropriate coverage with your spotter, the bench press is by no means an unsafe exercise. It’s just important that you make sure you have someone standing at your side if you decide to load up and go heavy and aren’t able to finish out your set. Once you’ve established your strength training baseline, there is no reason you shouldn’t be able to start pushing yourself to the max to see some great gains strength wise from your bench presses.