Master Class – Bench Press
Lesson Learned: Build mass and strength from the bench
Muscles Emphasized: Pectoralis major and minor primarily; anterior deltoids and triceps secondary
Mechanics: Lie back on the flat bench with a rack, placing your feet flat on the floor. Grasp the bar with your hands just outside shoulder width, carefully un-rack the bar and begin with it directly over your upper pecs with your arms extended.
Bend your elbows to slowly lower the bar toward your chest. Touch your chest lightly with the bar, and then press it back up in a slight backward arching motion so the bar ends up over your upper chest with your arms extended but not locked out. Keep both the back of your head and your glutes in contact with the bench the entire time.
Do: Keep your shoulders actively engaged throughout the set. Do this by contracting your back muscles to pull your scapulae together.
Don’t: Point your elbows straight out to the sides as it puts undue stress on the shoulder joints. Instead keep your elbows at a 45-degree angle or so to your torso.
Next Level: because you will need a spotter when going heavy, the bench press naturally lends itself to forced reps – when, after reaching failure on a set, a spotter provides a little extra assistance to allow you to get one to three more reps. But use forced reps conservatively. Don’t do them in every bench press workout, and when you do, save them for the last one or two sets.
Options: The most common offshoot of this exercise is the close-grip bench press, which targets the triceps to a great extent than wide grip. For a machine version, try the Smith Machine bench press or the Hammer Strength press.
Training Tenets: Use the bench press for substantial size and strength gains in the chest, shoulders and triceps. On days you bench, do it first while you are fresh and can push maximum weight.