Article by JC

The bench press is one of the most popular exercises to do. It’s often used to show off to fellow gym goers…but are they actually doing it right?

On the bench
Before you lie on the bench, make sure the barbell is in the middle of the rack, the same amount of weight on both sides of the barbell. Next, lie down on the bench, making sure your butt, upper back and head are all in good contact with the bench. Your body should be in the middle of the bench. Your eyes should be directly under the bar. By doing this you will ensure you press straight up and down, and the barbell will not hit the hooks on the rack.

The grip
For the best grip placement, your forearms should be perpendicular to the ground when you lower the bar towards your chest. The distance between your hands and the weights on the bar should also be equal. This is done to ensure both hands have the same amount of weight. The next step for a safe grip is thumb placement. There are two different thumb placements for a bench press; however I will only let my clients do a regular grip, which is when the thumb wraps around the bar. A false grip is when the thumb is behind the bar, which is very dangerous. The bar should be held directly over the forearm; in other words, everything should be aligned, the bar in the hand, the wrist and the forearm. All of these should create a straight line. This will allow you to bench more weight and you will not hurt your wrist, as there will be no stress on your wrist.

Un-racking the bar
Arch your back; you can do this even before you grab the bar. Engage your core muscles, glutes and quads, place your feet on the floor, in line with your butt next to the bench and engage your legs. Take a deep breath and un-rack the bar. Lock your elbows, move the bar forward directly over your shoulder joints; if you don’t, you will be unbalanced and you will injure yourself.

The execution
Before you lower the bar you need to reset the position of your body, if you want to bench heavy weight safely and effectively, you need to have a stabilized foundation. Squeeze your shoulder blades tightly, think about placing something between your shoulders blades and try to hold it there. Hold this position while you are pressing up and down, and also keep your chest high. Take a deep breath, hold it and lower the bar. This helps you to create full body tension as you bring the bar down to your chest. Slowly exhale while you press the bar up or you can hold your breath and exhale when the bar is at the top. Remember, never reset at the bottom of a rep. The angle between the upper arm and the torso while pressing the bar should be 45 to 70 degrees; this is the most comfortable angle to press. This is also the safest way to press. It reduces a lot of stress on the shoulder joints. When the bar is on your chest, the elbow should be directly under the barbell otherwise it will be unbalanced or the bar may fall on your body.  The rhythm of bench press should be slowly down, fast up. When the bar comes slowly down to the chest, press it up to the starting position, and then repeat.

Extra tips

•  Don’t think of pressing the bar away from you; think about pushing yourself away from the bar. Push yourself into the bench.
•  Don’t be a hero, get a spotter for your safety!

JC is a fitness instructor; if you want to contact him for one-on-one training add his  WeChat: jc18370330856 (Chinese) or janihaupt (English)