How To Bench Press Properly: The Complete Guide

The Complete Guide on how to bench press properly for strength! Learn proper powerlifting form and technique to get stronger and build a bigger chest and arms.

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315 lb bench press

Page Contents:

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3 Keys To A BIG Bench

The Bench Press is the absolute best lift for both building and testing your upper body strength. It is an extremely valuable training tool that builds your upper body like no other lift can.

If you have a BIG Bench, then your entire upper body is well developed!

Like most lifts, the bench press is a lift where some people love it and some hate it. Those that hate it, are usually the ones that don’t understand it and do it wrong. However, if you learn how to do it right, it can be just as good as any of your other lifts.

With that said, there are 3 important things you need to know about the bench press before you can start benching BIG.

1 – Use Your Whole Body

First, the bench press is NOT just an upper body lift. Though it focuses on your upper body, you must use your entire body as one unit to lift the most weight safely and effectively. The biggest part of this is simply set up in a position that puts the least amount of stress on your shoulders and helps you to maintain stability as you lift.

Most problems with the bench press come from simply not setting up in the proper position to lift from, resulting in instability while you lift and high shoulder stress. The body was simply not made to hold a heavy load with our arms shoved back behind our bodies, and then have to press it away. That is why it is so important to learn how to lift correctly, so you stay safe while training to get brutally strong!

2 – Build Strong Triceps

Next, the key to a BIG Bench is strong triceps!

The Bench Press is a triceps dominant lift, not a “chest exercise”. Let me say that again…it doesn’t matter how much you can do pec flyes with, because the triceps do most of the work in the bench press. That is true for any pressing move we do.

It doesn’t matter if you are doing wide grip or close grip. Your chest and shoulders work together as stabilizers that only do some of the actual lift, while the triceps do all of the arm extension, or pressing work.

The reason the bench press is often considered a “chest exercise” is because your chest is the weakest link in the chain. Whatever is weakest, gets fatigued first and therefore builds up. However, the stronger muscles do that actual lifting.

The same goes for military press. Your triceps do the work, but your shoulders feel it because they are the weakest link that fatigues first.

For a BIG Bench, your entire upper body needs to be strong, but strong triceps are key! Everything else will catch up to them as you train more.

3 – Build A Strong Back

Third, the stronger your back is the stronger your bench press will be.

Having a strong back plays a HUGE roll in counteracting all the big presses you do. Not only that, but your back strength helps to keep your shoulders healthy so you can bench safely and more often. If you have a strong back you can stabilize yourself and the weight better leading to BIG numbers, fast! So make sure you do a ton of back work whenever you can!

Apply these things and you will be well on your way to benching BIG! Now let’s go bench!

Get our 12-Week Bench Press Program >>

how to bench press more weight book Get our “How To Bench Press” Guide!

Everything you need to know about building a BIG Bench!

Includes a 12 Week Bench Press Program, Workouts, common Bench Press mistakes and how to fix them, and so much more in this nearly 100-page master guide!

Learn more!

Proper Bench Press Technique


  • Test Upper-Body Strength
  • Build Upper-Body Strength

Prime Movers:

  1. Triceps (Arms),
  2. Anterior Deltoids (Shoulders),
  3. Pectoralis Major (Chest)


  • Hand Position,
  • Pauses,
  • Board Press,
  • Floor Press,
  • Specialty Bars,
  • Accommodating Resistance,
  • etc.

The Set-Up:

The set-up is all about getting your body into the strongest position to lift the most amount of weight, safely and efficiently.

Basically, it is all about tightness. You have to create tension in the right places without wasting energy and maintain it during the entire lift. If you lose tightness, then you lose strength.

Take your time and make it perfect. If anything is off, then reset and do it again.

Lay Flat on the Bench

Start by lying down completely flat, with your feet set on the end of the bench.

Set Your Hands

After finding your preferred width, evenly set according to the power rings, spread your fingers as wide as you can as if to engulf as much of the bar in your hand as possible.

Then grasp the bar tightly with your thumbs wrapped, trying to crush the bar in your hands to take control of the weight, while keeping your wrists straight.

This is your control point, SO TAKE CONTROL!!! Make the weight feel small while you become invincible with your crushing grip!

Note: Every barbell is different. NEVER base your grip on the knurling of the bar. ALWAYS base your grip off of the Power Rings in the knurling, even if you are like me and have your grip about 1 inch inside the rings. Though some cheaper barbells have their power rings in closer than competition barbells, it is still a much better way to base your grip. If all else fails, just close your eyes and grab the bar where it is comfortable and adjust from there as needed.

Set Your Shoulders

Press your feet down into the bench to raise your hips high, then pull your shoulders up off the bench while creating an external rotation torque with your hands, also known as bending the bar. Pull your shoulder blades back, together, and down towards your hips.

Next, firmly press your upper trapezius down into the bench, while keeping your shoulders tucked. Your eyes should be in line with the bar.

This is all meant to create an arch in your chest, not your lower back. Keep your chest high, and shoulders together during the entire lift.

Set Your Hips

While maintaining tension, and an arch in your chest, set your hips down on the bench, to where your chest is as high as you can get it.

Set Your Feet

With your hips in place, set one foot at a time down on the floor, while pressing down and out to maintain tension throughout your entire body. Think as if you are trying to slide your toes to the front of your shoe while pressing down hard into the ground.

Make sure your feet are set in a place where your knees are below your hips and your hips can stay on the bench, even when you push down harder. If you are having difficulty with this you need to work on your hip flexor mobility. You can do that by following my How To Warm-Up Guide or checking out my Mobility Exercises.

Lock It All In

To maintain tension throughout your entire body as you lift, brace your core, press your knees out hard to engage your glutes and keep your feet pressed into the ground.

After you are set-up absolutely NOTHING should move during the entire lift other than your arms. No opening and closing of hands, no foot wiggles, no movement at all. If you do get out of place, start all over until you get it right.

The Unrack:

Brace Your Core:

Suck in as much air as you can and hold it in, attempting to create as much intra-abdominal pressure as you can, to stabilize your spine. Then press your lips closed to hold the air in while flexing all of the musculature surrounding your entire torso, and forcing the air deep down into your abdomen. This is known as the Valsalva Maneuver.

Hold this air in tight as you lift only breathing as needed between reps.

Pull The Bar Out

While maintaining full body tightness and an external rotation torque on the bar, lock your arms to lift the bar only slightly over the bench hooks and pull the bar out until it is over your shoulders. Again, arms should be locked with your chest high and shoulders back and down.

Make sure that you get your lats tight as you pull the bar out as well, to help you stabilize the entire lift, allowing you to lift more.

Note: No matter the weight, it is best to do this with a spotter handing you the bar to maintain proper shoulder position. Do not shrug your shoulders forward to lift the weight out.

The Bench Press:

The bench press is as simple as pulling the weight down to your chest to create back tightness, then pressing yourself down into the bench as you extend your arms to lockout.

Make sure that you rotate your elbows in as you bring the weight down to limit shoulder strain, then flare your elbows out as you press for a stronger lift. This both saves energy for when you need it to press and keeps your shoulders safe.

Pull The Bar Down

While keeping your wrist straight and chest as high as possible, initiate the downward motion by pulling the bar down onto your chest, with your elbows tucked in slightly towards your sides, and engaging your lats.

Pause On Your Chest

Touch the bar to your chest and pause, without it bouncing. Your elbows should be directly under the bar and range from a 30-45 degree angle from your sides.

Find the best position for you, and if you have shoulder or torso mobility problems you should try to improve them before every training session. You can do this with my How To Warm-Up Guide.

Press Into The Bench

Press your traps down into the bench, while keeping your chest as high as possible, and flare your elbows out as you press the bar up and back over your shoulders where the lift began.

The more you press down into the bench, the stronger your press will be!

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Key Points:

  • Crush the bar in your hands and keep your wrists straight.
  • Chest high with your shoulders tucked back and down.
  • Keep your hips down on the bench with your knees lower than your hips for more pressing power.
  • Press your feet into the ground with no wiggles.
  • Keep your entire body tight so only your arms move during the entire lift.
  • Control the entire range of motion.
  • Tuck your elbows slightly when you pull the bar down (for shoulder safety).
  • Flare your elbows out when you press (for a stronger press).
  • Get a good Bench Press Program >>

Always use spotters during your lifts for safety. 

how to bench press more weight bookGet our “How To Bench BIG” Guide!

Everything you need to know about building a BIG Bench!

Includes a 12 Week Bench Press Program, Workouts, common Bench Press mistakes and how to fix them, and so much more in this nearly 100-page master guide!

Learn more!

More Exercise Descriptions >>

Mobility Stretches >>