Tag: Bench Press

How To Bench Press Properly: The Complete Guide

How To Bench Press

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 >>

Main Lifts and Compound Exercises

The Main Lifts for Strength

Main Lifts Big 3 Compound Exercise for strength the Squat

Compound Exercises How-To Guide

The main lifts are the main compound exercises for any powerlifting or strength training workout program. The Big 3 are the squat, bench press and deadlift. Learn how to perfect your technique and lift more weight than ever by clicking on each exercise below!

Learn how to Master the Big 3 in just 12-Weeks!

The Big 3

Main Lift Variations

More Exercises >>

Programming Your Main Lifts

Every training session needs a Main Lift, Compound Exercise, or movement.

This compound exercise is the focal point of the workout and the reason you are training for that day. All of the training before and after these main lifts is set to better improve the main exercise

The main exercise should be a standard motion that improves performance in your chosen sport. This can be any movement that makes you stronger.

Just remember, your main power lift should be something that builds the most overall strength. It can be a Big 3 compound exercise like the squat, bench press, deadlift, a close variation or something like sprints for running. It just needs to be helpful for you to build the strength necessary to be better at what you want to be better at. 

You should also do the most amount of work with this particular compound exercise. If you want to get good at something, then you need to do it a lot. You should spend the most time on this exercise and try to perfect it while still pushing forward.

Try to increase the overall workload or weight every few weeks so that you never stop progressing. 

Compound Exercises for Strength Training and Athletics

Heavy Training Days

For heavy training days, every other week your compound exercises should rotate between moderate and high intensity.

One week the goal should be to work up too or past 90% of that given exercise’s maximum (relative to the # of reps being performed) to build absolute strength. Example: 3 Rep Max = 300 lbs. Use ~270 for most of your work. IF you are moving properly, then you may carefully work up in weight to a maximum of 310 lbs. on occasion.

The next week should focus on repetitions using less than 85% of the maximum, to build muscle and constantly improve technique. This will rotate each week, and skip over week 4 which should always be of low to moderate intensity relative to the main compound exercise focused upon the other 3 weeks (4-week cycle).

If there are two main lifts for your heavy training day (such as squat and deadlift, or bench press and military press), then the two main lifts should also be rotated.

The higher intensity lift should always go first. For example, if the squat exercise is of high intensity the deadlift exercise should be of lower intensity. The next week the deadlift exercise should be performed first at a high intensity, while the squat exercise should be performed afterward with lower intensity.

The same intensity rotation should occur between the bench press only if there is another main lift you do that day, such as Military Press or an Olympic lift.

Most people do not bench press heavy enough to need 2 weeks of rest afterward before going heavy again, so if you recover enough, then you may bench press relatively heavy 3 weeks in a row while using every 4th week as a recovery week with light-moderate weight.

Light Training Days

The main lifts on light training days are still the focus of the training session. Everything should focus on improving this compound movement, which in turn is focused on improving your main lifts utilized on heavy training days.

During light training days the goal is to accumulate volume and practice technique, creating a better potential for strength gains on heavy training days.

These sessions will focus on building muscular size, speed, and endurance while bringing up weaknesses. This allows for different stimuli created through varying intensities.

As your muscles grow and adapt to lighter loads, they will have an increased potential to grow more absolute strength.

Together, light, moderate and heavy loads utilized on the main lifts will allow for continuous growth without stagnation. Keep growing stronger.

Compound Exercises for Bodybuilding

Bodybuilding Athletes generally focus each muscle group one time per week. However, aesthetics athletes can also benefit greatly from adding strength training into their routine as part of their Mathias Method Programming.

During the last 8-12 weeks before a show, it would be best to stick to the techniques that work best for you, but strength training must be a part of all other training times for optimal improvement. 

Bodybuilding Athletes should make their first main movement a strength movement in which they focus on strength along with aesthetics. This should be done by using a moderate amount of weight and training volume that slowly increases over time, as to not waste too much energy on only gaining strength.

An example would be doing 5 sets of 5 repetitions on a main compound exercise, like the squat or bench press, in which the weight stays the same in a given workout, but increases by 5-10lbs every week. This will give proper stimulus for strength along with improving overall growth.

After this movement, all other training may be focused on muscular development.

Main Lift Variations

Variations to the main lifts allow for a different stimulus to the base lifts and can allow for new growth. Any variation used can create an opportunity to build up different areas of the lift or prime mover muscles from different angles.

Variation can be simple or complex, but to build strength towards the main movements, it is important not to vary too far from the original lift.

Start with simple variations such as the addition of pauses and boxes or changing the positioning of hands or feet before moving into more complex lifts with numerous changes.

Examples of some valuable variations to the main lifts are:

  • Stance or Grip
  • Bar Positioning
  • Pauses
  • Boxes or Boards
  • Specialty Bars
  • Range of Motion
  • Accommodating Resistance (Bands or Chains)
  • Assistive Gear

Variation is best used with advanced lifters who have already mastered the main lifts and progress is slowing.

Beginners should rarely use variations in the main lifts if at all.

Intermediate lifters can try some compound exercise variations infrequently but most work should be done to perfect the main lifts.