The bench press is a strength training staple — but are you sure you’re even doing the exercise correctly?
For this basic gym necessity, you shouldn’t settle for anything other than perfect form. Let Men’s Health Fitness Director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., guide you through the exercise’s subtleties, saving you from the bad habits that are keeping you from unlocking your fitness potential.
Before grabbing your dumbbells (or barbell), take note that this isn’t the only correct way to bench. If you’re training as a powerlifter, you’ll position yourself differently — but for our purposes, Samuel is going to teach you how to keep your core active on the bench.
Feet Flat on the Floor
Eb says: You’ll see a lot of people being lazy with their feet, or putting their feet on the bench — a lot of things they don’t need to do. The action of your lower body is critical on a bench press, especially if you’re dealing with a barbell and pushing heavy weight. Take the time to learn that lower body action now and develop good habits. So it’s feet flat on the floor, driving through your heels. You want your glutes squeezed and contracted on that bench, too. Then tighten up your core; think about using your abs to pull your ribcage tight to your torso. That all sets the stage for a clean, aggressive bench that can help you grow a serious chest.
Eb says: This is critical. Shoulder injuries are common on the bench, and very often, that’s because of poor shoulder position. Start in the correct position; when the dumbbells are directly over your shoulders, think about driving your shoulders into the bench, and flexing your mid-back muscles. As you lower the dumbbells toward your chest, keep flexing those back muscles; it should feel like you’re pulling the dumbbells to your chest.
Eb says: Never let your elbows become parallel to your shoulders when you bench. Think about keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle, lower than your shoulders. This will help protect your rotator cuffs.
By Brett Williams