A strong chest is one of the hallmarks of a well-balanced physique. “It’s also essential in sports that require upper-body strength, such as rugby or water polo,” says Augustine Lee, Men’s Health Muscle Guy and Fitness Factory (www.fitnessfactory.com.sg) personal trainer. “Other than using it to develop and strengthen your upper-body muscles, the bench press is a good gauge of strength.”
The bench press works the primary muscles – pectoralis major and triceps brachii. It also works secondary muscles – anterior deltoid, scapular stabilisers and abdominals. A lot of the time, we are only thinking about pushing the bar up from your chest, but this is not the way.
Here’s how to perfect your form and get the most out of each press:
1. Before you bench a heavy load, first visualise yourself successfully completing the lift. This prepares the body for physical stress and prevents shock to your system. Keep your shoulder girdle in a retracted position. Plant your feet firmly on the ground for a stable base.
2. “Every time you lower the weight, squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull the bar to your chest,” says Craig Rasmussen, a US-based fitness coach. This will help you build up energy in your upper body, so that you can press the bar up with more force.
3. “As you pull the weight down, lift your chest to meet the barbell,” says Rasmussen. “This will aid your efforts to create a spring-like effect when you push the bar back up.”
4. “When you press the weight, try to bend the bar with your hands,” says Pavel Tsatsouline, a fitness expert and author of Enter The Kettlebell! The benefit: You’ll activate more muscle fibres in your lats, and move the bar in a path that’s safer for your shoulders. When lowering the weight, do it slowly to maximise the workload on your muscles.