The Bench Press

The bench press is an exercise that involves the weightlifter forcefully pressing the barbell off of the chest, then slowly returning the barbell to the individual's chest to complete the repetition. The bench press is one of the fundamental exercises needed in any workout routine to develop upper body strength. 

The barbell bench press is one of the best exercises at developing overall upper-body strength. Specifically, the bench press targets the chest muscles, front of the shoulders, and the triceps. The chest and shoulders work to horizontally adducts the arm, while the triceps forcefully extend the elbow.

Visual Representation of the Bench Press

Proper Form

The Bench Press

As you can see from the image, the person forcefully raises the bar off of the chest. Following this movement, the weightlifter will slowly return the bar to the starting position. This is one repetition. 

The bench press is an exercise in which you will be able to use a relatively large amount of weight. It is important to keep in mind that when you are doing a new exercise you must make sure that too much weight is not used and you keep up proper form throughout the repetitions.

Locate a flat bench with a barbell and rack at your local gym. Do a few repetitions with the bar to get the feel for the exercise. Once you feel comfortable with the exercise, load up the bar with the proper amount of weight. 

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Hand Position

Begin the exercise by lying flat on your back in a comfortable position with your feet flat on the floor. Keep the lower back slightly arched and the feet planted solidly on the floor throughout the exercise.

Hand Position

Position yourself with the racked bar over top of your face. Extend your hands directly upwards and grasp the bar at a width slightly wider than shoulder width. It is important to make sure that your hands are an equal distance from the center of the bar, This will make sure you can balance the bar. 


The bench press is an exercise that should never be done alone. Be sure that you have someone on the other side of the rack to help you if you need it. 

Lift the bar off of the rack, your partner can even help you do this, and position the bar directly above your sternum with your arms fully extended. 

Lower the bar to a position about 2 inches from your sternum. At this point, forcefully contract your chest and extend your arms to a position where your arms are nearly fully extended. 

This cycle is one repetition. Slowly return the bar to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions. 

Check out this super helpful video for a visual demonstration of how to do the bench press. 

Additional Information

It is important to get adequate rest between sets. The recommendation here is about 90-120 seconds. This 2 minutes rest will give your muscle enough time to fully recover so you can continue to do your following sets at your best. 

While you are at the gym be sure to drink more than enough water. Having water will help keep you focuses and prevent dehydration and exhaustion.

 Looking for a great guidebook to get started? Check out this book by Arnold Schwarzenegger himself!.