How To Bench Press

Learn the proper way to perform the bench press, one of the most popular exercises at the gym. 

Ben Greenfield
3-minute read
Episode #55

It’s the ultimate yardstick to measure your fitness level. It’s bragging rights for life. It’s the first question asked when you try out for the team. And although it may be slightly overrated, the bench press is a good feather to add to your exercise cap. In this episode, you’ll learn what the bench press is, its benefits, how to bench press properly, and potential hazards.

What Is A Bench Press?

As the name implies, the bench press is achieved by simply lying with your back on a bench (although you could substitute the bench with a stability ball, a bosu ball, or even the floor) and pressing a weight straight up toward the ceiling.

The weight can be a barbell, a set of dumbbells, or if practicing at home, a small child. If you’re using a traditional bench press bench equipped with a barbell, there will be a “rack” that can hold that weight for you, which is especially convenient if you’re working with heavier weights.

View the basic bench press exercise here.

How To Bench Press

While it may sound incredibly simple to just lie down on your back, bend your knees,  and press a weight, here are three quick and dirty tips to ensure that you bench press properly:

  1. Keep your low back pressed down throughout the entire bench press movement -- Unless you’re an advanced exerciser who knows how to safely arch the low back to allow for completion of a heavier bench press, you’ll be able to reduce risk of low back injury by bracing your abs and keeping your low back pressed down against the bench.

  2. Breathe out as you press -- A significant amount of internal pressure can develop as you press, which can increase your risk of a hernia -- not a pleasant way to end a day at the gym.

  3. Modify the range of motion for your comfort -- Unless you’re in a bench press competition, you don’t necessarily have to touch the bar to your chest before you press up. Simply lower the weight as low as you can comfortably go, even if your elbows don’t quite get to 90 degrees, then press back up.

Sound simple? Congratulations, you’re ready to work up to the current world record bench press of 1,075 pounds!


About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.