The bench press, also known as powerlifting, is one of the best compound upper body exercises that you can do. It involves pretty much your entire upper body and is a true feat of strength. It shows your weaknesses and your strengths and is likely the best way to get a bigger upper body in general. Many people test their bench pressing skills against others to push their limits and see how far they can go in events such as the Olympics and Paralympics.

Despite its incredible reputation and results, however, it’s actually very easy to get it wrong. That's when you start to bench press either inefficiently or even dangerously if you’re making a mistake that you don’t know about. Learning how to bench press correctly is something you should always do, no matter where you are in your fitness. It maximises your progress, minimises your risk, and makes the exercise just 100x better.


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  1. Position Your Bar
  2. Plant Your Feet
  3. Equal Your Grip
  4. Breathing
  5. Complete Reps
  6. Push Your Chest Out
  7. Arms

Setting Up Your Bench Press

man on a bench doing a bench press

The set up to the bench press is possibly the most important place to start when looking at your technique and how to perform the exercise safely and properly. However, there is much more to it than you might think, so we’ll walk you through some things to consider. Take notes!

1. Position Your Bar

First of all, is your positioning under the bar and where you’ll be bringing it down. You need to be pretty much above your mid-chest so that the bar is easy to unhook and hook again, without being too close that it hits the pegs. This allows you to perform a proper repetition safely without as much risk. Don't fall into the trap of the bar being in the wrong place.

2. Plant Your Feet

You need to place your feet flat and as far backwards as you can so that you can really push against the floor for added power. This will make huge differences to your lift, so make sure you really push as hard as you can. For the most effective results, you should keep them a little bit wider than the shoulder-width apart.

3. Equal Your Grip

When you place your hands on the bar, you need to pick the right grip for you. Depending on your size, there may be a lot of variation between you and the guy on the bench before you but just go for a grip that’s comfortable and not too wide to avoid injury, but not too close that you’re not hitting your chest and solely activating your triceps. A good grip is usually with your hands shoulder-width apart.

Bench Press Technique & Proper Form

man with a prosthetic leg doing a bench press

Once you’ve got your set up in place and feel comfortable and safe, it’s time to look at the movement itself and what you should be doing to get the best results. The technique is the biggest part of learning how to bench press properly in the first place.

4. Breathing

Your type of breathing is more of an option as to what works best for you during your set; as long as you are rhythmic and consistent, you should be okay. It is advised to breathe in as you bring the weight down (eccentric movement) and breathe out as you are pushing (concentric) to ensure that you’re bracing your core to protect yourself. No matter which way you do it, make sure that you're doing it right.

5. Complete Reps

When lifting such a heavyweight, knowing how far to lower the weight and your arms is essential. You should be stopping just above your upper abs with the bar when you bring it back down and creating almost a 90-degree angle with your arms. If you're going too low, you are risking several different injuries as well as cheating in some way or another anyway. You won't get the results you are looking for, and chances are you're going to have an injury and take yourself out of your training. Don't do it.

6. Push Your Chest Out

With this being a chest focused exercise, you must push out your chest as you perform your reps. That makes sure your pecs are as engaged as they possibly can be and getting the best contraction. Drawback your shoulders as we mentioned above to help this, as the delts, pecs and triceps all work together to perform the brunt of the exercise.

7. Arms

man on a bench doing a bench press

When you’re moving your arms outwards, it can be easy to think of them doing most of the work rather than your chest, so make sure that you don’t lock your elbows at the top of the repetition to prevent any unnecessary force coming from your triceps. To help with this, it’s often a good idea to bring your arms up faster than you are back down, with the push taking 1-2 seconds and the drop 3-4 seconds.

Once you’ve got all of this in good working order, you’re ready to go. It’s always advisable to start lifting light weights, probably around 50% of your body weight, so that you can master your technique before you try anything heavier and put yourself at risk.

If you’re not new, however, it’s also important to have someone check your form or even film yourself to spot any mistakes that you might not even know you’re making, as it could be the difference between increasing the weight and tearing a pec. If you’re worried at any point, then it’s a good idea to ask a personal trainer or a medical professional how to get help.


weight plates

Before beginning any exercise or nutrition program, consult your physician, doctor or other professional. This is especially important for individuals over the age of 35 or persons with pre-existing health problems. Exercise.co.uk assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained using our advice.

If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.