Barbell Bench Press

The Barbell Bench Press is widely recognised as the best exercise for building the chest, however, there’s a few intricacies with form which make it easy to get wrong. Before you start loading a bar with plates equivalent to your own body weight, it’s advisable to take some time to study the Bench Press, get a better understanding of form and work towards perfecting your technique.

The most common impact of incorrect form is a shoulder injury and this is one which can be particularly difficult to recover from. The problem is that even the slightest deviation away from proper form can result in injury which is why we recommend taking some time to do your research. Another major issue with the Bench Press is that there are many schools of thought on what constitutes ‘best form’, for example, some experts recommend a huge arch in the back whilst others recommend a completely flat back; whilst some advocate feet on the bench, others want your feet firmly planted on the floor. This generates a lot of debate on the subject and you won’t have to go far down the Google rabbit hole to qualify this.

What’s pretty much irrefutable is that the Bench Press is about more than just the chest as it requires the entire body to work together, specifically the hips, legs, core and arms. We’ve put together our guide based on lots of research on correct form and what we have learned through experience, however, this is just our opinion and we would always recommend that you take the time to review alternative view points and make your own judgement on what you believe to be the best approach.


Also known as: Bench press
Primary muscles: Chest
Secondary muscles Shoulders, Triceps
Equipment needed: Barbell, Bench
Level: Beginner

Step by Step Instructions

Step 1 – Set up

barbell bench pressLie back on a flat bench, squeeze your shoulder blades together and press your back against the bench. Your back should have a slight arch throughout the lift but ensure you keep your abs tight in order to lift the weight rather than arching your back. Grip the bar tight with an overhand grip keeping your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Your elbows should be at about a 45-60 degree angle from your shoulders, i.e. not parallel and not too far out and not too close to your body. Place your feet firmly on the floor with the upper part being parallel to the floor.

Step 2 – Starting position

Lift the bar from the rack by locking your elbows and moving it slowly down your body so it is directly above your chest. Pick a point on the ceiling and focus on this for the entire exercise

Step 3 – Downwards movement

Inhale and slowly bring the bar down in a straight line until it touches your chest keeping your elbows at the same angle.

Step 4 – Returning to the starting position

Pause briefly and push the bar back to the starting position in an explosive movement. Keeping focus on the same spot, tighten your abs and push your feet through the floor. Ensure you do not roll your shoulders at the top of the movement as this is one of the main causes of injury. When you have completed all of your reps, stop at the top of the movement and slowly move the bar back to the rack as opposed to going directly to the rack on your last rep.

image credits: fitness illustrated

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