Barbell Bench Press Exercise Guide

The Barbell Bench Press is a compound exercise that primarily targets the pectoral muscles of the chest, with secondary engagement of the triceps and the anterior deltoids of the shoulders. It involves pushing a barbell upward from a lying position on a bench by extending the arms. This exercise is a cornerstone of many strength training regimens and can significantly enhance upper body strength and muscle mass. Variations include the incline or decline bench press and using different grips to emphasize different muscle groups. 

Target Muscle Group
Exercise Type
Equipment Required
Force Type
Experience Level
Secondary Muscles
Deltoids, Triceps

Step by Step Guide

Set Up and Position the Barbell

Lay down on a flat bench ensuring your eyes are directly under the barbell. Plant your feet firmly on the ground, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Grasp the barbell with an overhand grip that's just wider than shoulder-width. Engage your core, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and keep a natural arch in your lower back.

Lower the Barbell

With control, lift the barbell off the rack and position it directly above your chest. This is your starting position. Slowly lower the barbell to your chest, ensuring your elbows form a 45-degree angle to your body. Keep your wrists straight, and ensure the barbell moves in a straight line up and down. The bar should lightly touch the mid-chest area without bouncing.

Press the Barbell Upwards

Push the barbell back up by fully extending your arms, while exhaling. Drive through with your chest and tricep muscles, making sure not to lock out or hyperextend your elbows at the top. Maintain the straight line motion without allowing the bar to drift towards your face or stomach. After completing the desired number of repetitions, safely rack the barbell. For those new to the Barbell Bench Press, it's essential to start with a weight that feels manageable and to use a spotter whenever possible, especially when attempting heavier lifts.

Here are a Few Tips to Keep in Mind When Performing this Exercise.

  • Maintain Shoulder Blade Engagement: It's crucial to keep your shoulder blades retracted (squeezed together) and pressed against the bench throughout the movement. This not only provides stability but also ensures the chest muscles are targeted effectively. It can also prevent unwanted strain on the rotator cuff and shoulder joint.
  • Avoid Flaring Your Elbows: Keep your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your torso rather than flaring them out to the sides. This positioning places less stress on the shoulder joints and optimizes the engagement of the chest and tricep muscles.
  • Stay Grounded: Ensure your feet are firmly planted on the floor and that your buttocks remain on the bench throughout the lift. This foundation provides stability and safety, and it also allows you to generate power from your legs, which can be beneficial, especially during heavier lifts. Avoid lifting your feet or hips off the ground or bench as this can compromise your form and increase the risk of injury.

Exercise Benefits

  • Enhanced Chest Muscle Development: The Barbell Bench Press is a fundamental exercise for building the pectoral muscles. Regularly performing this exercise will lead to increased size and strength in the chest area, making it a favorite among bodybuilders and strength athletes alike.
  • Improved Tricep Strength: Apart from the chest, the bench press also targets the triceps, which are crucial muscles for pushing movements. This results in better-defined and stronger arms.
  • Strengthened Shoulder Muscles: The anterior deltoids (front part of the shoulders) play a significant role in the bench press. As a result, the exercise contributes to increased shoulder strength, especially in pushing movements.
  • Enhanced Bone Density: Weight-bearing exercises like the bench press stimulate bone growth. Over time, this can lead to improved bone density, which is essential for overall skeletal health and can help prevent conditions like osteoporosis.
  • Functional Strength Increase: The pushing motion of the bench press mirrors many everyday movements, from pushing a door to lifting objects overhead. By strengthening the muscles used in these actions, you enhance your functional strength, making daily tasks easier.
  • Better Athletic Performance: A strong chest and triceps are vital for many sports, especially those involving pushing or throwing actions. Athletes can benefit from the explosive strength gained from the bench press in their respective sports.