There is one exercise that is the true measuring gauge of upper body strength: the bench press.
It is a compound exercise utilizing the chest, shoulders, and triceps simultaneously. The bench press is one of the first exercises many people learn when they first begin working out with weights. However, many people do not learn the correct form and injuries can happen very quickly while performing this powerful exercise.
The main objective in safe bench pressing is preventing the shoulders from primarily bearing the load of the weight being lifted.
A common technique mistake during the bench press is flaring the elbows out throughout the exercise. The correct position of the elbows is tucked in at a small angle closer to the sides of the body.
This slight adjustment in elbow position shifts the pressure of the weight from the rotator cuff of the shoulder to the triceps and chest muscles.
Another common mistake that can be seen from time to time in almost any gym is bouncing the barbell on the chest during the exercise.
This is extremely dangerous. With enough weight the barbell could impact the sternum bone of the chest and possibly fracture it and/or any surrounding bones.
In order to get the most muscle stimulation lower the barbell down to about one to two inches above the chest in a very controlled and smooth fashion. This will ensure a safe and productive set of repetitions.
It is very important to keep the body straight on the bench while performing the bench press. The tailbone should never come up off of the bench.
In powerlifting competitions many athletes will arch their backs to an extreme curve to generate more leverage during the lift, but for maximum muscle growth and stimulation the chest, shoulders and triceps must push the weight without the assistance of any other muscles.
A great technique to help maximize performance on the bench press is to exhale as the weight is pushed up. This will keep the airflow consistent through the body while also relieving tension.
The grip width of the bench press depends on what muscle is being targeted along with the shoulder and elbow comfort of the person lifting the weight.
For more triceps development, utilize a closer grip press. You will need to lighten the weight compared to the wider grip sets that target the chest and shoulders.
The bench press is a perfect exercise for performing a “Pyramid” set. A Pyramid is a number of sets that starts light with higher repetitions and then progressively gets heavier while simultaneously decreasing the number of repetitions. The weight is then decreased each set as the reps get higher again.
Pyramid sets are great for strength, mass, and power. They push the muscles to rise to the challenge of heavier weight and then exhaust the muscles as the amount of weight progressively is lowered.
Pyramids are excellent for pushing the chest, shoulders and triceps muscles to reach new levels of strength and power at the beginning of the workout when the muscles are fresh and full of energy.
The bench press is one of the select exercises that help build a foundation for muscle growth and strength development. It lays the framework of power for the rest of the upper body.
Bench press your way to your best results!