When it comes to strengthening your body, there are a few staple barbell exercises that you can try – and they’re staples for a reason! Exercises such as front squats and hip thrusts are great for improving your lower-body strength, and if your focus is on your upper body, you can’t go wrong with the bench press!
Bench pressing involves pressing a barbell upward with your arms while you’re laying down, engaging all the major muscles in your upper body in order to increase your strength and build muscle – and we’re here to help you master it.
In this article, we’ll go over all the benefits of bench pressing and how to do it step by step so you can make gains safely. Plus, a few tips to minimize and even avoid wrist pain from lifting, so keep reading!
Benefits of bench pressing
Even though the bench press with a barbell is often seen as a chest exercise, it’s much more than that. Because you’re dealing with a heavy weight, this movement helps you build bigger upper body muscles while also increasing your muscle strength and resistance.
Not only that, but it also increases your grip strength, which is crucial to avoid the weights from rolling out of your hands in any kind of weightlifting exercise. Plus, it helps support healthy bones and joints so you can keep getting stronger safely!
The best thing about bench pressing is that it can be done in a variety of ways which allows you to focus on different muscle groups depending on your specific goals. Here are the most popular bench press variations:
- Traditional bench press. This is the most popular one, and it targets the pectoral muscles in your chest, anterior deltoids in your shoulders, biceps and triceps in your arms, and even your forearms and core.
- Incline bench press. This is a variation for those who want to focus on building their upper chest and shoulders.
- Decline bench press. Similar to the incline variation, except this time you’re working your lower chest along with your shoulders.
- Narrow-grip bench press. A more challenging variation for both your triceps and forearms, while also increasing grip strength.
How to bench press correctly
Since the traditional bench press is done with a barbell, you need to make sure you’re doing it the correct way to ensure your safety during the exercise so you can actually make some gains!
Here’s a step-by-step on how to effectively perform a barbell bench press:
Get in position
- Find a bench press station and load the bar, making sure you’re using an appropriate weight that will not put extra strain on your muscles and possibly cause any injuries.
- Lie down on the bench so that your head is under the bar and your feet flat and firmly planted on the floor.
Grab the bar
- Place both hands on the bar in an overhand grip so that your palms are facing forward, at a distance slightly wider than shoulder-width.
- Unrack the bar and place it above your chest, so that your elbows are pointing outward and to your sides and your arms are perpendicular to the floor.
Perform the exercise
- Begin by engaging your core and slowly pressing the bar upward, lifting the weight vertically in a straight line until your arms are at full extension without locking your elbows.
- At the top of the movement, hold for a second while you squeeze your working muscles, then slowly bring the bar down to your chest and repeat until you’re done with your set.
And that’s it! When you finish your reps, simply bring the bar back to the rack, checking it’s secured at both ends before letting go. Make sure you don’t push your muscles too hard at the end so you’re able to return the bar without struggling too much!
Tips to minimize and avoid wrist pain
One of the possible downsides of bench pressing is that it can cause wrist pain, but that’s only if you’re not pressing with the correct bench press form or if you’re using more weight than you should.
Here are a few tips to minimize wrist pain and even avoid it completely so you can enjoy the benefits of bench pressing:
Keep a neutral wrist position
This is probably the biggest mistake you can make when bench pressing because it puts a lot of unnecessary strain on your wrists and reduces the overall control you have over the bar.
When you’re lifting the barbell, make sure to keep your wrists in line with your arms instead of bent forward or backward, as if you were about to throw punches in the air. This will ensure that the weight or the bar travels down your arms to your shoulders and chest instead of staying on your wrists.
Rest the bar on your palms, not your fingers
Sometimes you can’t keep a neutral wrist position because you’re not placing the bar correctly on your hands, and that’s why you might be getting sore wrists after each workout.
To avoid painful wrists, you need to rest the bar on the palms of your hands, not your fingers. Make sure the bar rests comfortably on the base of your palms and wrap your fingers around it, gripping it tightly to keep it in place.
Grab the bar with a full grip
Bench pressing is not the best time to try out different types of grip – at least not when you’re a beginner or suffer from wrist pain after lifting!
A popular grip for lifting is the false grip, which is an open overhand grip in which you keep your thumbs tucked next to your fingers instead of wrapped around the bar. However, this is a risky grip variation to try while laying down on the bench, so make sure to always secure the bar by fully closing your hands!
Find your ideal grip width
While a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip is ideal for most lifters, it might not work for you specifically. After all, the one-size-fits-all approach never applies to fitness!
If you feel like you’re grabbing the bar correctly and that you’re keeping a neutral wrist position but you’re still getting wrist pain after bench pressing, try widening or narrowing your grip a little bit. Play with your grip width until you find a distance that’s comfortable for you and doesn’t cause you any wrist pain.
Use wrist wraps
Even if you’re doing everything correctly, wrist pain can still happen unexpectedly. This is more common among beginners and intermediate lifters that are moving up in weights to further challenge their muscles. If you want to make sure you can make progress safely, you might want to try using wrist wraps!
Wrist wraps, as the name suggests, are fitness accessories that wrap around your wrists to support them during heavy lifting movements. UPPPER Wrist Wraps are designed to help you keep the weight stabilized, reducing the strain on your wrists so you can lift with more control, so make sure to check them out!
Master bench pressing for better gains
Knowing the basics of an exercise is one thing, but mastering it to be able to perform it safely and effectively so you can achieve your goals is a completely different one! Remember to use an appropriate weight for your fitness level, and try to always have a spotter with you so you can stay safe at all times – even if you’re an advanced lifter!
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