Talk to anyone about weight training and ultimately one of the main questions that gets asked is So, how much can you bench?.
I tell you, if I added 5 pounds to my bench press every time I was asked that question, I'd be the bench press record holder for the next 50 years.
The bench press is probably the most popular weight training exercises around.
There's good reason why it's so popular, because it works and it can potentially add slabs of armour plated muscle to your chest (if it's done properly!).
The movement itself is a power movement that involves the chest, shoulders, and triceps. The bench press is considered a compound movement because it involves more than one muscle group to press the weight. The great thing about the bench press is that it's relatively easy to perform.
You simply lie down on a bench and press the weight up and down. It's actually quite enjoyable to do. The same thing can't be said for the squat or the dead lift which takes a tremendous amount effort to do. Which explains why most weight trainers, especially young trainers, gravitate to the bench press first and don't even go near the squat rack or the dead lift station.
It's because of this that young weight trainers often use the bench press as a measure of their status in the weight room, and outside as well. The mentality is that the more you can bench press, the more prestige you will have among your peers. This breeds impatience that can be very detrimental to your weight training program because you soon start to add more weight than your body can handle.
I've been training in gyms all across Canada and if there is one thing that I see in each and every one of these gyms is a glimpse of young, hopeful trainers adding monster weight onto the bench press and ultimately being crushed by the weight.
Let me say this, the bench press can help you add slabs of beef to your chest but only if it's done correctly. Done wrong and the bench press can turn right around and dish out a career ending injury.
Case in point - I recently stumbled onto the following video:
This video has taken me to every gym that I've ever trained at. At one point in time, I see something like this happening and it's a damn shame. This is how not to do a bench press.
Can you see this guys mistakes? First off all, he's not dressed for the part. If you're not one of the Barbarian Brothers, don't train in this type of wear. You need clothing that offers a full range of motion in both, your upper and lower body. Secondly, his mechanics are way off. Notice that as soon as the bar is lifted off the racks, his ass comes off the bench by about 5 inches. This throws off his balance and takes away from stabilizing his lower body, which is very important when doing the bench press.
Thirdly, his body is lopsided. He's actually grounding his left side to do all the pushing while compensating on this right. This is not what the exercise is about. He's forgoing all the benefits.
Fourthly, as he tries to press the weight up, his ass comes off the bench by about a foot. I don't care what you heard or saw in other youtube videos, your ass should never come off the bench. This is the bench press, not a decline bench press.
Fiftly, he takes huge pauses at the top of the movement that do absolutely nothing. If he's going to pause, try doing it at the bottom of the movement (I can guarantee the weight won't be coming back up).
Sixthly, use a damn spotter.
There should be laws preventing dumbass' from performing the bench press in this manner. It's painful to watch. The worse part is, some kid is going to see this and think it's normal to bench like this. Check the guy out doing the bench beside him (in proper form).
Here's another example:
Here's another joker.
Firstly, this guy jumped from 135 pounds to 315 pounds in one set! I know guys who bench press well over 500 pounds and they never, ever make this kind of jump. This kind of jump is only asking for an injury because your upper torso area is simply not warm enough to be attempting a one rep max. 315 pounds is more than enough to tear your pectoral muscle right off the bone!
Secondly, his mechanics are way off. Notice that as soon as the bar is lifted off the racks, his ass comes off the bench by about 5 inches. This throws off his balance and takes away from stabilizing his lower body, which is very important when doing the bench press. Thridly, he jerks the weight up at the execution of the lift and that stupid movement is enough to kill him. Jerking the weight like that is enough to throw your stabilizing muscles off which can sometimes simply give out (using weight like this). He is very, very lucky that weight didn’t come crashing down on his chest, neck, or head.
Fourthly, as he tries to press the weight up, his ass comes off the bench by about a foot. I don’t care what you heard or saw in other youtube videos, your ass should never come off the bench. This is the bench press, not a decline bench press. Fiftly, his spotter has no clue what he's doing. Under no circumstance should the weight come to a complete halt when you are performing an exercise. This is where serious injuries occur. Once your muscles give out, your body is using all connective tissue to keep the weight up. You never, ever want this. The spotter must always help keep the weight moving, keeping the pressure off the joints and connective tissue. If the spotter was helping, the weight would have kept moving and the plates would have stayed on, which brings me to my next point... Use collars. It’s easy to forego collars but trust me, it’s worth it to put the collars on. Now days, you can get spring action collars, which are super simple to put on an Olympic bar. Takes two seconds to put these collars on.
Lastly, this was not only dangerous for himself but for anyone around him. Take a look at the guy that comes up after he racks the weight, he wasn’t too pleased. I don’t blame him for giving that guy sh***. He put himself and everyone around him in danger.
In contrast, take a look at the guy in the video below.
Can you see the difference in form and technique between these two? This guys mechanics are spot on. His head and ass are planted firmly on the bench. His sternum is set up properly with his back planted firmly into the bench. Notice how he generates power with his legs. Throughout the entire movement, the weight is always under control. No where to do you see a jerk or sloppy posture. Also, notice the spotter. The spotter actually puts one leg over the stabilizer bar just in case he needs more leverage to lift the weight up. He also helps the lifter rack the weight. Very smart.
The lesson here is to be patient and use proper form with the bench press. By correctly performing the bench press, you will be able to handle more weight and build more muscle in the long run. Remember to always use a spotter who knows what they're doing. A gym staff member will always be around to spot you and will be glad to assist.
See these articles for improving your bench press:
All the best,
As the owner of Building Muscle 101, I am committed to providing you the best practical weight training advice. I've been training for over 24 years (and still train to this day!) and the advice and guidance I provide comes directly from my experience and knowledge.
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