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The Bench Press: An exercise with huge benefits for both the ‘everyday Joe’ and gym enthusiast

Published: May 9, 2022

The Bench Press is a great way to strengthen the pecs and triceps muscles. It also challenges the
core and helps build strength around the shoulders. The exercise is usually performed with a barbell
or dumbbells whilst the athlete is lying on a bench. Whether you’re a recreational athlete, casual
gym goer or power lifter - the bench press has huge applications across the board. This exercise is
helpful for preventing injury when lifting or pushing heavy objects – whether it’s the baby’s pram, or
lifting on the building site.

Depending on the angle you set up the bench and the ‘grip width’ you use, the exercise will target
different areas. Flat, or slightly declined positions tend to target the lower portion of your pec
muscles. Whereas, an incline bench press will focus more on the upper portion of your pecs. The
narrower the grip, the more triceps activity there will be. A wider grip will mean there is more
demand on the pec muscles and will demand more shoulder stability.
For beginners, a flat or slightly inclined bench press with dumbbells is a great place to start. This will
help you position your shoulders and you can start with a lighter weight.

The Essential Ingredients:
- Shoulder position: Squeeze your shoulders at the start of the movement and maintain
this as you press. You should feel your shoulder blades pressing into the bench the
whole time. This creates a stable platform for your shoulders and helps prevent injury. If
you find this difficult –you may need to work on rowing/ retraction exercises (i.e.
exercises that involve squeezing shoulder blades together).

- Bar path: As you press - the bar should stay horizontal at all times. Whether or not
you’re using dumbbells or a barbell, they should track in-line with your ‘nipple line’.

- Hand and elbow position: For beginners - if you’re using a barbell your hands should be
positioned roughly shoulder width apart. Do not grip wider than your pinky finger on the
rings. From a side on view your elbow should be directly under your wrist. For more
experienced lifters – you can start to grip wider to challenge shoulder stability.

- Foot position: To create stability, your feet need to be on the floor. Everyone has
different limb lengths – therefore find the foot position that allows you to keep your
buttock on the bench with your knee joint lower than your hip joint.

- Thoracic extension: You shouldn’t’ try to force an excessive arch or try to flatten the
lower back. Find the position that seems natural and allows for your feet to be stable on
the ground.



Cues: Squeeze, Bend, Retract, Unrack (SBRU)

1. Squeeze the bar hard - this helps activate the whole arm musculature to protect the elbow. Always include the thumb – this will stop the bar from slipping.

2. Bend the bar: Whilst you squeeze, imagine turning the palms inwards. This will help maintain tension.

3. Retract: Retract (i.e. squeeze) your shoulder blades together - Keep this position throughout.

4. UnRack: Pull the bar out from the rack.


Do you think you could benefit from seeing a Physiotherapist? 

Give us a call on 6281 2499 or click the button below to book online.

Author: Liam Hanna, Physiotherapist (B. Phty)