Basics of the Bench Press


A Part of Fierce Play's Barbell Powerlifting Series

The bench press is an upper-body strengthening exercise where the athlete lies back on a bench with feet on the floor and proceeds to press a barbell from the chest until arms are locked out, and then lowers it back down to the chest. The bench press is a phenomenal upper body strengthening exercise that works not only the chest muscles, but also the arms and shoulders as the athlete maintains a steady and straight torso while the barbell is raised and lowered. Athletes should feel the chest, triceps, and shoulder muscles activated as they complete the bench press.

Watch the video clip below for a full explanation of technique, tips and tricks for performing the movement with efficiency, as well as precautions for staying safe.



  1. Three Points of Contact: When setting up for the bench press, you want to maintain three points of contact with your body at all times: your feet on the ground, your butt on the bench, and your shoulder blades on the bench. If your butt or feet are raising off the floor or bench respectively, this puts your back in an unsafe position that could cause strain.
  2. Thumbs Width Grip: To find a correct grip, place your hands about thumbs’ width off the smooth part of the knurling, or rougher patterned part, of the bar. Often you’ll see athletes put their hands too close together on the bar, which does not use your pectoral muscles optimally when pressing heavier weights, and recruits more use of the tricep muscles.
  3. Eyes Below the Bar: Whenever you do a bench press, you want to start the movement with the bar centered above your chest. To achieve this, set up your bench so that your eyes are directly below the bar when the bar is resting on the j-hooks. Once you lift the bar and lock your arms out, you will see that the bar is correctly above your chest, ready for you to do a proper bench press movement.
  4. Shoulders Back and Elbows Up:As you push the bar up over your chest, continually try to keep your shoulders externally rotated back and feel the bench beneath your shoulder blades while your arms are fully locked out. To focus on gaining external rotation, push the pits of elbows so that they’re facing behind you. This will create in your shoulders and arms and keep the bar stable.
  5. Elbows Tucked In: As you lower the barbell to your chest and press back upward, focus on keeping your elbows tucked in toward your torso. This prevents bowing of your elbows, which can cause unnecessary impingement on your shoulders while performing the bench press. Remember: this is a functional movement. If you were to push a car, you would push with your hands and elbows close to your body, now bowed out from your body. Use the same mechanics of a functional pressing position to safely and correctly perform a bench press to gain maximum strength.
  6. Keep Breathing Steady: The rhythm of your breathing can also be an important player when performing the bench press. Try to focus on taking a nice, large inhale of breath at the top of the movement, when your arms are fully extended. Maintain that breath in your lungs while you lower the bar to your chest, and exhale once you’ve pressed the bar a quarter of the way up or more, or when it’s at the top. Holding your breath while the barbell is lowered and pressed upward actually helps your core stay stable, prevents unnecessary movement of your torso, and ensures a safer position.

QUESTIONS: Ready to get started, or curious to learn more about how Fierce Play can help you meet your health and wellness goals? Contact us for more information. Also feel free to check out more of our videos series to learn how to perform the basics with solid form and efficiency. 


Fierce Play’s Barbell Powerlifting Series focuses on proper technique, as well as tips & tricks, to master some of the foundational movements that will be integrated into many of the workouts you will perform. Start your next workout with the confidence and skills to do the movement safely and effectively.