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The bench or chest press is a strength training staple that provides a multitude of benefits – and maximizing these benefits doesn’t come down to heavy lifting alone. Mastering perfect technique is key.

For decades gains-focused gym buffs have used the bench press as the ultimate measure of strength, but its benefits go far beyond providing bulked up bodybuilders with a testosterone boost. The chest press is an exercise everyone can benefit from, particularly females.

Training all the major muscles of the upper body in one hit, the chest press will build upper body strength while shaping sexy shoulders and toning triceps too.

Perfect bench press form:

  • Start with your back flat on your bench and your hands wide on the bar
  • Keep your feet hip-width apart, close to the bench
  • Drop your shoulders down
  • Brace your abs and keep your back close to the bench
  • Bring the bar down to the target zone – the middle of the chest stopping the elbows at bench level
  • Keep your elbows directly under the bar to take the pressure off the rotator cuff muscles and reduce the chance of injury.

Want to get more from your chest press? Here’s how

  • Take your elbows wide on the way down and focus on narrowing by drawing your elbows in on the way up. This increases pec recruitment, opens the window to accumulate tension in your chest and can help reduce shoulder stress.
  • Drive the upper back into the bench to stabilize the thoracic spine and make it easier to retract the shoulder blades as the bar is lowered.
  • Hold or pulse contractions at the bottom range to create occlusion within the muscles – maximizing fatigue to create shape and tone.

How much should you press?

While gym buffs will love bandying around the weight they can bench, for the majority of us the actual weight we press is irrelevant. In fact, studies show that lifting lighter weights for a higher number of repetitions can have the same effect as lifting heavier weights for fewer reps. Increasing the number of repetitions is the secret to generating the muscular fatigue that tones and strengthens long, lean muscles.

If you’re keen to be coached through the bench press (and many other strength building staples) give BODYPUMP a go. You can find a BODYPUMP class near you or work out On Demand here

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