The bench press is a powerlifting movement and big lift in which the lifter lays on a bench and then lowers a barbell to his chest before pressing it until the elbows are straight.
The barbell is generally set on a rack at a height appropriate to the lifter and the height of the bench on which he will lay—generally a couple of inches below a complete lockout. The feet are planted firmly on the ground and the shoulder blades are pulled inward. The back is arched, but the glutes remain in contact with the bench.
The weight is grasped slightly wider than shoulder width and then lifted off the rack and moved forward until it hovers over the upper chest. Then the weight is lowered until the bar contacts the sternum. Then the weight is pressed upward in a slight arc that puts the weight directly over the lower chest.
A barbell with plates is required, a rack to mount the bar, and a bench to lay on.
To train for strength, sets are generally performed for 1 to 6 repetitions. For bodybuilding purposes, sets of 8 to 15 repetitions are more commonly used.
- Board Press: To reduce the range of motion and use larger weights, one or more boards are placed on the chest to raise the depth at the bottom position.
- Floor Press: When a bench or rack is not available, the lifter can lay on the floor, and get the weight into position using either a pull-over or assistance from another.
- Decline Press: Using a tilted bench, the lifter lays with the head below the knees and presses upward to change the angle. Typically, this leverage allows for larger weights, but excessive use of the decline press can result in "drooping pecs."
- Incline Press: Using a tilted bench, the lifter lays with the head above the knees and presses upward to change the angle. Typically, the leverage reduces the weights, but the incline press will generally result in solid, balanced, gladiator-like pectorals.
- California Press: The bar is grasped using a reverse grip.
- Close-Grip Bench Press: The hands are brought closer together than shoulder width during the movement.
- Dip: With or without a weight belt, the lifter presses themselves up and down off two bars.
- Push-up: Strict push-ups can be used, or leveraged by raising the feet or by bringing the hands together to make the movement more difficult.
The Smith machine bench press is not an acceptable alternative.
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