The Barbell Bench Press is one of the most frequently performed exercises in the gym yet many guys struggle to master the correct bench press technique to develop optimum upper body size and strength.

Expert trainer Paul Haslam shares his tips to help improve your bench press technique NOW!

The body position:

  • Lie face up on the bench with the hips, back and head in contact with the bench
  • Feet flat on the floor or bench, enabling lower back support
  • Pronated grip, wider than shoulder width. A right angle should form at the elbow joint when the bar is at the chest. The wrist, forearm and hand forms a straight line
  • Line your eyes with the bar as it rests on the rack

The lifting technique:

  • The bar is lifted directly over the chest with the arms in a locked position
  • The bar is lowered in a controlled manner until it touches the lifters chest or the upper arms are below parallel to the ground. Those individuals with long limbs may find it difficult to touch the chest with the recommended grip.
  • On touching the chest around mid sternum (breastbone) press the bar to arms are fully extended.
  • Exhale as the arms extend. Keep wrists straight and maintain body position

Correct spotting and safety techniques:

  • The spotter takes a position at the head of the bench as close as possible to the bar. The use of an alternated grip will allow you better control of the bar if needed. Maintain correct lifting posture.
  • Assist the lifter in taking the bar off the rack (optional). Grip the bar inside the lifters hands. The use of a count to time the assist is recommended eg; on 3, 1-2-3. Release the bar when it is directly over the lifters chest.
  • Spotters hands remain close to the bar throughout the whole movement.
  • If needed the spotter should assist the bar to the extended position at the same repetition speed in which the exercise was performed
  • Spotter and lifter should return the bar to the rack together. This may be at a pre-determined number of repetitions or on a signal from the lifter.

Common errors

  • Uneven grip causing bar tilt
  • Arching and lifting hips off the bench
  • Lowering the weight too fast/bouncing off the chest
  • Holding the breath
  • Not touching the chest or fully extending at the top

Note:  The bench press technique provided above should be used as a guide only. As with many exercises there can be variations in technique, depending on the goals and specific muscle targeting of the performer. Whatever variation you are using be aware that the Bench Press exercise always requires a spotter with near maximal loads.