How to Bench Press – A Step by Step Guide with Tips from the Pros

“How much are you benchin’?” If you’ve not been asked already, the question is close on the horizon. It’s only getting nearer too if you’re looking to get bigger, better, and stronger. Master the gym favourite technique today with this how to bench press guide…

Get in the Mindset:

  • What is the Bench Press?

  • Bench Press muscles worked

  • How to Bench Press: A Step by Step Guide

  • Top Bench Press Tips from the Pros

  • Final rep

Woman performing barbell bench press
Photo by Alora Griffiths on Unsplash

What is the bench press?

It’d be rude to assume everyone knows what a bench press is. However, it’s safe to say you’d know one if you saw it in action. It’s probably the most famous gym move on the planet, maybe bigger than bicep curls.

The bench press is an exercise where the lifter lies with their back on a raised surface and presses the barbell up. In short, the lifter is somewhat horizontal, while the weight travels vertically. Imagine pushing something away from your chest with both hands.

According to the American Council of Exercise, the bench press is the king of chest movements. In one study on nine exercises, their team of researchers found it activated more muscles in that area than anything else. Coming in at a close second was the Pec Deck and bent forward cable cross over.

Okay, so you know what we’re talking about. After all, everybody has seen the bench press. But, how did it come to be? We can thank the legendary wrestler, strongman, and original fitness icon, George Hackenschmidt for that.

Hackenschmidt, a notorious 20th century Baltic-German strongman, used to train and showcase his strength using the floor press. According to writers from the time, “The Russian Lion” was the first to do this too. He’d role a bar over his sideways turned face and push it out above his sternum from the ground.

But, ever the inventive and intuitive guy, Hackenschmidt developed an idea. Instead of the floor, he decided to also push from the bench. This move added a whole new dimension to his training and started a lifting revolution…

Man with muscular upper body performing bench press

Bench Press muscles worked

The bench press is an essential move for all to master because it is a compound exercise. This means that rather than isolate one joint, benching requires many. Multi-joint movements also trigger a tonne of fiber recruitment by using more than one muscle group at once.

Here’s what muscles are fired while hitting a Bench Press:

  • Pectorals

  • Triceps

  • Anterior deltoids

  • Biceps

  • Lats

  • Quadriceps

A properly performed bench press will predominantly hit the chest and triceps. You can guess why bodybuilders and power athletes love it so much, right?

Yet, other areas of the body are also impacted, making benching a true art in itself.

How to Bench Press: A Step by Step Guide

  1. Lay flat on the bench and set your eyes directly underneath the bar.

  2. Grab the bar with a grip slightly wider than shoulder width. Your forearms should be at a right angle to the floor when the bar is in its bottom position. Tip: Find and establish your grip with with an empty bar first using the ring markers as guidance,

  3. Once you have your grip, put your feet flat on the floor. You’ll need to push from the floor to help you handle the weight. Now, created a slight arch in your lower back by pushing your sternum up. Lock your shoulder blades down into the bench by squeezing your lats together. Pack the shoulder to maintain stability.

  4. Now you’re set in a stable position un-rack the bar. Ensure the elbows stay locked out while ever the bar moves over your face and neck. Not only will this keep you safe, but it’ll conserve vital energy for the press.

  5. Breathe in, brace the core, and lower the bar in a straight line toward your chest. Aim to land the middle somewhere near the centre of your chest, just below the nipple line. Tip: If you start to feel tight in the shoulder or any kind of pain, this might be impingement. Push the chest higher, drop the bar a tiny bit lower down your chest, and check your vertical forearm position.

  6. Without bouncing the bar off your chest push it away from you. Return back to the starting position in a straight line before locking out your elbows. Breathe out.

  7. That’s one rep down! Re-cycle steps five and six until the rep range is complete.

  8. To rack the bar keep the elbows locked out tight until it hits the pin posts. Slide the bar down into the pins.

Woman performing bench press with arched back

Top Bench Press Tips From the Pros

  • Push yourself away from the bar rather than concentrating on pressing the weight. This will drive your whole body firmly into the bench, allowing for better stability.

  • Drive through your legs to support the lift – keep your glues tight throughout

  • Pull the bar out of the rack using your lats. It’s tempting to try and press it out instead, but this may take your shoulders out of a tight, packed position. Plus, you’ll want to save your pushing power for the lift itself.

  • Pull the bar apart to better activate the upper back and rear delts. Imagine you’re trying to bend it in half without changing your grip.

  • Activate and train your back regularly so you’re building an ever growing, solid platform.

  • Always warm up properly to avoid injury – go for a dynamic warm up and ditch the usual static stretching seen in gyms.

  • Visualize, visualize, visualize. Studies show that giving yourself positive self-talk and seeing yourself crushing it can boost maximum strength. Picture the lift from start to finish and hear the words, “I’m about to dominate this bar” before un-racking [1] [2].

Final rep

Finally, go do it! Learn the ins and outs of the bench press technique by studying the pro’s and trying it yourself. A great place to start

Believe it or not, mastering your movement will help you press heavier weights, all while staying injury free. Over time this combination of pain-free pressing and progressive overload is guaranteed to bring the gains.

Now, grab a bench, kickstart your power playlist, and go press!


  1. Richter, J., Gilbert, J., & Baldis, M. (2012). Maximizing Strength Training Performance Using Mental Imagery. Strength And Conditioning Journal34(5), 65-69. doi: 10.1519/ssc.0b013e3182668c3d
  2. Driskell, J., Copper, C., & Moran, A. (1994). Does mental practice enhance performance?. Journal Of Applied Psychology79(4), 481-492. doi: 10.1037//0021-9010.79.4.481

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