The Do’s and Don’ts of the Bench Press

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When you’re lifting heavy weights, it’s important to maintain proper form to prevent injury. You don’t want to strain and tear muscle which can delay your fitness goals at the least – or really set you back at the worst.

Maintaining proper form also lets you work out more efficiently, and in weightlifting this also means you can use that energy for the extra push rather than in wasted movements. Of course, you also want to make sure you’re optimally activating the necessary muscles you intended to use.

Bench Press Steps:

  1. Place bar on racking pins and load it with the appropriate amount of weight plates. If you’re new to weightlifting, make sure you don’t overextend yourself.
  2. Lie flat on the bench, with your eyes under the bar
  3. Place feet flat on either side of the bench
  4. Grasp bar with your thumbs around the bar
  5. Straighten your arms to un-rack the bar and bring it over your mid-chest area
  6. Keep your shoulders back to form a stable base as you bend your arms
  7. A conservative range of motion would be when your elbows are level with the bench
  8. Press feet onto floor for stability as you press the weight back up over your chest, firmly keeping your butt connected to the bench

Bending your arms to lower the weight over your chest and then bringing it up back again would be 1 rep – and 8 to 12 reps would be adequate for a set if you’re aiming for general strength.

Once you’ve finished your set, return the bar back to the rack.

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  • Hold the weight for a second at the top. Breathe, and then taking another breath, hold it and lower the bar again.
  • Make sure you load the same amount of weights on both sides of the bar
  • Always add a weight collar on each side. It’s better to be safe than sorry
  • Take the weight of the bar itself into account when deciding how much to lift. A standard Olympic barbell would be 45 pounds.
  • Always have a spotter – a failed lift may mean you’re crushed beneath the bar and an injury (and save yourself from embarrassment by having to shout for help)


  • Your back is your center of support for the weight when you lower it to your chest, so make sure you don’t injure it by strengthening your back muscles before lifting very heavy weights
  • Don’t overextend yourself doing warm-up sets. While it’s important to properly warm up your muscles, you don’t want to exhaust them before you even get to the bench press
  • Don’t lose track of your progress by writing down your numbers. Having that on a piece of paper not only lets you track your progress, but it makes your goals more concrete and acts as a visual reminder for you to reach them
  • Don’t get stuck just doing the same exercises – keep yourself “off guard” and mix things up, especially when you see your progress slowing down

If you’re unsure how much weight you should lift, or you just want more information about the bench press exercise, check out our blog entry on How Much Should You Bench Press.

If you want that extra spring off your chest to lift even more, check out our range of Bench Blasters.

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