The Bench Press

The three lifts that make up powerlifting (the squat, the bench press and the deadlift) form the core of strength and power. The bench press is probably the most popular and widely used by athletes of all sorts, from high school football linemen to NBA players. The bench can help improve performance in any sport that requires throwing, pushing or grasping; movements that are common in many athletic activities.

Powerlifters, unlike athletes in other sports, train for a one-rep max. That's neither advisable or desirable for people who wish to improve their performance in another sport or simply want to develop big arms. If you're a beginner, start with a goal in mind. Do you want to become one of the select few who heave 700 pounds of iron or do you want to throw a ball farther? Whatever your goal, the techniques you need to master are the same.

When you perform the bench press, your shoulders and buttocks must remain in contact with the bench throughout the exercise. In some lifting organizations the head must remain in contact with the bench as well. Arching your back shortens the distance of the bench press movement and allows the lats to assist.

When the bar touches your chest, you must pause before pushing the weight up again. At the end of the press your arms must be extended and your elbows locked.

The proper gear is very important. Your equipment should include a bench shirt, wrist wraps and a lifting singlet. Using the proper gear will help prevent injury as well as improve your performance.

There is a wide range of approaches to benching. How often should you train? What grip should you use (wide or narrow)? What about using chains or rubber bands? There are lots of ideas and training tips around, as well as some great coaches. Read about bench press champions and how they train. Test the ideas you run across. You can incorporate what you discover and modify your training to suit your body.

The real issue is not tips or technique but the commitment you bring to your training. Commitment isn't just showing up at the gym for your sessions but focusing on the work you do for the whole time you do it.

If you want to see great benchers in action, look for them at Arnold Schwarzenegger's Bench Press Challenge and at John Inzer's Greatest Bench productions. Remember as you watch the kings of the bench press move massive amounts of iron that they all started as beginners just like everyone else. The first time they came to the gym, all they had was desire. The great ones still have that desire, and if you have it too, it will help you join their ranks.

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