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Bench Press

The bench press is a weightlifting exercise which primarily focuses on the development of the pectoralis major muscle as well as other supporting muscles including the the anterior deltoids, serratus anterior, coracobrachialis, and the triceps. Additionally, the bench press one of the three lifts in the sport of powerlifting. The lifter lies on his/her back on a bench while pushing up and lowering down a weighted bar directly above the chest.

Form

There is a specific form to the bench press which reduces the chance of injury and maximally challenges the muscles of the chest. A barbell bench press' starting position is to be lying on a bench, with the shoulder blades pinched together to avoid recruiting the anterior deltoid during the lift. Feet are kept flat on the ground or end of the bench, with the buttocks always in contact with the bench. The weight is gripped with hands equidistant from the center of the bar, with the elbows bent to 90° and the elbows beneath the wrists. Movement starts by lifting the bar off of the pins, and lowering it until it touches the chest. The weight is then pushed off of the chest, terminating when the arms are straight, at which point the weight can be lowered again. After the desired number of repetitions, the bar is returned to the pins. Because of the heavy weight that can be used and the position of the bar, a 'spotting partner' increases the safety of the movement at heavier weights.

Types

Variations are intended to work different subgroups of muscles, or work the same muscles in slightly different ways:

  • Angle - a bench press can be performed on an incline, on a decline, or on a stabilizer ball. The incline-version shifts some of the stress from the pectorals to the anterior deltoids and gives a greater stimulus to the upper pectorals, whereas the decline allows more weight to be lifted while using nearly the same musculature as the traditional bench press.
  • Hand position - Varying width grips can be used to shift stress between pectorals and triceps. A wide grip will focus on the pectorals. A narrow, shoulder width grip will focus more on the triceps.
  • Type of weight - Instead of a bar, the bench press can also be performed with dumbbells which incorporate more use of stabilizer muscles. Dumbbells may be safer to use without a spotting partner, as they may be dropped to the side with less risk of injury.


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