How To Bench Press Properly: A Step-By-Step Guide

A man bench pressing with a spotter

Bench pressing is a popular exercise that many people incorporate into their fitness routine. However, it’s important to ensure that you are doing it correctly to avoid injuries and maximize your gains. In this step-by-step guide, we will cover everything you need to know about how to bench press properly. From the equipment needed to the correct form and common mistakes to avoid, we’ve got you covered. We’ll also share some tips on how to increase your bench press and the different variations of the bench press that you can try out for a more diversified workout routine. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned weightlifter, this guide will help you perfect your bench press technique and take your strength training to the next level.

Bench Press Equipment


When it comes to selecting the right footwear for bench pressing, you want to opt for something with a flat sole. This kind of shoe will provide you with a stable base from which to push off during the exercise without risking any unnecessary shifting or loss of balance. While some lifters may prefer going barefoot or wearing socks while they work out, this is not always possible due to gym rules and regulations. As such, investing in proper lifting shoes can be an excellent way to improve your performance while reducing your risk of injury.

Wrist Wraps

When it comes to performing heavy-weight bench presses, wrist wraps can be your best friend. Wrist wraps provide much-needed support to your wrist joint and help prevent injuries while lifting heavy weights. You should always choose a wrap that fits you properly and provides the right amount of support for your lifting style. Moreover, make sure that you consult an expert before using any kind of equipment or starting a new workout routine.

The available range of wrist wraps is vast – from shorter ones designed for lighter loads to longer ones suitable for powerlifters. By incorporating wrist wraps into your training regimen, you can increase strength gains and put up more reps without worrying about injuring yourself.


To perform a safe and effective bench press, you need proper equipment including footwear, wrist wraps, and chalk. Chalk comes in various forms such as block, powder, and liquid chalk. The most common form that lifters use for bench pressing is block chalk. Powdered chalk can create a mess while liquid chalk is a good option for those who want to avoid dust and mess.

When using chalk during bench pressing exercises, it’s important to apply it evenly on your hands and the barbell before getting started. This will help improve grip and prevent slippage during the exercise. So if you want to take your bench press game up a notch by increasing your grip strength or simply ensuring that you don’t drop the bar while lifting heavy weights then incorporating some form of chalk into your routine could be beneficial.

How To Bench Press

Set Your Feet

To set up for the bench press, ensure that your feet are flat on the ground with heels planted firmly. Place them directly under your knees to form a stable foundation. Tighten your glutes and legs to create tension in the body, enabling you to lift heavier weights safely. Optimal foot positioning plays a vital role in executing an effective bench press routine that yields desired results.

Proper footwear can provide additional grip during heavy lifts and prevent slippage while reducing strain on joints. Use chalk to absorb moisture and reduce sweat on hands, ensuring proper grip on barbells while bench pressing. Warm up gradually and increase weight slowly with proper hand placement on the barbell and elbows at a 45-degree angle to avoid injury.

Position Yourself Under the Bar

A woman bench pressing

To get into position for bench pressing, start by ensuring that the bar is at the correct weight and height. With your feet firmly planted on the ground, position yourself under the bar so that your eyes are directly beneath it and your head rests flat on the bench. Take hold of the bar with a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, keeping your wrists straight and in line with your elbows. Proper form is crucial when executing this compound exercise, which targets multiple muscle groups including chest, triceps, shoulders, and upper back. Remember to breathe out as you lift, exhaling with each rep while maintaining good form throughout.

Arch Your Back

Maintaining a stable base and increasing power output while executing proper bench pressing is essential. The process starts with arching your back perfectly. Here’s how to do it: Begin by placing your feet flat on the ground and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Lift your chest towards the barbell while keeping both glutes and abs engaged for maintaining proper form. While arching too much or too little can cause injuries or decrease performance levels; hence finding the perfect balance is necessary.

Set Your Grip

For optimal bench press performance, it is crucial to correctly set your hand position on the barbell. To do so, determine your grip width based on individual biomechanics and personal preference. A narrower grip will target the triceps, while a wider grip will focus on the chest muscles. Ensure that you wrap your thumbs securely around the barbell and keep your wrists straight throughout the exercise to prevent injury. Experiment with different grip widths to find what works best for you and ensure that you achieve proper form. Don’t forget to consult with a trainer or spotter when trying new weights or exercises!

Brace and Unrack

Set up for a safe bench press by retracting your shoulder blades and planting your feet firmly before unracking the bar with control. A stable base is crucial to avoid injuries and ensure an effective bench press. As you lift the bar directly over your shoulders, avoid excessive arching in your lower back or flaring out of your elbows. Remember to maintain proper form throughout the rep range of motion, engaging not only upper body muscles but also glutes and abs to support the lower back. To avoid injury or bad habits when starting strength training with compound exercises like bench pressing, consider working with a spotter or personal trainer.

Breathe In and Lower the Bar

During bench pressing, it is imperative to breathe correctly for optimal performance. Inhale deeply before lowering the barbell towards your sternum, maintaining tightness in your torso and arching your upper body and shoulder blades while keeping a straight line from your shoulders to hips. Upon exhaling forcefully, push the barbell back up with enough force to complete your rep range. The right breathing pattern allows you to maintain good form without over-arching or over-flaring, which can cause injury. To increase muscle mass in areas like pectorals and triceps, incorporate different types of bench presses such as incline bench press or decline bench press. Remember never to go for too much weight or neglect good form while lifting heavy weights.

Touch Your Chest

Achieving proper form while bench pressing is crucial for maximizing results and preventing injury. To execute this compound exercise effectively, focus on maintaining tightness throughout the body, starting with proper hand position and grip width. Take a deep breath and hold it as you lower the bar down in a straight line towards your sternum. Touching your chest will ensure that you achieve a full range of motion which engages more muscles, like the pectorals, upper back, lats, triceps, biceps, forearms, abs, glutes and lower back muscles. Exhale forcefully as you push the weight up through your shoulder joint. Remember to arch your back slightly for greater stability without over-arching or flare out your elbows excessively! Also do not forget to use weight that is suitable according to your Bodybuilding/Powerlifting abilities!

Push With Leg Drive

For a successful bench press, incorporate leg drive by placing your feet firmly on the ground and driving through your heels while pressing the barbell. This technique stabilizes the body and generates more power, reducing strain on the lower back and improving overall lifting form. Remember to exhale forcefully as you push the weight up, maintaining proper form throughout the lift to prevent injury and maximize results. Start with a comfortable weight before gradually increasing as your strength improves. Incorporating compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, and pushups can help build muscle mass in both upper and lower body. Don’t forget to use a spotter when lifting heavy weights to ensure safety.

Common Beginner Bench Press Mistakes

To ensure safe and effective bench pressing, it’s essential to avoid common beginner mistakes. These include lifting too much weight, neglecting warm-up and cool-down exercises, improper form, skipping the use of a spotter, and ignoring nutrition and rest. Instead, gradually increase weight over time while properly warming up beforehand and cooling down afterward. Use proper form by touching your chest with the barbell for a full range of motion while keeping elbows at a 45-degree angle. Remember to engage muscles such as the triceps, biceps, glutes, abs, forearms, and upper body muscles like lats and pectorals during bench pressing or any compound exercise. Incorporate deep breaths into your sets by exhaling during the exertion phases. Using secondary key terms like grip width, arching the back or incline bench presses can also help improve overall technique.

Going too heavy

It’s essential to avoid going too heavy while bench pressing. Overloading yourself with too much weight can lead to improper form and cause injuries. Starting with manageable weights is recommended, gradually increasing them as you gain strength. A spotter is crucial for safety during heaving lifting sessions. While lifting heavy weights is impressive, ensuring proper form and technique should take precedence over weight lifted.

Moving your feet during the set

During the bench press technique, it is essential to maintain proper form. One of the most common mistakes lifters make is moving their feet during the exercise, compromising their stance and diminishing their performance. To avoid this issue, ensure that you keep your feet planted firmly on the ground while engaging your core muscles for stability. Focus on pushing through your chest and shoulders while avoiding any shifting motions in your lower body. Properly executing this exercise will help you build muscle mass in not only your pectorals but also in other areas of your upper body such as triceps, biceps, lats and abs.

Not setting your shoulder blades

To perform a bench press with good form and injury prevention, setting your shoulder blades is crucial. After getting under the barbell, retract and squeeze your shoulder blades together before lifting it off the rack. This will create a stable base for pressing the weight and allow for proper engagement of not only your chest muscles but also other upper body muscles such as lats and triceps. Properly set shoulder blades can decrease the risk of strain on both shoulders and neck while providing an effective range of motion. Remember to maintain this position throughout the entire lift.

Changing your grip width

To improve your bench press performance, it’s crucial to experiment with different grip widths to target various muscle groups effectively. A narrow grip emphasizes the triceps, while a wider grip targets the chest muscles. Finding the right hand position that suits your body type can help prevent injuries and promote better results. Always remember to use a spotter when lifting heavy weights. Proper form is essential in preventing injuries and maximizing gains during compound exercises like bench pressing. Avoid flaring your elbows and maintain tightness in your torso, arching your back, retracting shoulder blades, and squeezing glutes for better stability. Don’t forget to exhale at the top of each rep!

No Thumbless Grip

Proper hand placement is crucial during bench pressing. To avoid injury and improve stability, it’s important to position your hands evenly on the bar for proper weight distribution. Instead of using a thumbless grip that can lead to dropping the barbell on your chest, utilize a full grip with your thumbs wrapped around the barbell for better control. Remember to always use caution and start with lighter weights when learning proper bench press form. Incorporating these tips into your benching routine will help you build muscle mass in your chest muscles, triceps, and shoulders while avoiding unnecessary strain on your joints.

Flaring Your Elbows

Maintaining proper form during bench pressing is crucial for avoiding injuries and building muscle mass effectively. Flaring your elbows can cause unnecessary strain on your shoulders, so keep them tucked in close to your body at a 45-degree angle instead. This engages your chest muscles more effectively while reducing shoulder strain. Make sure to maintain proper form throughout each rep of the exercise and practice with lighter weights before gradually building up weight. Additionally, varying grip width or experimenting with incline bench presses can target different areas of the chest muscles while reducing shoulder strain.

Not Locking Your Elbows At The Top

To maximize the benefits of bench pressing, it’s essential to ensure that you’re locking your elbows at the top of each rep. By doing so, you’ll engage your triceps more effectively and achieve a full range of motion that targets the chest muscles as well. To achieve this, start by setting yourself in the correct starting position with proper grip width and engaging your chest muscles by arching slightly while keeping your glutes firmly planted on the bench. As you push up towards the ceiling, keep your shoulder blades engaged and maintain a tight grip on the barbell or dumbbells. Remember to breathe out fully as you lock out at the top of each rep for maximum results.

No Power Rack or Spotter

To prevent injuries while bench pressing, it is imperative to prioritize safety and have proper equipment. No power rack or spotter? Consider investing in a power rack or using dumbbells instead of a barbell to ensure safety and reduce the risk of injury. Always begin with lighter weights and gradually increase weight as you become more comfortable with your form. Safety should always be prioritized when performing any exercise, especially one as potentially dangerous as the bench press.

Increasing Your Bench Press

Improving the strength of your chest muscles does not happen overnight; it takes consistent effort and discipline. To increase your bench press without risking injury or overtraining yourself, always start with a proper warm-up routine to prepare your muscles for the workout ahead. Then focus on maintaining good form while gradually increasing weight and reps over time. Also make sure to incorporate accessory exercises like tricep dips and push-ups into your workout regimen to help enhance your overall performance.

It’s also a good idea to microload your bench press so that you can steadily progress without putting too much strain on your body in one go. Resting longer between sets is another proven strategy for improving strength gains during workouts.

If you’re serious about improving your powerlifting or bodybuilding routine, then consider trying some of the many different variations of the classic barbell bench press exercise. Some examples include incline bench presses (which primarily target the upper chest), close-grip benches (which work the triceps), or decline benches (which emphasize the lower chest).

No matter which type of exercise you choose to do though, always keep safety in mind by using proper form and never lifting more than you can handle without a spotter or other support system nearby.

Microload Your Bench Press

When it comes to effectively microloading your bench press routine, the key is all about increasing the weight you lift in small increments. To do this successfully while avoiding injury and maximizing results, it’s essential to focus on proper form and technique throughout your routine. Thankfully you can also incorporate helpful tools like fractional plates or resistance bands into your workouts to make it even easier to achieve this goal. Of course, consulting with a personal trainer or experienced lifter can also be incredibly helpful when it comes to mastering the art of micro loading.

Rest Longer Between Bench Press Sets

Properly resting between bench press sets is essential to increase your strength and prevent fatigue. Resting for an extended period of time allows your muscles to recover energy stores before the next set. This recovery enables you to lift heavier weight with better range of motion while performing more reps. The ideal rest period for boosting strength is usually between 2-5 minutes; however this may vary according to one’s fitness level and goals. Proper rest also helps maintain a good form by regulating arching of the back or shoulder blades when lifting heavy weight. Monitoring the resting times effectively can be useful in improving bench press performance.

Improve Your Bench Press Warmup

To prepare your body for an effective bench press session, it is important to properly warm up beforehand. One technique for improving your bench press warmup is by incorporating dynamic stretching into your routine. This will increase your range of motion and mobility by loosening up tight muscles before you begin lifting heavier weights. Another tip is to use foam rollers or a lacrosse ball to reduce soreness in specific areas that may be impacting your ability to lift comfortably. Additionally, doing light sets with higher reps prior to starting heavy lifts can help activate the necessary muscles for proper form and technique during bench pressing.

Improve Your Bench Press Form

To achieve proper form while bench pressing, it’s crucial to take certain steps. First off, make sure that you have a solid foundation by planting both feet firmly on the ground and retracting your shoulder blades. When gripping the barbell, keep your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Lower it down towards your sternum in a controlled manner. As you push the weight back up to starting position, use explosive movement from your chest muscles. Also remember to engage all of your core muscles in order to maintain stability throughout the lift and prevent arching of the back or bouncing of the weight off of your chest. Finally, don’t forget to exhale as you push the barbell away from yourself.

Bench Press More Often

To increase your strength training routine, compound exercises such as the bench press can be highly effective. Proper form is critical for avoiding injury and maximizing results. Resting longer between sets can help you lift heavier weights with good form. Try incorporating accessory exercises like pushups or dips to work your chest muscles in different ways. Varying your grip width on the barbell or using dumbbells can help activate different muscle groups in the upper body. Additionally, incorporating incline bench or decline bench presses can help target different areas of the chest muscle group.

Bench Press Variations

Looking to add some variety to your workout routine? Bench press variations are an excellent way to target different muscles in the upper body while still reaping the benefits of a compound exercise. Incline bench press is perfect for targeting your upper chest muscles and shoulders, while decline bench press can help isolate your lower chest muscles. Close-grip bench press is an effective way to work on your triceps and improve lockout strength. Other popular types of bench presses include dumbbell bench press, which offers greater range of motion than a barbell, and wide grip or narrow grip options to hit different areas of your pectorals. Whether you’re a powerlifter or simply looking to build muscle mass, give these variations a try!

Close-Grip Bench Press

The close-grip bench press is an effective variation of the bench press. Unlike the traditional bench press that targets multiple muscles like pectorals, triceps, and shoulders; this variation mainly emphasizes the triceps muscles and improves overall upper body strength. To perform this exercise correctly, one must grip the barbell with their hands shoulder-width apart or closer for a narrower grip and lower it slowly to their chest. While pushing back up, keep your elbows tucked in to target triceps effectively. It is crucial to engage core muscles and keep feet planted firmly on the ground during this compound exercise.

Incline Bench Press

Targeting the upper chest muscles, incline bench press is a compound exercise that involves pressing a weighted barbell or dumbbells upwards while lying on an inclined bench. Maintaining proper form by retracting your shoulder blades and keeping your feet planted firmly on the ground will build muscle mass in pectoral muscles. Inhale while bringing down the weight and exhale when pushing it up, with good form being paramount for maximum results. Incorporating incline bench press into your strength training routine can help improve range of motion in the shoulder joint and build upper body muscle mass without putting extra pressure on lower back or knees.

Decline Bench Press

The decline bench press targets the lower portion of your chest muscles, engaging your triceps and shoulders more than any other variation of bench pressing exercises. Lying on a decline bench with your head positioned lower than your feet ensures that you work out those chest muscles efficiently. Proper form is crucial; keep your feet firmly planted on the ground while retracting your shoulder blades to avoid any injury. Incorporating this compound exercise in your powerlifting or bodybuilding routine will increase muscle mass in both your pectorals and triceps. Remember to exhale at the top of every rep and not start with “How to bench press.”

Floor Press

The Floor Press is a beneficial bench press variation for powerlifters and bodybuilders. It targets the triceps and chest muscles while reducing the range of motion and improving upper body strength and stability. The exercise involves lying on your back with your feet flat on the ground, lifting weights up to shoulder height, lowering them slowly until your triceps touch the ground, then pushing them back up. To maintain proper form, keep your shoulder blades retracted, arms straight, elbows tucked in, and torso stable. Incorporating Floor Press into your training routine can improve compound exercises such as squats and deadlifts.

Smith Machine Bench Press

For those who want a safer option to bench pressing, the Smith Machine Bench Press can be an excellent alternative. By providing stability without requiring a spotter, this variation allows lifters to focus on their form and proper technique. With easy adjustments in weight and positioning, this exercise can target specific muscle groups like triceps or chest muscles. Some debate whether the limited range of motion offered by this machine can limit engagement with certain muscles compared to traditional barbell bench presses or dumbbell bench presses. Nonetheless, proper form and technique are still vital when using the Smith Machine Bench Press.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much should you bench press?

The appropriate bench press weight varies depending on your strength and experience. Begin with a weight you can lift comfortably for 8-12 reps, then gradually increase it. To avoid injury, prioritize proper form over lifting heavier weights.

How should I dumbbell bench press to minimize shoulder pain and discomfort?

To minimize shoulder pain and discomfort during dumbbell bench press, start with lighter weights and gradually increase, keep elbows close to the body at a 45-degree angle, lower the dumbbells slowly, and focus on proper form. Consult a trainer or physical therapist for personalized guidance.

How do you use leg drive in the bench press?

To incorporate leg drive in bench press, begin by planting feet on the ground. During descent, push hips towards the bench while driving feet down. During press, engage glutes and continue pushing through legs. Avoid excessive leg drive to prevent lifting off the bench and maintain upper body stability.


Now that you have learned the proper technique and equipment for bench pressing, it’s important to keep in mind some common mistakes that beginners make. Additionally, if you want to increase your bench press strength, there are several methods to consider such as microloading or adding variations to your workout routine. Remember, always prioritize safety by using a spotter or power rack. With continued practice and improvement, you can achieve your fitness goals. Want to learn more about proper lifting techniques? Check out our other blogs on weightlifting and bodybuilding.