The bench press is an exercise of the upper body. For bodybuilding purposes, it is used to strengthen the pectorals, deltoids, and triceps. While the person lies on his or her back, the person performing the bench press lowers a weight to the level of the chest, then pushes it back up until the arm is straight and the elbows are locked.
The exercise focuses on the development of the pectoralis major muscle as well as other supporting muscles including the anterior deltoids, serratus anterior, coracobrachialis, scapulae fixers, trapezii, and the triceps. The bench press is one of the three lifts in the sport of powerlifting and is used extensively in weight training, bodybuilding, and other types of fitness training to develop the chest.
A specific form to the bench press reduces the chance of injury and maximally challenges the muscles of the chest. A barbell bench press starting position has the weight lifter lying on a bench, with the shoulder blades pinched together to create a stable, solid base for the press, also used in powerlifting to reduce the range of motion. The lifter keeps their feet flat on the ground or at end of the bench, with the buttocks always in contact with the bench. Powerlifters will arch their back to provide greater stability and to reduce their range of motion allowing them to move more weight. In doctrine (and typically for bodybuilders), when the lifter grips the bar, their hands are at a position so that when the bar is lowered to the chest the forearm/s is at right angles/vertical to the ground. The movement begins by lifting the bar off the rack, and lowering it until the bar is motionless on the chest before being pressed under control to the start position. In powerlifting; benchpress competition, the movement is completed when the elbows are locked out. After the desired number of repetitions, the weight lifter returns the bar to the "rack". Because the load on the bar above the chest can be heavy, a spotting partner increases the safety of the movement.
A generic bench press utilizes pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, long head of biceps brachii and coracobrachialis to flex the shoulder. It also uses predominately triceps brachii and anconeous to produce elbow extension. Wider hand spacing creates larger emphasis on shoulder flexion and narrower hand spacing utilises more elbow extension. Because of this a wider spacing is associated with working pectorals and narrower hand spacing is associated with working triceps.
In addition to the major phasic (dynamic) muscles the bench press also uses tonic (stabilising) muscles: scapular stabilisers (serratus anterior, middle and inferior trapezius), humeral head stabilisers (rotator cuff muscles), and core (transverse abdominis, obliques, multifidus, erector spinae, quadratus lumborum)
A lifter can do certain things to destabilize their lifting. Examples include lifting on a Swiss ball, using dumbbells instead of a barbell, or not using the legs to stabilize oneself on the bench. Narrowing the leg position or bringing the feet onto the bench are other examples of ways a lifter can destabilize the movement, and lessen the amount of weight they can safely press.
A lifter can use chains and bands to increase their bench press (much like other lifts). This is popular amongst those training for powerlifting, the use of which was popularized by Westside Barbell. The use of bands or chains modify the strength curve, making the press more difficult towards lockout. This is achieved through the stretching of the bands or the loading of the chain links from the floor onto the bar, increasing the resistance as the movement progresses towards completion. This allows for the development of a stronger lockout. Chains and bands are also used to develop explosive power in the bench press, which can help the lifter break through sticking points.
Incorrect form may lead to multiple types of injuries:
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