By Dr. Nikky Gonzales, PT, DPT, CSCS
Today we’ll be focusing on one of the best exercises for upper body strength and power: the Bench Press. This exercise often gets a bad reputation from physical therapists, but can be a valuable tool when performed with good form and in moderation. Whether this exercise is performed with a barbell or dumbbells; once you understand the proper technique, it will improve upper body strength. Let’s discuss the different components of a safe and efficient bench press exercise:
- When gripping, form a fist around the bar or dumbbell to make it a closed grip.
- Keep your wrist in a neutral position and keep the weight from forcing your wrist from either extending or flexing. Your fingers should form a “C” position.
- If using a barbell, start with the bar even with your eyes and then place your hands at an even length away from each other on the bar.
- If using dumbbells, start by holding the weights with outstretched arms, with your palms pointing towards your feet and your thumbs adjacent to one another
- Place your feet flat on the ground so that you can use your lower body to help “drive” the weight away from your body.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together so that they are “locked down” and will avoid impingement symptoms during the lift
- Remember to BREATH! It’s important to feed your body oxygen during exercise, don’t hold your breath. As you exhale, gently tighten your abdominals to “control” your lower back and ensure a stiff and stable core
- Unlock your elbows and slowly allow the bar or dumbbells to descend towards your chest. Keep your elbows from “flaring out” to protect your shoulders.
- Allow the bar or dumbbells to descend to the middle of your chest. Don’t let the bar “bounce off” the chest, maintaining control of the weight throughout the descent and bottom of the movement.
- Once the weight has been lowered to the middle of the chest, begin to push the weight back to the original position.
- Try to maintain the bar or dumbbells on a strict vertical “path” without deviating too low or high on your chest.
The bench press is a great exercise way to build up the strength of our upper body musculature. Whether your goal is to safely improve your physique or train for a sport: the bench press is an essential exercise for you!