By Ryan Unverzagt
I hope everyone had a successful January. It takes some time and discipline getting used to a new habit (I’m talking about exercise), so don’t give up. This month’s exercise is the bench press. It targets the pectoralis majors & minors, anterior deltoids, serratus anterior, and triceps.
There are many variations to the bench press. However this one is performed on a flat bench using a free-weight bar. Standard Olympic bars weigh 45lbs without any weight plates on them. If you are trying this exercise for the first time, you now have a reference point when deciding how much resistance to use. It’s also a good idea to have a spotter ready in case you need assistance.
Lie on your back with the hips, shoulder blades & head in contact with the bench. Knees are bent 90 degrees with feet flat on the floor. Grab the bar on the rack with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip. The bar should be directly above eye level. Lift the bar off the rack and position it over your upper chest (Figure 1).
Slowly lower the bar toward the bottom portion of your chest (Figure 2). You can either touch the bar to your chest or stop a few inches above, but do not bounce it off the chest! Without pausing at the bottom, push the bar up and slightly back toward the rack to finish with the arms straight. The bar should be directly above the upper chest and shoulders. Remember to keep your hips in contact with the bench during the upward phase. If you find that you need to arch your back to lift the bar, you have too much weight on it!
Try 3-4 sets of 7-12 reps with moderately heavy weight if you want to build some muscle, 2-3 sets of 15-25 reps with lighter resistance for endurance, or 4-6 sets of 1-6 reps with a heavy weight for strength gain. I encourage you to find a weight lifting partner or hire a fitness professional to keep you safe and motivated!
About the Author: Unverzagt holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Wellness Management from Black Hills State University. He is a certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength & Conditioning Association and a Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography.