Similar to the Deadlift Basics and Squat Basics write ups I did, this one is going to cover the basics of the barbell bench press. It’s just my opinion mixed with some of the best bench press tutorial videos I know of. If you have anything to add, as always leave it in the comments or write me an e-mail. A lot of these videos have helped me reach a 147.5kg/325lbs bench press at 85kg/187lbs body weight (as of 6/13/2013). I’m hoping they will help you as well.
So You Think You Can Bench?
This is one of my favorite video series from Dave Tate on YouTube. Be sure to watch all 7 parts. The first one is embedded and the other six parts are linked below the video.
Other Bench Tutorial Videos
The first one is from Jonnie Candito. Easily one of my favorite YouTube guys. He goes into detail about elbow tucking (or lack thereof) and how to arch. If you only watch one of these videos I’m posting, it should be the following one.
Omar Isuf also did a great video on bench technique.
From T-Nation: Bench Press Tutorial
Prevent Shoulder Injuries
The bench press is notorious for wrecking shoulders. Most of the time, poor technique is used when shoulder injuries happen… but sometimes it is simply a lack of warming up properly or an injury might also be caused due to muscular imbalances. A good way to prevent this is to be proactive. Make sure your shoulder is healthy and moves properly instead of waiting until you injure yourself and have to rehab. Cliffs: Prehab instead of rehab.
I’ll start with a quick tip from Candito about how to prevent shoulder injuries by doing the Rear Delt Fly exercise between sets of bench press. I do face pulls instead, but it’s the same basic principle. Do these very light.
There is much more to keeping your shoulders healthy overall, but I already wrote about that in my shoulder health article. Another great thing to do for your shoulder health is to make sure you are overhead pressing in your routine. It allows for a more full range of motion in your shoulder girdle, plus it’s a badass movement. Pushing heavy-ass weight above your head is awesome. I’ll definitely cover the OHP (overhead press) in a future article.
Pull More Than You Press
This will help you balance out your body and avoid muscular imbalances in the future. Your back needs more work than your chest and shoulders. Try to hit a 2:1 or even 3:1 ratio of pulling:pressing in your workout routine.
To give you a really simple example: If you do 50 reps of pressing movements (bench press, overhead press, etc.) in your workout, you should aim to do 100-150 reps of pulling movements (pullups, chinups, rows, etc.) to balance things out.
Bonus: A strong upper back provides a very sturdy platform to bench press from. If your back is currently weak or smaller than it should be for good stability on the bench press movement, fixing this will likely improve your bench press.
Jim Wendler agrees with me in his 5/3/1 book. (Which just happens to be the lifting program I’m currently using.)
Other Bench Press Tips
From CT Fletcher: Optimal Grip Width When Bench Pressing
From Omar Isuf: Bench Press More
Alternative or Assistance Exercises for the Barbell Bench Press
This is just a quick list. I’m probably missing some other exercises, but these are the ones I personally think you could benefit from. This is direct assistance work for the barbell bench press. Most of your extra work should be pullups/chinups, rows and overhead pressing as mentioned.
I hope that helps. As always, it’s just my perspective along with some videos that will help you learn how to bench press properly.