Flat Barbell Bench Press
The barbell bench press is often used as a benchmark of strength and an overall measure of progress – there’s no doubt about the fact that an increased load can be lifted when utilizing the barbell bench press as opposed to the dumbbell bench press, however as you begin to lift heavier and heavier weight on your bench this is the time when muscular imbalances reveal themselves - be sure you don't neglect unilateral exercises such as the dumbbell press to counter this,
The Tension on the chest when working with a barbell is dependant on the hand placement utilized – a wider hand placement will be placing greater emphasis on the outer chest, meanwhile a shoulder width or narrower grip will place the load on your triceps.
When performing heavy sets of your barbell bench press a spotter is required as getting stuck under the bar is a concern
Targets: Chest & Triceps
Required: Barbell + Bench
Flat Barbell Bench Press Form:
Lay on a flat bench.
Grip the barbell with thumbs wrapped around the bar at a slightly wider than shoulder width grip.
Assume a slight arch with your back (you should be able to just fit a fist between your lower back and the bench), plant your heels firmly on the ground and squeeze your shoulder blades down and back.
Unrack the barbell and slowly lower it down in a controlled manner to the middle of your chest, stopping just shy of the barbell touching your chest.
Drive through your chest to power the barbell back up to the starting position, with arms fully extended.
Flat Barbell Bench Press Variations
Unilateral Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
Instead of pressing with two dumbbells the unilateral incline dumbbell bench press will have you holding and pressing one dumbbell at a time.
This is a fantastic core exercise and is often used for overcoming a lagging side/correcting dominance.
You'll find when pressing one dumbbell at a time your core will need to be engaged the whole time to maintain your position on the bench, with the weight of the dumbbell you'd normally press being reduced significantly.
Flat Dumbbell Bench Press
Utilizing the same form described above, the only difference here is you'll be performing your dumbbell bench press on a flat bench. this angle will ensure you're utilizing the entire chest (as incline places more emphasis on the upper chest).
Decline Dumbbell Bench Press
Utilizing the same form described above, the only difference here is you'll be performing your dumbbell bench press on an decline bench (ideally around the 45 degree angle) this will utilizing more of the lower chest - as the range of motion is limited on the decline dumbbell press you can lift substantially heavier than the flat or incline variations.
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Common Barbell Bench Press Mistakes
Utilizing A Partial Range Of Motion
There's no reason to work in a small range of motion on your decline bench press, opt to lower the bar ALL the way down to your chest before driving through the chest until they're locked out at the top of the movement.
Partial range of motion = partial chest activation.
Bouncing The Weight
As you lower the weight down to your chest you must remain in control at times.
This means lowering the bar, pausing for a second just above your chest before driving the barbell back up - if you're using momentum to bounce the weight off your chest you'll be shooting yourself in the foot as this momentum takes tension off the chest.
No tension on the chest = no progress!
Flaring Your Elbows Out
When performing any pressing exercise, whether it be a dumbbell press or a decline barbell press it’s imperative you keep your elbows tucked in by your sides.
Flaring your elbows outwards is often a sign that the weight is too heavy (as you’re trying to muscle the shoulders in to assist with moving the weight).
Flaring the elbows on both chest and triceps exercise places your shoulders at a high risk of injury not to mention you’re only going to applying a small amount of tension to the chest as the shoulders are trying to take over and lift the weight.
If you find yourself constantly flaring your elbows lower the weight and consciously practise tucking your elbows in to your side on each repetition until it becomes natural.
Lifting Too Light
If you don’t generally train in the lower rep range I recommend you give it a try, stop lifting in the 10 – 15 rep range for at least a month and focus on heavy, low rep sets. Once you start to see results you won’t want to go back.
Now, you may still think high reps are beneficial, but let me tell you they’re far from it.
High repetitions result in increased stress on your CNS, increase in localized inflammation and increased soreness.
“Movements or exercises that do not give the muscle the required resistance, but are the kind that involve a great number of repetitions, never break down any tissue, to speak of. These movements involve a forcing process that cause the blood to swell up the muscle, and simply pump them up”– George F. Jowett, 1926
Similar & Substitute Exercises
- Incline Barbell Bench Press
- Dumbbell Flat Bench Press
- Chest Dips
- Weighted Push-Ups