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The bench press is a strength training exercise in which, while lying in a supine position, the person performing the press lowers a weight to the level of the chest, then pushes it back up until the arm is straight and the elbows come close (not completely) to being locked out (to mitigate injury). 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.

Muscles Activated[]

The bench press primarily utilizes the pectoralis major and the triceps, though other muscles that are involved are the deltoids, serratus anterior, and the coracobrachialis, along with a multitude of stabilizers.


There is a specific form to the bench press which reduces the chance of injury and maximally challenges the muscles of the chest. A barbell bench press' starting position is to be lying on a bench, with the shoulder blades pinched together to avoid recruiting the anterior deltoid during the lift. Feet are kept flat on the ground or end of the bench, with the buttocks always in contact with the bench. The weight is gripped with hands equidistant from the center of the bar, with the elbows bent to 90° and the elbows beneath the wrists. Movement starts by lifting the bar off of the pins, and lowering it until it touches the chest. The weight is then pushed off of the chest, terminating when the arms are straight, at which point the weight can be lowered again. After the desired number of repetitions, the bar is returned to the pins. Because of the heavy weight that can be used and the position of the bar, a 'spotting partner' increases the safety of the movement at heavier weights.


Variations are intended to work different subgroups of muscles, or work the same muscles in slightly different ways:

Contrary to previously mentioned, there has been much debate as to how far the barbell should be lowered to the chest. Many fitness experts recommend going no further than having the rear of ones arms parallel to the ground. This greatly reduces possible injury to shoulder and rotator cuff, especially when working with heavy weights or training over many years.

Angle - a bench press can be performed on an incline, on a decline, or on a stabilizer ball. The incline-version shifts some of the stress from the pectorals to the anterior deltoids and gives a greater stimulus to the upper pectorals, whereas the decline allows more weight to be lifted while using nearly the same musculature as the traditional bench press. Hand position - Varying width grips can be used to shift stress between pectorals and triceps. A wide grip will focus on the pectorals. A narrow, shoulder width grip will focus more on the triceps. Type of weight - Instead of a bar, the bench press can also be performed with dumbbells which incorporate more use of stabilizer muscles. Dumbbells may be safer to use without a spotting partner, as they may be dropped to the side with less risk of injury. Variation in angle and exercise may not promote significant performance increases but can assist in building stabilizer muscles and serve as a long term foundation to achieving an increase to an individual's one rep maximum.

Other exercises can be done to superset the bench press, such as dumbbell flys, to hit a different angle and motion for the same muscle groups.


Different repetition patterns can be used to achieve different goals(6). For instance:

Muscular endurance - 15 to 20 repetitions with a light weight (30–60% of 1rm), with a goal of increasing intramuscular stores of phosphocreatine and ATP, as well as speeding clearance of muscle contraction byproducts Muscular strength - 2 to 6 repetitions with heavier weight (80–90% of 1rm) to build contractile proteins Muscular hypertrophy - To increase muscle size, 6–12 repetitions with a weight equivalent to 60–80% of ones 1rm should be performed

Possible injuries[]

Incorrect form may lead to multiple types of injuries including: torn ligaments/tendons in shoulders. back injuries due to bridging, which is the arching of the lower back turning the bench press into the decline press. To prevent bridging, compress the stomach muscles to force the lower back down, or bring legs up and flat onto the bench. injuries to the trapezius muscle. elbow/wrist strains. cracked or broken ribs, usually the result of bouncing the bar off of the chest to add momentum to the lift or a loss of strength causing the bar to fall onto the chest.


The world record for assisted bench press is held by Ryan Kennelly with a total weight of 1050 lbs (476.3 kg). [1] The heaviest bench press without any equipment to assist is held by Scot Mendelson with a lift of 715 lbs (324.3 kg) [2][citation needed]. The heaviest drug tested bench press without any equipment to assist is held by Big James Henderson with a lift of 711 lbs (322.5 kg).[3][4]

See Also[]


  1. [Taylor, Scott (1 December 2007). APA Northwest Open. American Powerlifting Association. Retrieved on 11 April 2008.
  2. Raw Bench Press Records
  3. Guinness 2000 Book of Records. Guinness World Records, p. 46 Guinness Media Inc.; Millennium Edition, September 1999
  4. Lambert, Mike (1998). "IPF Bench Worlds" 21 (7). Powerlifting USA.