Nowadays, with the increase of available information, it is normal to see numerous exercises to appear to add some variety and innovation to the training.
The variations are many, and you just need to look around in the gym to be surprised by an endless number of exercises for the glutes, for example, coming directly from the social networks of fit muses, or even elbow pushups performed on all possible movement plans, suggested on bodybuilding forums.
When we think about physical exercise, we should think about health and, as such, it’s important that the developed exercises are safe at the moment and that they don’t cause damage in the future (to the joints, for example).
That’s why, in this article, I’ll talk about one of the most popular exercises in the world of fitness and what’s the best way to perform it, so you can optimize your physical performance without harming your body: the Bench Chest Press.
Variety and innovation in training: the limits
This variety (the use of some examples of exercise performed by our idols or found on exercise forums) doesn’t, necessarily, have to be invalid. It all depends on the level of training and the goal of each person.
Let’s look at the case of Sissy Squat, an exercise that has been a common practice in gyms, for supposedly focussing on working the quadriceps.
In addition to this being a fallacy demonstrated by Kvist & Gillquist (2001), it’s also demonstrated by Li et. Al (2000), that performing the exercises this way stresses the knee joint a lot, due to the compressive forces exerted on this joint and the lack of support for the posterior muscles of the thigh.
That said, one of the premises that should be considered when developing a training plan, is the relation of Cost vs. Benefit of each exercise.
You don’t want to harm your body while you try to improve it, right?
That’s why it’s fundamental that you know what’s the best way to perform the exercises, so that you can improve your performance without harming your body.
Bench Chest Press (with bar): what should you take into account when performing it?
It’s one of the most common exercises, and it’s probably the number one for many men. It’s a multi-joint exercise, which involves several joints in its performance. However, it isn’t easy to perform.
What you should keep in mind:
- Retraction and depression of the scapulae (shoulder blades), to give more emphasis to the chest and give stability to the shoulders.
- Feet on the floor, knees pointing outwards, and the glutes contracted, to generate force towards the floor.
- External rotation of the shoulders, contrary to the internal rotation of the shoulders (kyphotic posture characteristic of those who work on the computer).
- Align the bar with your elbows, for this, it’s necessary to keep the handle in a neutral position, that is, to position the bar in the palm of the hand. This will make the emphasis of the work to go from the shoulder to the chest.
- In terms of arm width, for most people, the ideal is a little more open than shoulder width.
- Create a bow in the lower back, this allows you to better position your feet on the floor, in order to generate force and it also helps to stabilize your back on the bench.
The bow in the lower back is often understood as a mistake. However, if we look at the anatomy of our spine, we realize that it isn’t straight. As such, not making a bow during this exercise would be a serious mistake, because we would place our body in an unnatural position.
It’s important to mention that the glutes should be contracted and always in contact with the bench, thus avoiding an exaggerated lumbar bow.
- Placing the elbows too far out is another quite common mistake, this causes a lot of stress on the shoulders. The ideal position would be to place your hands at a distance a little wider than shoulder width, allowing the elbows to move as if it were an arm push-up.
The Bench Chest Press in summary:
As you could see, the Bench Chest Press, though quite popular, isn’t an easy exercise to perform.
In order to increase the safety and efficiency of the performance, you must always keep the above mentioned points in mind.
To simplify and to help you understand the performance points of this exercise, check out the 6 points that you should keep in mind when performing this exercise:
- Foot position
- Abdominal contraction
- Shoulder position
- Lumbar bow
- Handle position
- Type of bar movement
Depending on the level of training, there are always adaptations for each exercise, but, from my point of view, these are the general guidelines for the majority of the healthy population.
- Also regarding this exercise, here is a tip: try to get your hands closer to each other. That is, with the bar in the hand, you should try to “break it” (apply force with your hands to the inside) throughout the movement, to try to generate more tension, this will cause greater activation of the large chest muscles throughout the movement.
- With the purpose not to lose muscle tension in this exercise, I recommend not to touch with the bar on the chest at the end of the eccentric phase (horizontal abduction of the arm and flexion of the forearm).
It isn’t considered a mistake, as some people may have sufficient flexibility to do so without harming the posture, however, rare are the cases where this happens.
It’s important to note that although the Bench Chest Press exercise is widely used in chest training, it also recruits the muscles of the triceps and deltoids as synergists (contracting at the same time as the main muscle involved in the movement, but they are not the main ones) of the movement, and the small chest muscles that remain in an isometric position (static), to give stability.
For all these reasons, I think that the Bench Chest Press is a fundamental exercise in your trainings, and before you increase the load and add variations, you must master the technique of this exercise.
Bench Chest Press is a very good exercise to stimulate the chest muscles and, when properly performed, is not detrimental to the shoulders.
It’s important that you start with lighter loads and that you focus on the technique of performing the exercise.
Once you’ve mastered the technique and you manage to control the bar in all its movement, you can increase the load progressively.
Never forget that training while taking your joint health into account, will allow you to work out more and for longer periods of time.
Take it slow and trust in the process.