5 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Bench Pressing

Check out the 5 mistakes everyone makes when bench pressing. Study them thoroughly and correct yourself to get the benefits you deserve from this wonderful chest exercise.

The process of lying horizontally and lifting a barbell requires more than meets the eye. So, how can you ensure proper execution of the bench press to optimize muscle growth? Let’s go to Israetels tips for maximum muscle growth.

The bench press is one of the best exercises a person can do to develop their chest. In fact, we’ve said it here, more than once, that this is the best chest exercise. But, that is only true if you know how to perform the exercise correctly. And trust us, there are many ways you can disrupt your training with this movement.

The foundation of insights for this article lies in a video presentation by Jeremy Ethier, a renowned kinesiologist and fitness trainer who stands as a co-founder of Built With Science. With a staggering 6 million subscribers to his YouTube channel, Ethier has developed a reputation for providing clear information firmly grounded in solid scientific research.

Source: Image courtesy of CrossFit Inc.

So lets dive into the 5 mistakes everyone makes when bench pressing so you don’t make them the next time you train your chest.

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5 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Bench Pressing

Do you experience shoulder pain during bench presses? Do your shoulders and arms work better than your chest? It’s time to address these issues and maximize the effectiveness of your bench press. In this article, we’ll examine five common mistakes most people make and provide practical solutions to help you sit with proper form and activate your chest like never before.

  1. Elbow Angle: The first mistake is rotating your elbow angle. Many people use too wide an elbow angle, making it difficult to lower the bar to the chest. This can strain the shoulders. Instead, focus on a hidden elbow angle, aligned with the direction of most chest fibers. Experiment with angles around 60 and find what works best for you by observing your bar path.
  2. Grip Width: Choosing the right grip is important for maximizing chest activation. A 2022 study showed that the same grip width led to different muscle activation in individuals. Place the bar across your lower chest, and adjust the width of your grip until your arms are straight up and down. This ensures optimal chest involvement and minimizes triceps engagement.
  3. Chest Caving In: Avoid neglecting your chest while climbing. If your shoulders are a bit stronger than your chest, you may inadvertently let your chest sag, leading to increased front delt activation. Focus on maintaining a proud chest, using the back muscles to pull the bar down, and squeeze your biceps together on the way up for proper chest activation.
  4. Setup Stability: Improve your setup stability to improve strength and reduce the risk of injury. Mimic powerlifters by tensing your back, core, and lower body before lifting. Create tension throughout your body, like an unopened and full can, to efficiently transfer energy during the lift.
  5. Machine vs. Free Weights: Contrary to popular belief, a 2023 meta-analysis found no significant difference in muscle growth between free weights like the bench press and machines like the Smith machine. If you’re struggling with the bench press despite meeting the previous fixes, consider alternative exercises like the chest machine or dumbbells. Listen to your body, and if the bench press doesn’t suit you, explore other options.
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Achieving bench press mastery is a journey that requires meticulous attention to detail and an unwavering commitment to maintaining proper form throughout your lifting sessions. Every element of your bench press, from the subtle nuances of your elbow angles to the strategic choice of grip width, plays an important role in determining the effectiveness of your workout and the overall health of your shoulders

Addressing elbow angles and grip width is paramount to optimizing your bench press performance. A wide elbow angle, a common mistake, not only limits your range of motion but also strains the shoulders unnecessarily. Opting for a tucked elbow angle, which aligns with the chest fibers, not only allows for a deeper range of motion but also enhances chest activation. This subtle adjustment can significantly affect the overall effectiveness of your bench press.

Similarly, grip width is a highly individual preference. By customizing your grip based on your body mechanics resting the bar on your lower chest and aligning your arms vertically, you maximize chest engagement while minimizing triceps engagement . This personalized approach establishes a deep connection between your body and the exercise, unlocking the full potential of your chest muscles.

barbell bench press

Furthermore, ensuring chest activation and setup stability are essential for a successful bench press. Preventing your chest from going up redirects focus to the intended muscle group, promoting a controlled and intentional lift. Hugging a proud chest, engaging the back muscles to pull the bar down, and squeezing the biceps together on the climb helps not only with improved chest activation but also overall lift quality.

Establishing setup stability is similar to powerlifters’ rigor, involving a disciplined approach to tension in the back, core, and lower body. This full-body tension, reminiscent of an unopened and full can, facilitates continuous energy transfer and increased strength during the lift. Finally, the option of exercise alternatives, as revealed in a 2023 meta-analysis, challenges the notion that free weights are inherently superior to machines. Exploring alternatives such as chest machines or dumbbells can be beneficial if the bench press poses ongoing challenges, emphasizing the importance of finding exercises that suit your body for optimal result.

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In conclusion, prioritizing proper form is non-negotiable for a safe and effective workout. By investigating complex elbow angles, grip width, chest activation, setup stability, and exploring alternatives, you not only improve your bench press experience but also pave the way for consistent progress, reduced injury risks, and, above all, better chest activation. Mastery comes with a commitment to continuous improvement and an appreciation for the nuances that make each lift unique.

Watch the video below from Jeremy Ethier for visual cues and how to avoid these 5 mistakes everyone makes when bench pressing.

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Best Ways to Train Chest for Hypertrophy (Muscle Mass)

In general, it is recommended that you train your chest muscles at least once per week to see improvements in muscle strength and growth. However, some individuals may benefit from training their chest more frequently, such as 2-3 times per week, especially if they are a more experienced lifter and are looking to target specific areas of the chest

It is important to note that you should not train your chest muscles on consecutive days as this can lead to overtraining and increase the risk of injury. Additionally, it’s important to allow your muscles to rest and recover between workouts, so they have time to repair and grow.

Some benefits of strengthening your bench presses are:

  1. Increased upper body strength: Bench presses are a compound exercise that works multiple muscle groups at once. By performing this exercise regularly, you can increase your upper body strength and improve your overall fitness.
  2. Improved muscle size and definition: Bench presses can help increase muscle size and definition in the chest, shoulders, and triceps, which can improve your physical appearance.
  3. Increased bone density: Weight-bearing exercises such as bench presses can help to increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
  4. Improved posture: Bench presses can help to strengthen the muscles of the upper back, which can improve your posture and reduce the risk of back pain.
  5. Increased calorie burn: Compound exercises like bench presses can help you burn more calories than isolation exercises, which can be beneficial if you’re trying to lose weight.
  6. Improved sports performance: Bench presses can help increase upper body strength and power, which can improve your performance in sports that require upper body strength, such as football, basketball, and volleyball.

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