Unarguably the most popular exercise among gym goers, the bench press is hailed as the ultimate upper body compound movement. It primarily works the pectorals muscles, but the anterior deltoids and triceps are also involved. A wide imposing chest is symbolic of strength, and this has stimulated the extensive use of the exercise.
Performing the routine correctly is important not only to forestall injury but also develop the pectorals perfectly.
The movement is easy to execute. Basically, you lay flat on the bench and using a medium grip; you unrack it and hold it over your head. You then lower the bar until it meets your middle chest, pause for a bit and then lift it back to starting position. This is one rep. For best results, 8-12 reps should be performed in three sets. This ensures that you get gains in both strength and size.
How Low Should You Go?
Ideally, you should lower the weight until it reaches your middle chest. The bar does not necessarily need to make contact, but it should be as close as possible. This ensures you get a full range of movement that will recruit the most muscle fibers.
The weight can be lowered close to the nipple level or even slightly below it, closer to the abdomen. This method is best for seasoned lifters who want to use as much progressive weight as possible. It relies much on the triceps, so without a strong set of those, the movement will be limited.
The weight can alternatively be lowered to a point higher in the chest- slightly above the nipple or closer to the neck. This variation is called a guillotine press and it emphasizes the upper pectorals. It relies much on the shoulders, and since this is a rotator joint, it can lead to injury if executed clumsily with too heavy a weight.
You can perform the bench press in either of these variations. For beginners, at the nipple level is the proper place to lower the weight. As you become stronger, you can move the weight upper and lower, to increase the challenge and target those hard to reach muscle fibers.
Needless to say, the bench press should be performed with a spotter, more so when heavy weight is to be pressed. Remember to use incline and decline benches as well for a comprehensive chest workout. Likewise, use dumbbells from time to time.
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