Basic Strength Programme - Part 2: Bench Press
In this week's blogpost, we will be talking about the bench press.
The bench press targets mainly muscles in the upper body such as the chest, triceps and shoulders. While it is a popular exercise among men who want to develop and chisel their chest to look good in shirts, more ladies are also incorporating the bench press into their workout regime as it also helps to improve their physique.
Just like any other weight bearing exercise, the bench press helps to build muscles and improve strength, which can make a significant difference to our lives as many daily activities involve a fair amount of lifting, pushing or pulling.
How many times a week should I bench press?
Practicing the bench press 3 times a week is ideal for improving your technique. Having someone around to observe that you are following the correct steps to squatting is also helpful. Give yourself at least 2 days of rest between each bench press session.
How do I execute a good bench press?
1. Set the bar at a height such that when you grip it, your arms are bent slightly.
2. Lie on the bench with the bar around eye level.
3. Plant both feet firmly on the ground. Keep both knees bent around 90 degrees.
4. Grip the bar slightly wider than shoulder width. Ensure your thumbs are wrapped around the bar.
5. Extend your arms straight to un-rack the bar.
Note: A good bar height ensures that you do not have to lift your back off the bench when un-racking the bar.
1. Position the bar slightly below collar-bone level
2. Inhale, then slowly bend your arms to lower the bar till it touches the middle of your chest.
3. Pause the bar lightly on your chest
Note: Do not let the bar bounce on your chest
4. You can also think about keeping your chest up towards the ceiling
1. Exhale and straighten your arms
There you go - a repetition of bench press is complete!
In this video, SBD Singapore athlete Ashton demonstrates 2 repetitions of the bench press.
How do I find the starting weight to work with for bench press?
1. Start by warming up with an empty bar. Follow the steps above as closely as possible. Do 8 repetitions with the empty bar.
2. Make small increments to the bar - add 2.5kg or 5kg a side each time. Do 5 repetitions for each warm up .
3. Increase the weight until you are unable to keep your form. You may have difficulty controlling the bar such that it does not wobble. You may find yourself raising your lower body to move the bar off your chest.
4. If the weight you are last able to execute a good bench press is at 50kg, then 50kg will be the final weight to use for your working sets!
Remember, the purpose of warming up is to kick start your body's engine and increase blood flow throughout, not to tire you out before the actual working sets!
General Strength Template
Here's a sample program that is perfect for beginners, consisting of 2 bench press sessions that you will repeat one after another.
In the example below, we have used 60kg as a starting weight, but do replace this with the weight that you have found on your own.
|Session A||Session B|
|Working Sets(S) X Reps(R)||6S x 3R (60kg)||85% of 60kg
5S x 5R (55kg)
Repeat Sessions A and B every 2 days for 2 weeks. After which, increase the working weight for Session A by 2.5kg, and adjust accordingly for Session B. If you feel confident, you may also increase the working weight after 1 week!
At the end of the day, having proper technique is still key. If using the barbell itself feels heavy and unstable, take time to practice the bench press movement with a PVC pipe(these are available in some gyms) or similar.
Placing emphasis on low repetitions ensure that you focus on building up good form, so put conscious effort into each step from the set up, to the process, and to finish. Learning how to properly perform a bench press ensures its effectiveness and that any risks of injuries are reduced.
It is also highly recommended to have a buddy around when bench pressing, who can provide assistance in re-racking the bar after each set or to observe that you are following the correct steps.
What SBD products can I use when bench pressing?
1. Wrist Wraps
Use of equipment such as the wrist wraps enable you to lift more weight and also mitigate against potential injuries. Click here to learn more and which type of wrist wraps are more suited for your training style.
In last week's post, we talked about the squat. If you haven't checked that out, you can do so here!