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How to barbell bench press [Article, Free download]

Posted by Pascal Landshoeft

Jan 17, 2019 12:24:55 AM

How to barbell bench press

How to barbell bench press?

Take care of your setup. Be safe and decide on a powerlifting or bodybuilding style bench press. Build maximum tension and stay focused. Rinse and repeat for a decade for best results. 

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What is your why 

Before we go into the details of the barbell bench press let me ask you a couple of questions: 


  • Why do you want to barbell be ch press?
  • Why do you want to get stronger? 
  • Why do you want to pack on muscle? 
  • What happens when you do? 
  • What happens when you don’t? 


These questions are important. They are the key factor to your long term success. If you don’t have meaningful answers to these questions life will take over. Your fitness goals will become a low priority and disappear altogether. Most people go about everyday life like this 


  • What do I want 
  • How do I get it 
  • Why do I want it 


Almost everybody knows what they want. Fewer make a detailed plan how to get it. Almost no one knows why they want what they want. If you focus mostly on what you want you will become a victim of your surroundings. What we want is highly influenced by our daily interactions. Whom we talk to, what we see and what we touch influences are needs and want to a high degree. However, this does not drive long-term goals. With this, you will feel like a hamster in a wheel. So Instead flip this dynamic on its head: 


  • Why do you want something 
  • How do you get it 
  • What do you need to do to get it 


This way your thoughts and actions will always be tied to what matters most to you. Annoying little tasks become meaningful. You will be more invested in your life. Others will be more likely to support as they can clearly see the meaning of your actions. If you want to I keep how this works on a psychological basis read Daniel Kahneman's book thinking fast and slow. If you are still not convinced watch Simon Sinek's TED talk on the golden circle. He makes a very compelling case telling the story of the Wright brothers. 


I personally turned my life around when I started a journal. The best I could find was the self journal from best self. It helps to structure your du and to pay attention to the good things in life. 




Place the J cups at the right height for yourself in the rack. You should be able to unrack the bar by slightly straightening your arms. If you struggle to pass the J cups your setup is too high. If you already do a half repetition to unrack the weight the setup is too low. 


Also, pay attention that you are still able to rerack the bar by letting it fall back. Especially on heavy sets, it is good when you can just drop the weight backwards to rack it. Sometimes the J cups are just that little bit too high for this manoeuvre. This ends in a panic or a barbell dropped on your face. 


The bench should be placed accordingly. While the height of the rack position is one thing, the be ch placement determines how easy or awkward unracking becomes. I personally like the be ch to be as far forward as possible without risking the rerack position. This minimizes the risk to touch off anything during the lift. This also sets you up to just drop the bar backwards I to the rack


Play around with this with low weights until you find your optimal setup. Increase weight afterwards. I usually do little adjustments during warm-up sets. Especially when I travel.


Hand placement 


There are three variants of the grip for the barbell bench press:


  • Close grip 
  • Wide Grip 
  • Somewhere in the middle 


A close grip bench press pits more emphasis on the triceps than the chest. If you have a relatively big chest and still can not bench huge weights it is probably due to port developed triceps muscles. Putting more focus on close grip bench presses can fix this.


The wide grip bench press leans more towards the chest. With a lower range of motion, you get a bigger stretch in the muscle. This helps with chest development at the expense of triceps stimulation. 


Somewhere in the middle is the answer for everyone who wants to maximise their strength. Start a thumb length away from the inner knurling. Adjust from there depending on your size. The bigger you are the wider you go. The smaller you are the narrower it gets. Usually, the place where you feel strongest is the best spot to start. 




Many forget to activate their triceps sufficiently because they do not turn their elbows inwards. I picked this concept up first for my deadlifts. It also works excellent for the bench press.


Think of it as if you were to squeeze lemons in your armpits. Do this after you grip the bar and keep doing it during the entire lift. Your bench will go up if you haven’t done this before.




The arch is highly debated for the bench press. Some say it is bad for your back, while others say it ain’t that bad and you need it to max out. 


A fact is that when you build an arch you will bench press a higher max. To build an arch you get your feet as close as possible to your head while laying on the bench. Only your shoulders and butt cheeks touch the bench. Your entire back will be off the bench.




The bench press does train your chest. Depending on how you perform it you will get more or less chest stimulation out of it. 


My bench press max sits at 150kg at a bodyweight of 85kg. Pound for pound it is my best lift. However, I have a chicken breast and very big triceps compared to the rest of my body. You will find this phenomenon with other bench pressers to. If you want to train the chest more take the triceps and legs out of the lift. 




The ideal powerlifting setup ticks following boxes. 


  • Big arch 
  • Maximum leg drive 
  • Triceps heavy 
  • Medium width grip 
  • Minimum range of motion 
  • Minimum time under tension


The ideal setup varies on lifter based on gender, size, weight and build. You will train in lower repetition ranges with high weight. 




Bodybuilders want to maximize muscle growth, especially in the chest area, when they do the bench press. For this you want 


  • Minimum leg drive 
  • Minimum involvement of the triceps 
  • No arch 
  • A maximum range of motion 
  • Maximum time under tension 


This makes a bodybuilding bench press a lot different form a powerlifting style bench press. Consider the two options based on your goals and what you want to do. 


How to barbell bench press


Build maximum tension and k is exactly what the goal of the bench press is for you. Set the bar and bench up at the right height and place. Take care of your safety. Bench away and get better. 


Further reading 

14 easy steps on how to get a bigger bench

4 simple strategies to use smolov jr to increase your bench [Article]

An easy guide to bench press like a powerlifter for any age [Article]

Can barbells help lose weight? [Article]

Which Rogue barbell to buy? [Article, Free download]

Topics: Lift stronger, Bench Press, Fitness, Strength