The barbell bench press is one of those big moves that gym goers typically love to do, but not everyone does it right. Doing it incorrectly and without the right approach can be both inefficient and leave you prone to injury.

First, the barbell bench press primarily involves three muscle groups, the chest, latissimus dorsi and the triceps. If you’re new to the bench press, one way you can build your strength prior to hitting the bench is through the push-up.

Using proper form (hands beneath shoulders, weight on hands and toes, core locked, glutes on and your body forming a straight line), perform a few sets up to ten every couple of days to increase your chest and triceps strength.

Once you’re ready to attempt the bench press, here is the approach that you should take:

  • Start off with a light weight on the barbell because getting the form correct from the beginning is the most important factor for a successful bench press--even using the bar should be a challenge if you’re doing it correctly.
  • Lie with your back on the bench, setting up your hands on the barbell at shoulder-width apart and an overhand grip
  • Ensure that your feet are flat on the floor and pushing down with your glutes turned on and engaged
  • Your shoulder blades should be set back and down “into your pockets” as you get ready to lift
  • Take a breath in and unrack the bar. Once the bar is motionless over the sternum, slowly lower the bar.
  • Actively think about using your lats to pull the bar down to your chest and then as you push, try to “spread” the bar apart and exhale as your get to the top.
  • That is one rep. Keep going while strictly following the form that you used in your first rep


Once you’re comfortable with your form, you’re ready to start upping your weight. Don’t get too cocky too fast, though, so add your weight slowly until you’re pressing the weight 10-12 times per set.

If you become bored with your flat bench, move on to these variations that target other muscles:

  • Incline bench press (Upper chest)
  • Wide-grip bench press (Bigger pectoral engagement, shoulders and abdominals)
  • Close-grip bench press (triceps)

These movements will hit more or different muscles and help to keep your chest workouts fresh. Happy benching!