What is a Barbell Bench Press?

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  • Written By: M. Gardner
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 04 January 2020
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A barbell bench press is a weightlifting exercise performed by lowering and lifting a barbell with both arms over the chest while laying horizontally on a bench. The barbell bench press is a common part of an upper-body workout. It targets the pectoral muscles in the chest while at the same time strengthening the biceps and triceps in the arms and deltoids in the shoulders.

To properly perform a barbell bench press, a person must first have access to a flat weight bench — preferably one that is padded and includes a barbell rack. The exerciser should also have a barbell — the long, metal pole upon which the weights can be placed — and weights made to fit on the barbell. He or she should set up the bench by placing the barbell in the rack and placing any desired weights on the barbell. If weights are used, they should be placed equally on both sides of the barbell.


After setting up the weight lifting bench and barbell, the exerciser should lay on the bench and position himself or herself so the barbell is above the middle of his or her chest. The exerciser should then place his or her hands shoulder-width apart in an overhand grip on the bar. To perform the exercise, he or she should lift the barbell off the rack and fully extend the arms over the chest while avoiding both locking the elbows and bending at the wrists. After lowering the barbell to the middle of the chest, the exerciser should then push the bar away from the body, putting his or her arms back into the fully extended position. He or she can repeat the process of lowering the bar to the chest and pushing it away for the desired number of repetitions.

The person performing the exercise should use a wide foot stance to provide balance and focus on squeezing his or her shoulder blades together while lowering the barbell. Instead of looking at the bar, he or she should look at the ceiling and lift the bar up and down from the mid-chest area in a straight line. When the barbell hits his or her chest, the upper arms should be parallel to the floor.

For maximum safety, a barbell bench press should be performed in the presence of the spotter, a person who stands at the head of the bench and helps the lifter if the barbell becomes too difficult to lift. Beginners might choose to first lift a barbell with no weights on either side to build up strength. The barbell alone can weigh 35-45 pounds (about 15-20 kg). The weights on the barbell should be increased gradually over time as the muscles become stronger.


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