Starting Strength Wikia
File:Bench press.gif

A soldier (lying down) performs a bench press with a spotter

The bench press is a strength training exercise in which, while lying on his back, the person performing the bench press lowers a weight to the level of the chest, then pushes it back up until the arm is straight and the elbows locked (or close to this position). The exercise focuses on the development of the pectoralis major muscle as well as other supporting muscles including the anterior deltoids, serratus anterior, coracobrachialis, and the triceps. The bench press is one of the three lifts in the sport of powerlifting and is used extensively in weight training, bodybuilding and other types of fitness training to develop the chest.


There is a specific form to the bench press which reduces the chance of injury and maximally challenges the muscles of the chest. A barbell bench press' starting position is to be lying on a bench, with the shoulder blades pinched together to avoid recruiting the anterior deltoid during the lift. Feet are kept flat on the ground or end of the bench, with the buttocks always in contact with the bench. The weight is gripped with hands equidistant from the center of the bar, with the elbows bent to 90° and the elbows beneath the wrists. Movement starts by lifting the bar off the pins, and lowering it until it touches the chest. The weight is then pushed off the chest, terminating when the arms are straight, at which point the weight can be lowered again. After the desired number of repetitions, the bar is returned to the pins. Because of the heavy weight that can be used and the position of the bar, a 'spotting partner' increases the safety of the movement at heavier weights.[1][unreliable source?]


Variations are intended to work different subgroups of muscles, or work the same muscles in slightly different ways: and

Contrary to previously mentioned, there has been much debate as to how far the barbell should be lowered to the chest. Many fitness experts recommend going no further than having the rear of ones arms parallel to the ground. This greatly reduces possible injury to shoulder and rotator cuff, especially when working with heavy weights or training over many years.

  • Angle - a bench press can be performed on an incline, on a decline, or on a stabilizer ball. The incline-version shifts some of the stress from the pectorals to the anterior deltoids and gives a greater stimulus to the upper pectorals, whereas the decline allows more weight to be lifted while using nearly the same musculature as the traditional bench press.
  • Hand position - Varying width grips can be used to shift stress between pectorals and triceps. A wide grip will focus on the pectorals. A narrow, shoulder width grip will focus more on the triceps.
  • Type of weight - Instead of a bar, the bench press can also be performed with dumbbells which incorporate more use of stabilizer muscles. Dumbbells may be safer to use without a spotting partner, as they may be dropped to the side with less risk of injury.

Variation in angle and exercise may not promote significant performance increases but can assist in building stabilizer muscles and serve as a long term foundation to achieving an increase to an individual's one rep maximum.

Other exercises can be done to superset the bench press, such as dumbbell flys, to hit a different angle and motion for the same muscle groups.


Different repetition patterns can be used to achieve different goals.[2] For instance:

  • Muscular endurance - 15 to 20 repetitions with a light weight (50–60% of 1rm), with a goal of increasing intramuscular stores of phosphocreatine and ATP, as well as speeding clearance of muscle contraction byproducts
  • Muscular strength - 2 to 6 repetitions with heavier weight (80–90% of 1rm) to build contractile proteins
  • Muscular hypertrophy - To increase muscle size, 6–12 repetitions with a weight equivalent to 60–80% of one's 1rm should be carried out.

Possible injuries[]

Incorrect form may lead to multiple types of injuries including:

  • torn ligaments/tendons in shoulders.
  • back injuries due to bridging, which is the arching of the lower back turning the bench press into the decline press. To prevent bridging, compress the stomach muscles to force the lower back down, or bring legs up and lie flat on the bench.
  • injuries to the trapezius muscle.
  • elbow/wrist strains.
  • cracked or broken ribs, usually the result of bouncing the bar off of the chest to add momentum to the lift or a loss of strength causing the bar to fall onto the chest.


The world record for assisted bench press is held by Ryan Kennelly with a total weight of 1,070 lbs (485.3 kg).

The heaviest bench press without any equipment to assist is held by Scot Mendelson with a lift of 715 lbs (324.3 kg) [3][unreliable source?].

The heaviest drug tested bench press without any equipment to assist is held by Big James Henderson with a lift of 711 lbs (322.5 kg).[4][5][update needed]

See also[]

  • Press up
  • Bench press world records
  • Modern Bench Press World Records


  1. The Insider's Tell-All Handbook on Weight-Lifting Technique. Stuart McRobert, CS Publishing; 2nd edition, September 1999
  2. Baechle, Thomas R. (1994). Essentials of strength training and conditioning. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics. ISBN 0-87322-694-1. 
  3. Raw Bench Press Records
  4. Guinness Book of Records 2000 Millennium Edition. Guinness World Records, p. 47 Guinness Media Inc.; September 1999

External links[]


de:Bankdrücken fr: développé couché es:Press de banca ja:ベンチプレス no:Benkpress ru:Жим лёжа fi:Penkkipunnerrus pt:Supino (exercício) sv:Bänkpress nl:Bankdrukken