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The humble bench press is a fixture at every gym in the world worth its salt. 

It is a machine which can provide you with gains to numerous muscle groups — the chest, front shoulders and triceps — but like everything else in the gym, you will only receive the fullest benefits if you are using proper form.

Make sure you’re ready

Before you do anything you must make sure that you have the necessary strength to complete a set. Most gyms use an Olympic barbell which weighs 20kg so this is a good place to start (yes, without weights). If you feel that the 20kg is a little much, you will need to undertake a program of push-ups to help develop your core strength.

How to bench press

Have a spotter nearby to assist you, particularly if you are a novice and follow the below basic rules:

  • Lie flat on your back on a workout bench
  • Grip the bar just wider than shoulder-width apart. When you’re at the bottom of the move your shoulders should be at your elbows
  • Bring bar down slowly to your chest as you inhale
  • Push up as you exhale

Remember to concentrate on your form as a torn rotator cuff is no fun whatsoever. To best do that, try and do the following:

Keep focused on your grip

If your grip is too wide you will place too much pressure on your shoulders, leading to the dreaded injury problems described above.

Keep your feet flat on the floor

Your feet will provide an anchor to the ground which will better allow you to activate numerous muscle groups. Having your entire body as tight as possible will help with the overall exercise.

Keep your lower back arched

This will keep your core braced, while you shoulder also retract your shoulders to maintain tension across your chest.

Keep your head on the bench

Some people are tempted to move their head around as they do the routine but this actually makes your less able to perform the technique properly. Your neck and upper shoulders should also be in constant contact with the bench.