Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Exercise of the Week: the Bench Press

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If there's any one exercise that everyone seems to use as a show of pure strength and power, it is certainly the bench press. "How much ya' bench?" is a popular question thrown around weight rooms, and the answers are almost always inflated so as to match the ego of the responder. But, throwing around as much weight as possible may not exactly be the best way to see and feel results from this exercise. That's why I am highlighting the proper form, execution and target muscles of this gym workout staple.

The bench press targets the development of the pectoral muscles (aka the chest muscles), but also calls upon help from your triceps (located on the back of your arms) and deltoids (aka shoulders). To properly do this exercise, you first have to lie flat on your back on a bench (or sturdy alternative -- remember my makeshift bench idea with milk crates and a long, thick plank of wood?). You will then place an equidistant grip on the bar with your hands, lifting it off the support rack. Once you have the bar securely above your sternum and with your arms fully extended, you can now begin. Slowly lower the bar until it touches the chest or stops only an inch from the chest (this is up to you), but be sure to not let the weight "bounce" off of you. Once you've reached the bottom of the movement, hold for one second and then press the weight back up to the starting position. Tip: when you raise the bar, be sure to exhale the air you took in while you were lowering it. Also, when you press the weight upward, try to avoid completely locking your elbows to full extension. This will ensure that there is constant pressure and also help avoid elbow injury). Continue this motion for the desired number of repetitions and sets.

There are several variations to the bench press, including the incline bench press, the decline bench press, the dumbell bench press, etc. Also, you can try mixing up the amount of reps you do from one set to the other, or even the amount of weight you place on the bar. Bear in mind that if your goal is size and strength, fewer reps/longer rest in between sets/fewer sets/heavier weight is the combination you want to go with. If muscle tone and a bit of cardiovascular effect are your desired results, I would stick with a combination of more reps/shorter rest in between sets/more sets/lighter weight.

For a good video demonstration of the bench press, click HERE.

Note: The content presented in this post is for informational purposes only. Please consult your doctor or fitness professional before starting a physical fitness program.

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