Intermediate Push for Paleo Fitness: The Bench Press

No one can ignore the bench press or deny its effectiveness. Admittedly, this exercise isn’t for everyone, but for those who have the shoulders for it, the bench press offers huge strength returns. You may or may not have the shoulders to handle bench pressing. If you experience any pain or discomfort with this movement, stop immediately. You can also exchange push-up variations for bench pressing.

The bench press is best performed with a barbell because it allows you to load the most weight onto the movement. And really, the ability to move the most weight through the greatest range of motion is the major benefit of the bench press over the other pushing exercises. However, if you feel more comfortable bench pressing with dumbbells or kettlebells, go for it.

Here’s how to properly execute a bench press:

1

Lie down on the bench, planting your feet on the ground.

Make sure the bench touches your butt and upper back at all times and maintain the natural curvature of your spine (neutral spine) throughout the movement.

2

Grab the bar just outside of shoulder-width, maybe a little wider. Place the bar deep into the heel of your palm to take some stress off the wrist.

If you need to, use a spotter to help you lift the barbell up into the starting position. In fact, it’s best to have a spotter at all times during the bench press.

Don’t go too wide with your grip, or you may irritate your shoulders.

3

Keep your elbows within a 45-degree angle as you lower the bar down toward your sternum.

The forearms should be vertical or very close to vertical at the bottom of the bench press. To help keep your shoulders in a good position and your elbows in the right spot, imagine that you’re trying to bend that bar like a horseshoe throughout the bench.

4

Drive the bar back up and over your face. The bar shouldn’t travel straight up and down but rather in a C pattern.

Don’t forget to breathe! Take a deep breath into the belly as you lower the bar, and let out a compressed breath as you press it back up. Also, be sure to press back up to a full lockout with each rep.

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