Step By Step Guide: How To Bench Press

By: Brian Carroll

Everyone wants a big bench. In fact, it’s one of the first exercises most try to learn when they begin to strength train. The only problem is that it’s rarely done correctly.


Foot Positioning

A strong bench press begins with a strong set up. If your set up is weak, the rest of the lift will be as well. Proper foot positioning will ensure a sturdy base and allow for optimal leg drive. Begin with a wide base and with your feet firmly planted into the ground. To do this, drive your heels into the ground and keep your toes tight as if you are gripping the floor like a monkey.

Gripping the Bar & a Strong Unrack

The width of your grip will be highly dependent on your structure. If you are a wider guy, you will probably have a wider grip. Conversely, if you are a narrower guy, you will have a narrower grip.

Staying tight is crucial in the bench press. To do this, get up on your traps and pull your shoulder blades together. This will keep your entire upper back tight and guarantee a strong unrack. Once you take the bar out, your elbows should be slightly tilted inwards. This is a result of squeezing the bar so hard as if you are literally trying to bend it.  This will also incorporate your lats further, involve your traps more and get your triceps ready to fire.


Prior to lowering the bar, make sure that you take a big breath as this will help to create full body tension. As covered before, as you take the bar out, imagine bending the bar. You will lower the bar down to your sternum while driving your heels into the ground, keeping your arch intact and keeping your elbow inwards. Most importantly, you want to remain tight throughout the entire movement and maintain activation particularly in your lats and upper back.

Now you are ready to press.


Once the bar is lowered, you’ll wait until the bar is motionless and then press. As you press the bar, you will press it back towards your face. While doing so, drive your heels, keep your elbows in, stay on top of your traps and remain tight throughout the entire movement. NOTE: some like to flare as the bar goes up and back. Nothing wrong with this – as I do this myself BUT the way I teach it is to tuck so that one can learn to bend the bar and engage the upper back, shorten the stroke and keep the bar bath as efficient as possible.

As always make it your own!

By following these guidelines on how to bench properly, both your technique and strength are sure to improve.

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Brian Carroll

Brian is a world-class powerlifter with over two decades of elite and pro-level powerlifting under his belt. Coming back from a devastating back injury in 2012 that broke multiple bones and that most experts said he would never recover from, he has returned to the pinnacle of world-class lifting (while 100% pain and symptom-free) and is now dedicated to helping others avoid the same mistakes that he made in the past through private and group coaching in Jacksonville, FL. Brian’s impressive recovery has given him the opportunity to teach and deliver talks to physical therapists, chiropractors, medical doctors, professional strength & conditioning coaches and experts from all facets of sport, on how to avoid injury, while building anti-fragile strength and resilience in athletes.

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