The flat bench barbell press is one of the most popular weight training exercises on the books. It is a powerful, multi-joint movement which recruits mainly the pectoralis major muscles of the chest, but also utilizes the deltoids and triceps in a big way. The pectoralis major originates at the anterior surface of the rib cage and inserts at the anterior surface of the upper end of the humerus. Known as the “hugging muscle”, its main function is to bring the arms together in front of the rib cage (Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels)

The bench press performed on a flat bench with a barbell or dumbbells is the best exercise for developing the overall size and shape of the chest. Before describing the anatomy of a perfect bench press, a note of caution: unlike most sports, where pec major injuries are rare, weightlifting, especially the bench press, if performed too rapidly and with too much weight, can lead to tears, even ruptures in its tendon. To avoid this, always watch your form and be judicious about the amount of weight you lift.

So here it goes. Lie faceup on a horizontal bench with your butt on the bench and feet flat on the floor. Grasp the barbell with an overhand grip wider than shoulder width. Inhale and lower the bar to the chest with a controlled movement. Extend the arms as you as you raise the bar and exhale at the end of the effort. For strength training and body building, I prefer to execute 3-4 sets of eight to twelve repetitions.

Because this exercise is so important for chest development, many athletes and bodybuilders have found the following variations to be beneficial to their workouts:

Executing the extension with elbows close to the body concentrates the work a little more onto the front of the shoulder (anterior deltoid area).

Varying the width of the hands as you grip isolates different areas of the pectorals. Hands closer together isolates the central part of the chest. Hands wider apart targets the outer or lateral areas of the pecs.

If you have lower back problems, perform the extension with legs raised or feet placed upon the bench. Just be careful not to lose your balance: decrease the amount of weight.

Perform this exercise with your bench placed at the Smith machine for extra safety and security, although the Smith machine apparatus does somewhat limit your range of motion.

When performing bench presses, especially as you graduate to higher weight, it is advisable to recruit a buddy to spot you. Besides horizontal bench presses, there are myriads of other great weight training exercises for developing an awesome set of pectorals. Stay transfixed to Hotspots Magazine for ideas on workout exercises, routines, and dynamite nutritional tips in the months ahead.