Barbell Bench Presses

The barbell bench press has been a popular “manly man” exercise since the 1950’s. But the bench press can be a great chest exercise for women as well! I have asked two friends of mine to give some specific advice on performing these moves.

Brendan Cameron and Albert Pierce both have a BS in Exercise Physiology. Brendan also has a minor in biology. Both are working towards a career in physical therapy. Descriptions and pictures are provided – click on the videos for even more info!

Flat bench press

Working a large group of muscles burns a lot calories and will help boost your metabolism. Albert says, “Women have the same muscle groups as men do – they can get weight loss benefits just like a guy can from doing this multi-joint exercise”.

Chest exercises for women are one of the best exercises for flabby arms!

Women usually tend to shy away from the barbell bench press because they think they will "bulk up" like a guy...this just is not true. Besides working a big muscle group and burning a lot of calories, chest exercises for women will tighten and tone the upper chest, shoulders and the triceps.

So the truth is, bench presses for women make this one of the best flabby arm exercises!

Albert and Brendan point out some pros and cons for the bench press…

Pro: “Using the bench press allows you to lift a lot of weight and expend a lot of energy (calories)”. Brendan says.
: Any gym will most likely have the equipment you need to for this exercise.

Con: Albert and Brendan both agree that the bench press is not as “shoulder friendly” as using dumbbells. The shoulders just can’t move as freely in their intended range of motion.
Con: You have to use a barbell which takes up more space to do the exercise. And, “You should also use a spotter when doing bench presses,” says Brendan.

Personally I do not feel the bench press is comfortable for my shoulders, but many people do them with no trouble at all.

Albert also says, “You should not feel any pinching or uncomfortable feeling in your joints during any exercise. If you do, you need to find an alternative move and consult a doctor if the pain persists”.

I haven’t done a barbell bench press in over a year! I prefer other chest exercises such as dumbbell presses and pushups. But barbell bench presses are a popular exercise for men and they can also be a good chest exercise for women, so just because it isn't my favorite exercise does not mean that it could be just right for you, so give it a try if you have not already!

barbell bench press

Flat Bench Barbell Bench Press: Primarily engages the complete pectoralis major muscle; and to the lesser extent the pectoralis minor, anterior deltoid, serratus anterior, and coracobrachialis.

Lie face up on a horizontal bench with buttocks on the bench and feet flat on the ground:
• Grasp the barbell with an overhand grip wider than the shoulder width.

• Inhale and lower the bar to the chest with a controlled movement.
• Extend the arms and exhale at the end of the movement.
• The barbell should be lowered to approximately the nipple line.
• As it is raised, it should follow a natural curve and end up directly above your neck or chin.

Incline barbell bench presses switch more of the focus from the chest to the front of the shoulders...

Incline Bench Press: The bar is lowered to a point higher on the chest (approximately the collarbone area). More emphasis is felt across the top of the chest and the anterior deltoids (front of shoulder).

decline barbell bench press

Decline Barbell Bench Press: The bar is lowered towards the lower ribs (below the nipple line). More emphasis is felt across the lower portion of the chest.

Some additional variations:
1. This movement may be performed while arching the back power-lifting style, enabling the exerciser to lift heavier weights. This technique should be performed by experienced lifters with a spotter.
2. Performing the extension phase with the hands approximately shoulder width apart and elbows next to the body concentrates the work onto the anterior deltoid.
3. Hands closer together isolates the central part of the pectoralis.
4. Hands wider apart isolates the lateral part of the pectoralis.
5. If you have back problems, perform the extension phase with knees bent and feet on the bench.

All bench pressing moves also strongly work the triceps (back of the upper arm). The triceps are responsible for extending the arm at the elbow.

Using the barbell bench press is an efficient way to work all these muscle groups at once. Including them in a full body exercise routine will help burn calories and stimulate your metabolism to help you lose weight!

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