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Health and Fitness Tips

The In's and Out's of the Bench Press

The bench press has a curious place in weight-training history. Although its ubiquitous now - virtually everyone who trains with weights does some sort of chest press, and most guys maintain at least a vague idea of how much they could bench if their lives depended on it - a couple of generations ago the bench press was described as a lazy man's exercise, or at best, a movement that might help one's performance in real lifts, like the standing press.

The exercise dates back to the late 19th century, and is thought to have evolved from an exercise called the belly toss. To perform that one, a lifter would lie on the floor with a bar across his belly. He would bridge up onto his shoulders and 'toss' the weight off his midsection, ending the movement by holding the bar with straight arms over his chest.

The bench press as we know it today - that is, a chest press performed on a flat bench, with no back arching - was popularized in the late 1940's.

Today, many are confused how to properly perform chest presses and increase their chest size using the bench press. You see guys in the gym doing bench presses every which way - feet up in the air, back arched. But for safety, use this technique; lie on a bench with your feet flat on the floor, buttocks on the bench, hands shoulder-width apart or slightly beyond, wrists straight. Have someone help you lift the bar off the rack on your heaviest attempts. Once the weight is hoisted over your chest at arms length, slowly lower the bar until it touches your chest. Without bouncing the weight off your chest, push back up until your arms are fully extended again.

Now that you know how to properly perform a chest press, work on increasing your chest size by increasing the weight. Let's say you regularly do 10-rep bench-press sets with 135 pounds. That's all you're making your muscles, tendons and ligaments deal with. And if they can handle it, why should they get bigger and/or stronger? But when you incorporate sets featuring lower reps, systematically building up to some maximum-weight singles, you force your body to go beyond its previous limits. Since heavier weights put more stress on your tendons and ligaments, they're going to get stronger. And, finally, going for an occasional one-rep max helps increase your strength. So, after you perform your ten reps, increase the weight on your bar. Working with a workout partner or trainer, increase the weight on your bar 10 pounds and perform one-rep. This will help you build your strength. The next time you perform chest presses, increase the weight by five pounds and perform ten repetitions.

It is simple to increase your chest size and strength by following the easy steps outlined above.

Rick Gusler is a certified personal trainer and diet nutritionist who serves his clients through Gusler Body Sculpting Fitness Center in central Denver. To schedule a free consultation, or to learn more about the Gusler method of body sculpting, spin yoga, or Rick's Boot Camp, please contact him at 303.860.7131 or online at

Gusler Body Sculpting Fitness Center, LLC
459 Acoma Street · Denver, Colorado 80204 · 303-860-7131
Hours: Monday-Friday: 6am-8pm · Saturday: Closed · Sunday: Closed