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Chest Exercises - Flat Barbell Bench Press

Exercise Name:
Flat Barbell Bench Press

Purpose: To develop and strengthen the pectoral muscles.

Target Muscle Group(s): The primary muscle group being developed is the chest, specifically middle chest (pectoralis major, sternocostal head).

The secondary muscle groups targeted are the:
  • upper and lower chest (pectoralis major, clavicular head; and pectoralis major, abdominal head)
  • triceps (triceps brachii, medial head; and triceps brachii, long head);
  • front deltoid (anterior deltoid); and
  • serratus anterior.
flat barbell bench press

Instructions: Proper Flat Barbell Bench Press Technique

1. Lay on the flat bench with your feet firmly rooted on the floor.
2. Grasp the barbell roughly 2 - 4 inches wider than shoulder width on each side. You know the grip is correct when your forearms are perpendicular to the ground at the bottom of the exercise (when the barbell is touching your chest).
3. Lower the bar to the middle of your chest (eccentric phase).
4. Bring the weight back up to the starting position by pushing with your chest muscles (concentric phase).

Additional Comments And Tips:

1. Inhale during the eccentric phase (lowering of the bar), and exhale at the end of the concentric phase (raising of the bar).
2. You can target different areas of the chest by changing your grip and/or angle in which you lower the bar.

Here's how to develop specific areas of your chest:
  • outer chest - use a wider grip;
  • inner chest - use a narrower grip;
  • lower chest - lower the barbell to your lower chest;
  • mid-chest - lower the barbell to the middle of your chest; 
  • upper chest - lower the barbell to your collar bone.

Also Known As: Barbell Bench Press, Flat Bench Press, Bench Press
Exercise Type: Bodybuilding, Strength Training, Weight Loss, Toning, Sports Training
Force: Push
Exercise Level: Beginner
Mechanics Type: Compound Exercise

Flat Barbell Bench Press Variations:

1. Use dumbbells instead of the barbell (dumbbell bench press).
2. Adjust the angle in which you lower the bar.
3. Grip the barbell with a wider or narrower grip.
4. Perform powerlifting style bench press (get a professional powerlifter to show you the proper technique to minimize risk of injury).
5. Perform this exercise using the Smith Machine (aka Smith Machine Bench Press).

Safety Precautions:

1. When first learning how to bench press, I recommend that you start with no weights except for the barbell, which is 45 lbs. Don't add any weights until you're able to perform this exercise while keeping the barbell perfectly parallel throughout the entire movement. 
2. Use the Smith Machine when going heavy but don't have a spotter. 
3. I recommend that you do three quick warmup sets before going heavy. Each warm-up set should be progressively heavier.

Alternatives/Substitutions: List of Similar Chest Exercises
  • Dumbbell Bench Flys
  • Dumbbell Bench Press
  • Hammer Strength Bench Press
  • Pec Deck Flys
  • Push Ups

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