The bench press is a favorite among those who lift weights, but are you doing it right?
Ben Lauder-Dykes, a trainer at The Fhitting Room claims that the bench press is popular because “it allows you to increase range of movement, which we know can increase muscle hypertrophy, and it also puts you in a more stable position so you can increase the difficulty and intensity.”
The bench press is a staple equipment to use when you go to the gym. Perhaps this is because it appears less daunting and complicated than those multi-function contraptions with too many bells, whistles, and adjustable levers. You just pick a bench, strap on some weight, and pump the iron. Instant gains.
Well, turns out, if you think it’s that easy, then you’re probably doing it wrong.
There are three different types of bench press that have varying effects on the body. Using any old free bench that you come across in the gym is NOT giving you a uniform work out.
Let us set the record straight once and for all.
Type A: Flat Bench
You’ve probably come across this variation on the bench press the most often. It works out the chest, shoulders, and triceps and is great for beginners.
Lauder-Dykes says, “on a flat bench, you can refine the movement and start to build strength before moving on to the incline and decline benches.”
Just make sure you aren’t arching your back when using the flat bench. Arching ends up consistently working out your lower pectoral muscles and not targeting the muscle near your collarbone, leaving your chest looking rather uneven.
Type B: The Incline Bench
This bench press tends to be the most comfortable because you are at an incline so the blood isn’t rushing to your brain. There's less of a chance that you will burst that throbbing vein in your forehead with this piece of equipment.
Devon Levesque, a trainer at Performix House says that the incline bench “hits your torso at what’s called the clavicular head, helping to create a thicker upper chest. It’ll also help with your posture.”
However, Cameron Yuen, a physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments, has a word of advice—an extreme incline is not a harder workout. All you need is a slight elevation to hit those upper pecs. If the angle is too steep, you are transferring the load onto the front part of your shoulders which tends to be overworked by other exercises anyway.
So, although this is the most comfortable and most popular type of bench, if you aren’t varying your exercises, then you are going to end up missing target areas and over-doing it with the shoulder workouts.
Type C: Decline Bench
Decline benches, surprisingly, are best for working out your abs and core. Doing sit-ups on a decline bench offers better extension than on a flat surface.
In terms of lifting, our expert Yuen says skip this bench. The decline bench “involves a fairly small range of motion, and the coastal fibers are already heavily recruited during the flat bench press.”
So, how often should we be putting in the work? Ideally, for safe maximum muscle growth, you should work out each target area twice a week, alternating between types A and B for upper body and type C for abs and core.