Proper bench press technique allows you lift heavier weight.
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The bench press is the go-to chest workout at the gym, but it's easy to do this seemingly simple exercise incorrectly. One confusing aspect of proper bench press technique is where to lower the bar on the negative part of the movement. It's important to learn proper technique, because lowering the bar too high on your chest or too low toward your stomach can cause injury and won't work the pectoral muscles effectively.
Where to Aim
The spot on your body you need to aim for when lowering the bar toward your chest is your sternum, or breastbone area. Ideally, bring the bar down and gently touch the bottom part of your sternum with the bar. This little touch will ensure you're maintaining proper bar position with each repetition. Practice lowering an empty bar several times to get used to the movement.
Your technique plays a major role in how consistent you are at lowering the bar to the proper position at the sternum. For example, grip the bar too closely together, and it becomes difficult to bring the bar down at your sternum. Basic bench press technique has you gripping the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, feet flat on the floor for stability, shoulders squeezed together and chest expanded outward on the down portion of the bench press movement. This basic technique will make it easier to lower the bar at the proper position.
Things to Avoid
When lowering the barbell down toward your breastbone, use a slow, controlled motion. Never bounce the bar off your chest in an effort to help lift the bar for the subsequent rep. Bouncing the bar off your chest can potentially injure your sternum and shoulders. Improper gripping of the bar can make it difficult to lower the bar down to the bottom part of your sternum, so double check your hand positioning if you encounter this problem.
It's important to focus on lowering the bar down to your sternum because it maximizes the effectiveness of the exercise. It forces your arms into the correct position, and it puts most of the stress square on your chest muscles, which is the whole purpose of the exercise. After mastering the proper bench press technique, you'll experience bigger and faster gains than you ever have before.