Question: How do I perform a proper bench press to really work my chest muscles?
Kansas City, Mo.
Answer: To be certain you're performing a bench press properly:
1. Maintain a five-point contact throughout the entire exercise, both to stabilize your body and to keep you in the correct biomechanical position.
* Keep your feet flat on the ground.
* Keep your shoulder blades flat and in constant contact with the bench (do not let them come off the bench).
* Keep the back of your head in contact with the bench.
* Keep your glutes in constant contact with the bench.
* Avoid arching your back when you execute the pressing movement.
2. Use a wide hand grip. This will place more emphasis on your pectoral muscles. Bench pressing requires the use primarily of your pectorals major, triceps and deltoids. If you choose a narrow grip (within shoulder distance), you'll place the weight load more on your triceps and shoulders.
3. The bar or weights should be in line with where your collarbones meet your sternum. When you lower the bar it should come 2 to 3 inches from your sternum. Press the bar back up so that is in the starting position again in line with your superior sternum (just below your chin).
4. The correct movement for pressing should simulate an arc. (If you press up in a straight line, it will place undue stress on your shoulders.)
Stephanie Oakes is the fitness correspondent for Discovery Health Channel and a health/fitness consultant. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. She cannot respond to every query.