Prepare weights corresponding with your fitness level and type of training. Lie on the bench so that your eyes are right below the bar. Using a medium width grip (a grip that creates a 90-degree angle in the middle of the movement between the forearms and the upper arms), lift the bar from the rack and hold it straight above you with your arms locked and feet on the floor. Start coming down slowly until the bar touches your middle chest.
From the starting position, lower the barbell down slowly until the bar touches your chest and then go back. Breathe in as you go down and breathe out as you go up. Your elbows point outwards.
Better to be conservative with the amount of weight used.
Make sure your hands are in the right position and avoid extensive dorsal flexion in your wrists.
It is advised to use a spotter to help you with more challenging weight.
The bodybuilding version of bench press is considerably simpler than the powerlifting version of the same exercise. It is also causing much more shoulder joint and rotator cuff injuries.
In the “bodybuilding” bench press you don’t arch your body, do not use scapular retraction and do not keep the elbows close to torso.
Your forearms should be always perpendicular to the floor.
Before you choose which form of barbell bench press you prefer (and indeed before you plan your chest training as a whole) you should know more about the mechanics involved in “benching”.
First, the exercise involves multiple muscles and joints, the most important being pectoralis major (main muscle of the chest), triceps and the front of deltoid (shoulder) muscle. The involved joints include wrist joint, elbow joint and the complicated shoulder joint.
It is also important to mention that a system of tendons and small muscles called rotator cuff plays a major role in bench press (every form).
Many people believe that the wider the grip, the more chest muscles get involved and the narrower the grip, the more triceps gets involved. This is only partially true.
The wide elbows (as in bodybuilding chest press) do stress the involvement of breast muscles. However, wider grip than that where the forearms are perpendicular to the floor will only involve more the deltoid muscles. It also puts extreme pressure on the shoulder joint and rotator cuff and should be avoided.
Narrow grip (the triceps version) should be approximately shoulder-wide.
The wrist position in bench press is not a natural one. Wide grip is again more stressful but even normal grip can cause a good deal of wrist damage. That’s because the hands are not in a natural position. Try laying down and lifting an imaginary burden upwards. How do you position your hands naturally? Most probably your palms are facing each other or they are in a 45-degree angle towards each other. You would not tweak your hands so as if you hold the bar.
This is one of the disadvantages of barbell chest press and all barbell exercises. Many athletes find it more natural to switch to using dumbbells instead (there are more advantages of dumbbells like more need for balancing the weight and equal resistance to each side of the body).
Interestingly, in incline bench press it’s the narrow version that is working the (upper) chest more, wider grip will only work deltoids (as the scientific research shows).
You may choose to lower the barbell to your chest or to stop at the level where your upper arms are in 90-degree angle with your forearms. This is much safer on the elbows. You may get some comments from your fellow-trainees (go on, do the full range etc.) but the most experienced ones will understand.