11 November 2010 ~ Comments Off on Basic Exercise: The Chest Press

Basic Exercise: The Chest Press

The bench press.

Welcome to one of the series we’ll be starting here at Simple Workout: we’ll address the basic gym exercises you should be doing to build strength. Today we begin with the Chest Press, which can be done as a seated machine exercise or the widely familiar bench press.

Muscles Worked

The chest press primarily works the pectoralis major muscles, the large muscles of the chest. It also hits the anterior deltoid (front of shoulder), the triceps, the “long head” of the biceps and the coracobrachialis on the underside of the shoulder.

The free-weight version of the exercise also works stabilising muscles such as the serratus and trapezius, as well as the rotator cuff muscles and the core muscles.


Note: Always begin with low or no weight, concentrating on your form. If you use heavy free weights, always use a spotter.

How to do the machine chest press:

  • Adjust the seat so that the handles fall just below the bottom of your chest. It should be a comfortable arm position without stress on the shoulders.
  • Use an overhand grip, press your back against the seat and keep your shoulders back throughout the entire motion.
  • Breathe out as you push the weight forward and extend fully, pause briefly, then slowly bring the weight back until your hands are almost (but not quite) even with your chest.

How to do the bench press with a barbell:

  • Slide underneath the bar so that you can grip the bar comfortably, slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
  • Lift the bar from the rack and bring it down to the starting position, almost (but not quite) touching your chest. Keep your shoulders back and make sure your butt is always in contact with the bench.
  • Smoothly push the bar up until you reach full extension. Pause again, then lower the weight to the starting position and pause again.
  • When you’ve completed your reps, replace the bar on the rack.

How to do the chest press with dumbbells:

  • Sit on the bench, holding the dumbbells as the rest on your lap. Rock back, lifting the dumbbells into position with your thighs.
  • Holding the dumbbells with an overhand grip, pause momentarily with the weights just above chest level, then push them up smoothly, tapping them (gently!) together at the top of the motion.
  • Pause briefly, then lower the dumbbells smoothly to the starting position. When you’re done, either lower the weights gently to the floor beside the bench or to your chest, then rock forward and upright, resting the weights on your lap.


Using different angles and grips can work your muscles differently:

  • An incline press will work the upper portion of the pectorals and the deltoids harder, while a decline press will put focus on the lower chest.
  • The more narrow the grip, the more your arms will be recruited. A wider grip will hit your shoulders harder.

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