Exercise Anatomy

The Bench Press

The bench press isn't just for bodybuilders or powerlifters. Here's why you should add this move to your workouts.

The bench press is simply a back-supported press. But even though it makes up one-third of a powerlifter’s game-day event schedule, it’s fairly rare among CrossFitters. Still, any athlete looking to increase pressing power should consider adding it to their workouts.

While there are variations, the regular grip on the bench will lie outside shoulder width. For many, a good guide is to put the the pinkie finger near the ring in the knurling.

The Setup


Position a barbell in J hooks set just lower than chest height in a rig. Put a bench under the bar, then lie on it with your feet flat on the floor. Tuck your shoulders back and down on the bench by retracting your shoulder blades, grasp the bar with an overhand grip and remove it from the J hooks, holding it with your arms extended. Create tension, even in the legs, by “spreading the floor apart.” This will turn a seemingly localized exercise into a full-body movement.

Athletes should feel “wedged” between the bar and the bench to create the most force possible and to keep contact with the bench. To “wedge” in, push your body into the bench to create a firm pressing foundation. Oftentimes, athletes will passively lie on the bench, only trying to apply force to the bar.

2. The Movement


Keeping the bar path as straight as possible, lower it under control to your sternum, then press it straight up with as much force as possible. Repeat for reps.

To encourage maximum engagement of the triceps, attempt to “spread the bar apart,” both on the way down and the way up.


Don’t have a bench? Execute this movement while lying on the floor. The floor press, often called the “poor man’s bench,” will still increase your pressing power.