Rising Popularity of Bodybuilding and Weightlifting
Amid the pandemic, there has been a significant surge in interest towards bodybuilding, with a staggering 190% increase in searches for “bodybuilding” or “weightlifting” apps, according to Google Trends data. The most sought-after exercises among gym-goers include squats, dumbbells, and deadlifts. However, a recent analysis reveals that both men and women prefer the bench press as the most popular weightlifting exercise.
Why is the Bench Press Popular?
The bench press is a favorite amongst bodybuilders due to its effectiveness in producing desired results, in addition to other health benefits it offers, not just muscle growth. It’s also a fairly simple exercise to perform.
How to Perform the Bench Press Correctly
Like many forms of resistance training, the bench press requires basic gym equipment such as a workout bench, a long barbell on a secure rack frame, and weight plates that are added to each side of the barbell. Getting the most out of the exercise requires good form. Jackie Miller, a certified IRONMAN and USA Triathlon coach, shares some steps to ensure proper bench press form:
- Lay flat on the exercise bench with bent knees and feet firmly planted on the ground. The barbell should be at about chin level.
- Grip the barbell wider than shoulder width apart with your hands and keep your elbows extended below each hand.
- Push the bar up and off the rack while keeping your elbows extended and move it forward until it’s directly above your chest.
- Inhale as you slowly lower the bar to your chest in a controlled manner. Avoid bouncing it off your chest.
- Exhale as you push the bar back towards the ceiling until your arms are straight again.
- Repeat these movements for as many sets as you are comfortable doing. Once you start feeling fatigued, it’s time to rack the weight.
What Muscles are Worked by the Bench Press?
The bench press is an inclusive exercise, targeting several muscle groups; with its primary target being the pectoralis major or “pecs.” Adams explains that these chest muscles control movement of both arms across the front of the body, and the shoulder. The exercise also works other muscles including triceps, deltoids, biceps, forearm muscles, rib muscles, and the latissimus dorsi.
Adjusting the Bench Press for Specific Muscle Groups
The bench press can be adjusted to target specific muscle groups. Performing the exercise on an inclined workout bench will target upper chest muscles, while decline bench-pressing targets lower chest muscles. Regardless of the setting, it’s crucial to avoid lifting excessive weight or performing the exercise too rapidly to avoid injury.
Health Benefits of Bench Pressing
Besides increased upper-body strength, bench pressing also offers other health benefits such as improved stamina and endurance, increased mobility, and increased bone density. The exercise also aligns with the physical activity recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which include 75 to 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity each week along with muscle-strengthening activities. The CDC notes that maintaining such levels of physical activity can improve brain health, help manage weight, reduce disease risk, and improve functionality in everyday activities.