The bench press: a full guide

The bench press is a beloved exercise among fitness enthusiasts. It is one of the most popular exercises, and for good reason - it is incredibly effective at building muscle mass.

In this blog post, we will discuss everything you need to know about the bench press. We will cover what the exercise is, how to do it safely, and how to do it without normal equipment.

We will also provide some alternatives and related exercises. So whether you are a beginner or an experienced lifter, this blog post has something for you!

What is the bench press?

The bench press is a weightlifting exercise that targets the chest muscles. It involves lying on your back on a bench, and pressing a weight (either a barbell or dumbbells) upwards until your arms are extended.

What muscles do bench press exercises target?

The bench press primarily targets the chest muscles - namely, the pectoralis major and minor. However, it also works the shoulders (anterior deltoid) and triceps.

What equipment is needed for the bench press?

For the bench press, you will need a weightlifting bench and either a barbell or dumbbells. You will also need a bench press rack if you are using a barbell.

How to do the bench press safely

There are a few things to keep in mind when doing the bench press:

  1. First, always use a spotter. This is someone who will help you lift the weight if you are unable to do so yourself.

  2. Second, start with a lightweight and gradually increase the amount of weight you lift as you get stronger.

  3. Third, breathe evenly throughout the exercise - inhale as you lower the weight down, and exhale as you press it back up.

  4. Finally, use a full range of motion, don’t just stop at the halfway point. Lower the weight down to your chest, and press it back up until your arms are fully extended.

How to do the bench press without normal equipment

If you don’t have access to a bench or weights, there are still ways you can do the bench press. One option is to use a medicine ball and lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Press the ball upwards until your arms are fully extended.

Wide grip push-ups: This push-up variation targets the same muscles as a bench press and can be done without equipment. Instead of pushing weights above your chest, you push your body up with your chest muscles.

Laying flat on the floor: If you don’t have the normal equipment to do a bench press, you can also lay flat on the floor and use two dumbbells or two kettlebells.

It’s important to use a weight you can lift as this way of doing bench presses is usually done without a spotter. Make sure you have a strong grip as you will be lifting the weights above your head in the same motion as the bench press with traditional equipment.

If you don’t feel comfortable with lifting weights above your head, please stick with the wide grip push-up. You don’t want to injure yourself while exercising.

Are there any alternatives or related exercises?

Yes, there are a few alternatives and related exercises. For example, you could try the incline bench press or the decline bench press. Both of these exercises target different areas of the chest muscles.

Incline bench press: The incline bench press targets the upper chest muscles. To do this exercise, lie on an incline bench (the bench should be at a 45-degree angle or higher) and press the weight upwards until your arms are fully extended.

Decline bench press: The decline bench press targets the lower chest muscles. Similar to the incline bench press, lie on a decline bench (the bench should be at a 30-degree angle or lower) and press the weight upwards until your arms are fully extended.

You could also try the shoulder press, which works the anterior deltoid muscles, or the triceps extension, which targets the triceps. Narrow grips are also a popular alternative to the standard bench press method.

Shoulder press: The shoulder press is an exercise that works the anterior deltoid muscles. To do this exercise, hold a weight in each hand and raise them upwards until your arms are fully extended.

Narrow grip: A narrow grip is when your hands are placed closer together on the barbell (or dumbbells). This targets the inner part of the chest muscles.

To do a narrow grip bench press, simply place your hands closer together than shoulder-width apart and proceed with the exercise as normal.

Dumbbell press: Alternatively, you can do dumbbell presses. Hold two dumbbells at shoulder height, and then press them upwards until your arms are fully extended.

Related exercises that target the same muscle groups as bench press

Several other exercises target the chest muscles. Some of the most popular ones are the following:

  • Chest press
  • Pushups
  • Cable crossovers
  • Dips

Which exercise is right for me?

That depends on your individual fitness level and goals. If you are a beginner, start with basic exercises like pushups or chest presses. As you get stronger, you can gradually move on to more advanced exercises like dips or cable crossovers.

Whatever exercise you choose, make sure to use a full range of motion and breathe evenly throughout the set.

Bench Press:

  • One of the most popular exercises
  • Targets chest muscles (pectoralis major and minor)
  • Use a spotter, start with lightweight, breathe evenly, and use the full range of motion
  • Can do bench press using a stability ball or dumbbells if no weights or bench available

Chest Press:

  • Targets chest muscles (pectoralis major and minor)
  • Can be done with a machine


  • Target triceps, pectorals, and shoulders
  • More advanced exercise


Targets chest muscles as well as triceps and shoulders (anterior deltoid). See our guide on doing push ups

Cable Crossovers:

Target pectoral muscles specifically

The Bench Press: Everything You Need to Know (summary)

Bench pressing is one of the most important exercises you can do to build muscle and strength. The bench press targets the chest muscles (pectoralis major and minor), as well as the triceps and shoulders (anterior deltoid).

When doing a bench press, it is important to use a full range of motion and breathe evenly throughout the set. Make sure to start with a weight that is comfortable for you and gradually increase the weight as you get stronger. Always ask a spotter for support and enjoy your lifting!