Bench Press Biomechanics: Complete Guide to the Bench Press | Jim Stoppani, PhD

The bench press is the ultimate test of upper-body strength, and it’s a great exercise to build impressive muscle mass in the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
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Unfortunately, the bench press has a bad rap for causing shoulder injuries. This isn’t due to the bench press being a dangerous exercise, but due to so many people doing the bench press incorrectly. The correct way to do the bench press does NOT involve flaring the upper arms straight out to your sides as you lower the bar down to your upper chest.

The correct way to do the bench press is to tuck the upper arms into your sides more so that your upper arms form about a 45- to 60- degree angle with the sides of the torso. To do this, you actually involve the lats a lot by contracting them to pull your arms in, as if you were holding two grapefruits in your armpits, as you lower the bar to your lower chest. You then drive it back up toward your upper chest so that the bar follows a bit of an arced path, versus a straight up-an-down vertical path. Using your lats properly in this manner will not only spare you from shoulder injuries but will also help to increase the amount of weight that you can bench press.

You have protruding bumps on either side of your shoulders called the acromion processes. The distance between these bumps is your biacromial distance. Mine, for example, is 14 inches. Take the biacromial distance and multiply it by 1.5, and that’s your ideal bench press grip width. In my case, it’s 21 inches. So when I do bench, that’s how far apart I space my hands. From the middle of the bar, I’ll measure out 10.5 inches to each side, and that’s where my thumbs will hit (not my pinkies).

Next time bench day rolls around (and every time you bench press thereafter), lock into that grip for maximal power and strength—plus the piece of mind that you’re doing everything you can to keep your shoulders healthy.

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