Video: How to Execute the Barbell Bench Press

Personal trainer Christina Chu explains the barbell bench press while also walking through how to set up the barbell properly.

how to barbell bench press

Photo by Christina Chu

The barbell bench press is a great compound movement for your chest, shoulder, and tricep muscles. And yes, women do need to strengthen their chest muscles as well! It also helps improve core strength and teaches you to utilize your entire body to execute a strong lift. This step-by-step guide on how to barbell bench press will lead you through the basics to help get you started.


8-12 reps each

Inchworms: From standing, bend at the hips and walk your hands out to a plank, and then walk them back to standing.

Down dog-to-plank: Starting in a plank, shift your hips up to a down dog, and then return back to a plank.

Child’s pose-to-table: Start in table top position (as if you were going to crawl on your hands and knees), and shift back to a child’s pose—your backside should be resting on the back of your legs and your arms outstretched with your forehead comfortably on the ground. Then ease back to table top.

Slow push-up-lowers: In a pushup position, focus on slowly lowering yourself down, then drop when the form breaks or you reach the floor. Push back up and repeat again.

Band pullbacks: With a thin, long band, grab the ends, and squeeze your shoulder blades back by pulling the band apart.

Wraparound: With the same band and hand positioning, bring the band in a circular motion, starting in front of you by your hips, over your head, and behind you by your glutes (or as far back as you can). If you are experiencing pain, try this without the band or one arm at a time.


*Note: Most barbells weigh 45 pounds, so if you try this out and it feels too heavy, first try this with pre-set barbells or dumbbells and work your way up.*

  1. Lay down on the bench, with the barbell at eye level. Make sure to watch your head on the way down and confirm that you can un-rack the barbell at the set height. You should have to lift the bar no more than an inch off the hooks when you take it out of the rack.
  2. Line up your hands, either thumbs’ distance from the grip line or pinky finger to the ring, and center the barbell.
  3. Squeeze your shoulder blades together, brace your core like you’re being punched in the stomach, squeeze your glutes, and keep your feet firmly planted on the ground. Everything should be locked in place, so if someone were to push you, you wouldn’t budge.
  4. Remove the barbell from the rack. Take a deep breath in and bring the barbell down towards your sternum, elbows at a 45 degree angle.
  5. Push the barbell up as you exhale out.
  6. Re-rack your barbell when you are done, with a help of a spotter (see video) if needed. Place your weight plates back in the appropriate spot when finished.

Now that you have the barbell bench in your exercise toolkit, go out there and have a great workout!