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How Should a Beginner Bodybuilder Bench Press?

For a beginner bodybuilder, when it comes to bench press, should I do all the “pack the shoulders, arch the back, use leg drive, use wide grip, etc” that powerlifters use, or should I not do those because they’ll prevent me from gaining mass, particularly in the pecs, or what?

Are you an experienced lifter getting into bodybuilding, or a beginner lifter that may want to do a bodybuilding competition in the future?

I’m a beginner lifter who wants to be a natural, non-competitive bodybuilder, preferably with a home gym. If it helps, I am almost 15 and I began weightlifting right when I turned 14, but I haven’t been able to do anything since December because of non-serious shoulder problems


Don’t use a wide grip.

But do use your legs to get tight and stable on the bench. Arch your Upper back and pack your shoulders to keep your chest up and keep the stress off your front delts.

This video is long and they do crazy things with bands and chains and weird sets/reps. But the powerlifter and the physique dude use really similar grip width, leg drive/arch and bar path when benching.

Then I would say just learn how to bench press. I wouldn’t exaggerate the style powerlifters use for competition, but you definitely want to pack your shoulders and get your legs set.

Don’t stress about a magical version emphasizing something specific - maybe down the road when you’re defending your Olympia title that will matter.

I haven’t watched the video @FlatsFarmer linked, but it’s likely good. I think, for me, I had to learn the most uncomfortable part of the bench is getting into position - in case that gives a hint on the learning curve there

Entered the thread just to say “bench in whatever way feels comfortable and safe for your shoulders” as a generic advice, but given your age and reading this:

it’s more than a generic advice - bench in whatever way feels comfortable and safe for your shoulders, period.
With time (years, plural) you’ll be experienced enough to weigh the risk-reward of benching one way or another for your goals, up to then I’d err on the side of caution.

Building the chest can be tricky for many and barbell benching might easily not even be between the most optimal choices for it.

Ditto what everyone else said. Bench in a way that feels good for YOU.

Get your bench up to 315, or 405, or whatever. Then you’ll be able to play around with grip and style and everything to really “blast your pecs” or whatever with 225.

For me, hypertrophy always become easier when I’ve gotten stronger, and can use light enough weights than I can just focus on the pump, and the actual lifting is a little easier.

All that being said, benching’s most likely not the best chest builder. Personally, have gotten more out of pushups and dips.

Bench however you warching the back prevents people from ant that works for you. I see a lot of people claiming that arching the back is bad because you won’t build muscle, but I’ve never seen a 315+ bencher with a bad chest unless their arch was excessive.

Plus there’s plenty of other hypertrophy work you should be doing whether or not you do/don’t arch. DB press, Dips, OHP, etc

Come again? Lol

Whoops, words musta gotten deleted/replaced

“Bench however you want that works for you” I think arching the sentence in between was meant to get edited out

Haha no worries man, got a good chuckle out of reading that.

The real question here is, what do you want out of bench? I honestly don’t know that many people who get the best chest involvement out of flat bench. Learn to bench properly, like @FlatsFarmer said, not just because it’ll get you strong, but because the risk to reward ratio of flat benching wide grip with elbows flared for chest hypertrophy is not great. Dips, decline bench, incline bench, and any type of DB bench are all superior chest builders for people who are not chest dominant. I’m 90% arms and shoulders when I bench.

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OP you failed to mention that your dealing with a shoulder impingement issue that you posted in another thread.

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Thank you for the concern, but actually I’ve been taking it easy on my shoulder and went to the doctor about it and he said that he thinks it’s not impinged anymore, and I agree because the pain is gone. My rotator cuff is still not 100%, but it’s getting there and shouldn’t be long until it is, so I don’t think it will be long until I can really bench again. Also, my impingement happened because of a slight bench press error, so I’m just trying to learn how to bench optimally for both size and safety so it doesn’t happen again.

Actually that type of issue is caused by a combination of mobility and muscle imbalances.

Yes, but it was brought out (at least more so) during a bench press several months back. My arm flared to the side of a semi-heavy (for me) bench press, and the pain came about a day or so later. I’m not surprised it happened to the shoulder it happened on; my left shoulder is smaller and weaker than my right and I wasn’t helping it by not realizing it wasn’t as strong as my right, so the benching was just making it worse. That’s my understanding, at least. Correct me if I’m wrong, though

Maybe don’t think of it as how a beginner should bench. Bench as well as you can, but always look to improve on form. How I bench may not be optimal for you. Find what works for you.

I think close grip is important to give the shoulders a break. Different variations can help improve the main bench movement, and also provide a different path for your joints to reduce the chances of an injury.

That actually sounds like a really good idea, using a narrow grip to let my shoulder heal. I’ll use that next time I bench. Thanks

It really should be about the long game. Stay healthy and improving, and eventually you will hit the weights you want, and have development to go with it.

Banded benching (or slingshot if you want to splurge) can be good for shoulder issues, as well as using boards or blocks can work too.

For size, I would try the tempo bench. Do like 5 seconds down, 1 second pause, then fast as you can up. I would hold off on these, until you have built some strength.

With the issue you have going on make sure you work your upper back as much or better yet more then your chest.

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