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The bench press is one of the most classic powerlifting lifts you can add to your chest workout. That said, it is one of the most complex simply because there are so many places in the lift that you can go wrong. In this video, I created a check list to give your helpful reference for each of the most important places in the lift that you will want to get right so you can increase your gains and keep your joints safe in the process.

As a physical therapist, one of my biggest concerns will always be the long term safety of a movement as well as the risk to reward ratio of performing the lift. In the case of the bench press, this is one of the most fundamental power moves that all athletes and novice lifters should master. There are plenty of things that can go wrong however, and the joints like the shoulders, wrists, elbows and even your back can become vulnerable if you don’t get it right.

The first thing you need to note is where you are going to be doing the bench press in the first place. Ideally, you’ll have access to a power rack that you can set up a bench in and have the appropriate pins in place to catch the bar should you fail. If doing it here, you will also want to put the clips on the ends of the bar for added safety. If you are training at home however, the clips might be best left off the bar just in case you get stuck under the bar and need a way to dump the weights to get out from under it.

Next the alignment of the bar in the rack and the bench on the bar is crucial to setting up a good lift. Simple enough, but make sure that everything is centered before laying back on the bench. Next look up at the bar and ensure that your eyes are at the same height as the bar itself. This will set you up for a good liftoff from the rack. Along the same lines, you want to be sure that your bar holders are not too high or too low. If you arms are fully extended as you reach up for the bar then you are set too high and will have no leverage when it comes to lifting the bar out of its resting position.

Next focus on the position of your feet and your chest before initiating the liftoff. Your feet need to be under your knees in order to be able to contract the glutes during the movement and add to your pushing power on the bench press. If they are too far out in front of you, much of your pushing power will be lost before you even begin.

Likewise your chest must be arched. This establishes a stable base of your shoulder blades pushing down and into the bench, which will act as a counterforce for the bar as you press it in the opposite direction. Lift the bar and tighten the abs as you lower it down to the chest. The bar path is crtiical. Make sure it is traveling down and forward and not just straight down. This will be more easily accomplished by keeping your elbows tucked closer to your sides, about 75 degrees away.

At the end of your set, fully straighten the elbows and then slowly allow the bar to travel backwards towards the catches. From here, lower the bar once it has engaged the rack and you’re done. A perfectly executed bench press set. Let the chest gains begin, and let the healthy shoulders and joints continue!

If you are looking for a complete training system that puts the science back in strength to help you get the most out of every lift while keeping the latest in sports medicine at the forefront of your workouts to ensure your gym longevity, head to and get your ATHLEAN-X Training System. Start training like an athlete so you can look like an athlete in the next 90 days and beyond.

For more chest workouts and videos on how to do the bench press and the best bench press for your upper chest, be sure to subscribe to our channel here on youtube at

    48 replies to "The Official Bench Press Check List (AVOID MISTAKES!)"

    • W38

      Some say that locking your elbows might damage your joints, is that true or not? I’ve taken the habit of not locking my elbows, now I’m confused. Any tips? Thanks.

      • ADM

        Well, you don’t want to over extend them super hard where your joint bends but yeah you wanna lock a little bit in a comfortable way.

        I’m a YMCA Quebec Fitness Instructor so you can trust me.

      • Χρήστος Χρήστου

        W38 – Test Mobile you have to lock your elbows but not in a fast pace

      • Alain Lamour

        You shouldn’t be trying to lock it anyway because you should be trying to squeeze the bar together at the top for a proper contraction. Can’t do that if you’re locking your elbows

    • David Christman

      Jeff, 3 month ago I began weight lifting at age 34 for the first time. I was getting discouraged because of lingering shoulder discomfort after doing Barbell Bench Press. I was getting stronger with the lift itself so the discomfort increased as I began to add more and more weight. This video helped show me that I was bringing the bar too far up on my chest and flairing my elbows far too wide. I literally went through your checklist step by step and it has not only improved the feeling in my chest I get during the movement itself , but also, no shoulder pain. I Thank you Jeff for making this video.

      • Ddd

        I’m 6 and I dont have that issue

      • Bonny

        I am a fetus and have the same issue

      • Just Gator

        Comments: 🔥

      • Chad

        I am a zygote and I have this issue

    • Christopher Garcia Garcia

      I started to go to the gym yesterday and I honestly did like 10 pounds with proper form, and let me tell you that I could feel people just secretly giggling. And I wasn’t offended because I kept on telling my self that we all start somewhere

      I’ll come back in three months so I can tell you guys my progress

      Edit: I know what I posted is cringe but rn I’m 128 lbs and benching 135lbs and I’m 16, thanks for the kind gestures everybody

      • velveetaslingshot

        No one was giggling man. Get that out of your head.

      • SuperN66 E

        It has been 3 years man. How are you?

      • Monkey D. Luffy

        Imagine laughing at a newcomer🗿🗿, don’t feel bad, their probably just idiots most ppl are usually supportive, idk why ppl laugh

      • Enki Evatoes

        You don’t even have to prove them donkeys!!! Just ignored them.

      • Abhishek Rawat

        You’re working out from 13 years of age?

    • Anamar

      I’m just starting weightlifting​ and honestly Jeff is like a personal trainer for free. He’s just amazing.

      • Tanmay 636

        @Toastcook1212 also hansome 😻💕💕🍨

      • Tanmay 636

        @AmanBT i like dumbbells ❤💕💕

      • Dark Nova

        @PT Kokkonen Hey hows it going? did your career work out, I think i may want to pursue PT as well

      • PT Kokkonen

        @Dark Nova thanks for asking. It has worked out fine. My focus has been on weight loss. I help my customers with their diet, cardio and weight training. My first customers had great success and that led to more customers by referrals. Covid has complicated things so I have have focused on online coaching and workouts you can do from home.

      • Dark Nova

        @PT Kokkonen Great to hear!

    • Luis

      I just did my first benchpress of 10 lbs. on each side. I’m excited for my progress! I’ll update this comment in a couple of weeks/ months when it increases! Thanks for the informative video, athlean-x.

      5-weeks later and I’m able to do 2 sets of 10 reps with 20 lbs. on each side!

      • BrizzitHQ

        @SouthTrees 6 month update?

      • SaltWorth

        Way to go dude just keep at it.

      • Gabriel De Leon

        HOW ABOUT NOW????

      • AiG1992

        He’s probably out there benching 315 x 5

      • DarqEdits

        @AiG1992 fr fr

    • I WORST

      Jeff automatically explains everything he does even when not being filmed.

      • deathshoot 123

        Likes check

      • Bucked Up

        Here is a video that get’s to the point

      • I am a Pokerface

        and we cant even disprove it

      • Peter van Loon

        And now I am putting the tomato in my shopping cart, while we walk to the check out I am grabbing my card.

    • Ali_ReBORN

      I did bench presses last week after a decade.. i went through all of this in my head and now i see this vdo! I guess watching Jeff’s channel automatically made me calculate movements for injury prevention first hand! Thanks Jeff! Learned a lot from you brother!

    • Ricardo Gonzalez

      Thank you soooo mucho for this video and this amazing explanation. I’ve done the bench press hundreds of times and yet by watching this video I realized I’ve been doing it wrong all the time! No wonder I haven’t seen great results on my chest yet. I’ll follow your explanation and try to fix my bench press. Again, thanks a lot!

    • Robert Sherrow

      Appreciate the way your broke it down into individual steps. It’s so easy to let your form drift when you’re chasing weight. I use this video to check and calibrate my form every few months, using just 135 lbs as you did here. I even video these workouts just to double check alignment and make adjustments. I’m 67 weight 170 and can still bench 200+, and good form is critical for me to be able to enjoy this activity for years to come without injury. You are indeed a valued resource and these instructional videos are greatly appreciated!

    • Bob Minelli

      EXCELLENT information brother! SHARED abound. “knowing what to do and doing what you know are two very different actions altogether.” Peace from Wisconsin! Stay strong, clear and coherent.

    • Ariston Agrani

      I’m only 4 weeks in the gym, and with your videos i can see my progress.
      Thank you:)

    • William Wolfe

      Good advice here — 70 years old, still doing weights, still trying to improve. Thanks!

      • John Doe

        You’re my life goal.
        Doing weights even when I’m old enough to get away after saying something sexist.

    • Edward DuBois

      This is a great walkthru. Thank you… I am trying to start again, properly, so I can gradually build up the right way. Learning the physics and forces has greatly helped me to adjust my methods.

    • Scotty Elliott

      I’ve been benching on and off for over 30 years. Last year, I was starting back up ~ my 50th birthday, and was not gaining much. After watching this video, I tried the form and was astonished at the difference it made! I had been keeping the elbows high and hands wide, and pushing the bar off of my upper chest. Although that really worked the pecs, it was tough on the shoulders and did not allow much weight (as Jeff mentioned). Once I brought my hands in, dropped my elbows and pushed the bar from lower on the chest, the weights went up FAST and the shoulder discomfort ended. Thank you!

    • mhernandezae86

      Thank you so much for this video.
      At 155lbs I started getting shoulder pains that forced me to skip days of workouts and back down on the weight when I recovered. I just couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong.
      After fallowing this as closely as possible it seems the bar was too low at start and my head position was to far up.
      After the adjustments I was able to blow past 155lbs and go straight to 175lbs with zero pain.
      Amazing what minor details can do for you.

    • ATHLEAN-X™

      Is the bench press the GREATEST chest exercise of all time? Find out where it ranks against the rest in this video:

      • John R

        if we have an olympic bar at home, or any bar really, is it a good idea to “knuckle pushups” with the bar in ours and use the same positioning that we would at the bench? or does that not really do anything extra versus just doing them without the bar?

    • Sam Garnett

      I benched 60 kg and I felt amazing, thank you Jeff !

    • Ninnoization

      Made my grip slightly narrower, planted my feet, instant rep’ing 10kg more <3 fucking love you man. This is only my body weight, but is a huge milestone for me to actually rep my body weight.

    • Marvell Starks

      Thanks for that video. Even with current shoulder pain from bad beginner form. I used these techniques and I felt instant less pain on lifts. I’m gonna lower weights and start from beginning using proper form this time. I want longevity

    • Siberius Wolf

      7:30 – For an alternative to the shoulders down and back cue, there’s a video by Eugene Teo titled “How to Bench Press to Build Strength & Chest Mass – STOP MAKING THIS MISTAKE”, if anyone wants to check that out (at least if you’re not a powerlifter).

Comments are closed.