A very common question amongst gym going males. The bench press is a staple exercise and one of the big 3, with squat and deadlift. Despite it working less muscle groups than the other two, it is probably the exercise you’re most likely to see being done in a gym. However even this overused exercise is usually not done the most effective way and sometimes just plain wrong.
And I mean arm position, not grip. The upper arms especially, are key to proper bench press form. Many people flare their upper arms out, this is incorrect and usually leads to shoulder injury. Here’s a great tip for upper arm positioning: pretend you’re holding grapefruits in your armpits, and as you bring your arms down, you will be squeezing the grapefruits, before you press it back up. To be more scientific, your upper arms should form an angle between 45 and 60 degrees with your body.
This is another aspect of the bench press that is usually taken for granted or chosen arbitrarily. With too wide a grip the shoulders are forced to abduct over 75 degrees, which can cause injury. Again, to get scientific: measure the distance from the outer edge of one pec (inside of the shoulder) to the outer edge of the other. Multiply that value by 1.5, and that is how far apart on the bar your hands should be. This sounds complicated, but taking the two minutes to do it, could save you months of lost time due to shoulder injury. Also, a wide grip has been shown to reduce performance, by recruiting the triceps more.
So, always warm up; use a proper grip; squeeze those grapefruits!