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Back Pain Center

How to Prevent Back Pain From Bench Pressing

author image Beth Rifkin
Based in San Francisco, Beth Rifkin has been writing health- and fitness-related articles since 2005. Her bylines include "Tennis Life," "Ms. Fitness," "Triathlon Magazine," "Inside Tennis," "American Fitness" and others. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Temple University.
How to Prevent Back Pain From Bench Pressing
Shoulder blades glued to the bench help to protect your back. Photo Credit: Ibrakovic/iStock/Getty Images

The bench press is often a favorite exercise of bodybuilders because of its ability to maximize the growth of the chest muscles, or pectoralis major, which when developed lend to the aesthetics of a buff body. Form is your friend when performing the bench press. Execute the exercise correctly and your torso can be strong and svelte. Alternatively, compromising your posture, such as by exaggerating the arch in your back, can lead to back pain or discomfort. Capitalize on the results by lifting carefully.

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Step 1

Warm up for approximately 10 minutes before performing any strength training exercises, including the bench press. Engage in cardiovascular activity, such as jogging, bicycling or jumping rope. Perform one 10-repetition set of pushups to activate the chest and shoulders for the bench press.

Step 2

Choose the amount of resistance that you want to use for the bench press and load the barbell. The resistance level should allow you to complete at least eight but not more than 12 repetitions with proper form. Place the barbell on the bench press rack.

Step 3

Lie on your back on the bench with the bar positioned over your chest. Place your feet flat on the floor. Pull your stomach in toward your spine to protect the lower back. Failing to engage the core while benching can cause pain or injury to the lower back. Slide the shoulder blades down your back. Maintain a neutral position with your spine so that there is a slight natural arch.

Step 4

Wrap your hands around the bar with an overhand grip, separated slightly wider than shoulder-width. Lift the bar off the rack and hold it over your upper chest with straight arms.

Step 5

Bend your elbows out to the sides and lower the barbell until it is right over your chest. Maintain the abdominal engagement and avoid over-arching your back to stabilize against the weight, which can result in an injury. Keep your back pressing into the bench throughout the exercise.

Step 6

Push the barbell toward the ceiling until your arms are straight. Maintain soft elbows to avoid locking them out. Press the shoulder blades into the bench as you push the bar above your chest.

Step 7

Hold the lift for one count and then lower the bar again to go into the next repetition. Complete three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.

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