The bench press is the ultimate test of upper-body strength, and it's a great exercise to build impressive muscle mass in the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Unfortunately, the bench press has a bad rap for causing shoulder injuries. But this is not due to the bench press being an inherently dangerous exercise. It's because so many people use the bench press incorrectly.
A correct bench press does not involve flaring the upper arms straight out to your sides as you lower the bar down to your upper chest. The correct way to bench press is to tuck the upper arms into your sides more so that your upper arms form about a 45- to 60-degree angle with the sides of your torso.
To do this, activate your lats by drawing your arms in as if you were holding a grapefruit in each armpit—contracting the lats as you lower the bar to your lower chest. Then, as you drive the bar back up, allow the bar to follow an arcing path versus a straight-up-and-down vertical path. Using your lats in this manner will not only spare you from shoulder injuries, but will also help to increase the amount of weight you can press from the bench.
Once you've mastered proper technique, the next challenge becomes integrating the bench press into your overall chest-building program. Follow this four-week plan to raise your bench press max and increase chest muscle mass!