How to Warm Up Before the Bench Press

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The bench press is an intense upper-body exercise that challenges the average fitness participant and the competitive weight-lifter. A proper warm-up reduces injury risk and increases your range of motion during the bench press. You have the option of performing light cardio before your warm-up sets, which improves the blood flow to your working muscles. The pre-workout sets prepare your nervous system for the bench press during practice or performance.

How to Warm Up Before the Bench Press
(Jens Lambert/Demand Media)

Things You'll Need

  • Dumbbells
  • Flat bench
  • Elbow sleeves (optional)
Step 1

Do three to five minutes of full-body movement such as walking, stair climbing, dancing, marching in place or using cardiovascular equipment such as bicycles, ellipticals or rowing machines.

Jens Lambert/Demand Media
Step 2

Stretch your upper body with one to two minutes of flexibility exercises. Place your hands behind your back and clasp your fingers to stretch your chest. Reach your right arm across your chest and use your left hand to pull it toward you to stretch your shoulder. Perform a triceps stretch and place your elbow near your head with your hand between your shoulder blades.

Jens Lambert/Demand Media
Step 3

Complete a set of dumbbell chest flys. According to the National Strength and Conditioning Association, these stimulate the pectorals and fatigue the muscles, which leads to greater strength improvements. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and lie face up on a flat bench. Straighten your arms toward the ceiling and then inhale and open your arms to the sides. Exhale and return to the start position. Use a light weight with which you can perform 10 to 12 flys.

Jens Lambert/Demand Media
Step 4

Perform three to four gradually increasing bench press sets until you reach your training weight. For example, if you work out with 135 pounds, begin with 10 to 50 repetitions with an unloaded bar. Complete five to 10 reps with 95 pounds and three to five reps with 115 pounds.

Jens Lambert/Demand Media
Step 1

Stretch your upper body with light flexibility exercises to rid any tension in your muscles. For example, lace your hands behind your back to stretch your chest; reach your right arm overhead and drop your right hand to your upper back to stretch your tricep; and place your right hand on your left shoulder and pull your right arm toward your chest to stretch your shoulder.

Jens Lambert/Demand Media
Step 2

March in place, squat, lunge or do seated torso-twists to increase blood flow throughout your body. Begin this during the flight prior to yours. For example, if you are in flight three of the competition, start your warm-up in flight two. Wear elbow sleeves to keep your elbows warm, but only if they feel comfortable because the sleeves limit your range of motion.

Jens Lambert/Demand Media
Step 3

Perform a set of five to 15 bench presses with the bar. Keep the reps low if you bench press approximately 300 pounds. Increase the repetitions for heavier competition weights. For example, if you press 700 pounds, begin your warm-up with a set of 15 using an unloaded bar.

Jens Lambert/Demand Media
Step 4

Add 40 to 50 pounds for each sequential set. Perform five repetitions for the next one or two, and then three reps for the next one to three sets. Finish with one repetition for the final three or four sets before your maximum weight. At this time, the previous flight should be finishing.

Jens Lambert/Demand Media

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