Feminine Benefits of the Barbell Bench Press
The major muscle groups you work during a bench press are your pecs and triceps.
Building your pecs, especially the lower part of your pecs, will give your chest a little boost forward and upward. What woman doesn’t want that?
I think, and many would agree, that super bulky triceps can look quite masculine but a bit of tricep definition will also give you that “toned arm” look that looks oh so sleek in a sleeveless dress.
Other Benefits of the Bench Press
The bench press is also a timeless major marker of fitness. Getting in a few sets on the bench press will make you feel like such a badass. I promise it will make you feel so confident and powerful for the rest of your workout and your day.
Tips on starting from the very beginning
The bench press has such a social weight to it but it really isn’t that difficult, even for women who haven’t ever lifted before. The bar itself weighs 45lbs. If you are able to do the same bench press movement with 15lb dumbbells for 8-10 reps or if you are able to do 2-3 full pushups, you will be able to bench the bar.
If you’re starting from never lifting weights before, I would do some lighter weight dumbbell bench presses or as many pushups as possible 3 times per week for a couple weeks, increasing weight and reps incrementally as you go. Once you are able to do several 15lb dumbbell bench press reps or 2-3 full pushups (not knee pushups), you’re ready to start at the bar.
Once you’re at that level, claim yourself one of the barbell bench press benches in the gym (this is often the hardest part of the barbell bench press exercise). If you’re still uncomfortable doing your first barbell bench press, ask one of the gym staff or a fellow gym-goer to spot you your first time. I think you’ll be surprised at how easy it is even without a spotter.
Tips on Form to make the Bench Press more Feminine
Some of these tips you may have heard before since they are also useful for men who want to put the emphasis on their pecs over their triceps (since they often do many other tricep-specific work).
1. Arms midway toward sides
One of the most common mistakes (and one of the most pain-provoking) is having the bar and your elbows way up at the level of your shoulders. This puts a lot of stress on the ligaments in your shoulder joint which can cause you pain. It also gives you much more of a shoulder workout, and less of a pec workout, which will give you bulkier shoulders instead of that chest lift we’re looking for.
Keep the angle between your torso and your upper arms at a 45-75 degree angle as in the image below. And when you bring the bar down, bring it to your middle to lower chest area. This will put the emphasis on your pecs and take the strain and gains off your shoulders.
2. Flex your back
The other key is to flex your back. You want your shoulders and your butt firmly on the bench but everything in between should be flexed and lifted off the bench. While doing this, I also try to focus on keeping my shoulder blades together which pulls my shoulders into proper and safest position.
This back-flexed position is safest for your shoulders but it also puts the emphasis a little more on your lower pecs. Bulking up this part of your pec muscles will give you more of that lift action we want.
3. Pull scapulae together at the bottom
Another tip I like is to pull my scapulae back together at the bottom of the range of motion. This puts your shoulders and upper arms in a better position for your pecs to move your arms with less contribution from your triceps.
4. Pull hands towards each other
One great way to take the emphasis off of one muscle group when doing compound movements like this is to flex the opposite group. In this case, we want to take the emphasis off of our triceps so we will work on flexing our biceps during the movement. An easy way to think about this is gently pulling hands towards each other during the movement. You won’t actually move your hands on the bar at all, just the emphasis will be inwards.
The barbell bench press offers you so much femininity and confidence and I think you’ll like your results.
Dr. Elle, MD