Easing into weight lifting as a woman is much different than starting out as a man. This article will tell you a female friendly process to get started with the bench press in a way that is quick, safe, easy and fun!
How To Get Started With the Bench Press
Don't assume guys do this exercise correctly. Most people have incorrect bench press form. Believe it or not, a proper bench press is performed with a slight arch in the lower back. Check out my video below. I start by driving my shoulders into the bench and then tightly arch my back while keeping MY BUTT DOWN.
In the video below I demonstrate what I mean by a tight arch. I drive my shoulders into the bench, push my feet into the floor, squeeze my stomach tight, and force my mid-back slightly off the bench. Notice I keep my butt down, but you can see a gap in between my back. A common error is to "bridge" the bench press, allowing your butt to come off the bench while you arch. This is considered cheating; you get more bang for your muscle buck by keeping your butt down on the bench.
I demonstrate what "bridging" is after a few reps in the video. You can make sure you are doing it right by seeing if someone can fit their arm in between you and the bench while keeping your butt down.
Watch the Bench press video below!
The tightly arched back stabilizes the weight down your shoulders and intro your core and even your legs. This helps you properly support the weight and use the most muscles during the lift. I’ve seen women add 10 - 20% to their bench press just by changing their form. More weight (done with the right form) means more calories burned and more muscle maintained.
The problem here is that most women can't lift the bar. I actually couldn't when I started either. While this is perfectly normal, most guys are shocked to hear this. This is really annoying and frustrating when you are initially trying to get someone to teach you how to weight train; nobody knows how to ease women into it properly. But this is not a problem for you, because I am about to tell you!
Based on working with other women, you are only about 4 – 6 weeks away from safely working with and lifting the 45 pound Olympic bar. The best way I have found to help safely work your way up to this process is to start with the dumbbell bench press:
How to Safely Ease into the Bench Press
To start, grab a pair of dumbbells you can lift about 12 – 15 times. You are just going to be working on getting the form down first and then we can add more weight. Sit on the bench and balance each dumbbell on your quad. Slowly lie back and as you do, pull the weights up to your chest keeping your stomach and arms tight.
Now that you are lying back, drive your shoulders into the bench, squeeze your stomach, push your feet into the ground, and push the weight straight up so your arms form a right angle with your chest. Keep everything tight and slowly lower the weight down to a little bit below your chest. Repeat this 9 more times, slowly.
If you get stuck, either lower the weight to your chest with control, have a spotter help you finish or simply pull your arms to the side and drop the weights on the floor. Yes, I know some gyms have that silly rule that you cant drop weights, but that is not important when it comes to your safety. So if you are nervous get someone to stand behind you, or simply drop the weights if you get stuck. You are not using big weights so it won’t make a big attention getting noise anyway.
Keep track of the weight you can lift. Each week you should be able to go up at least 2.5 pounds. When you can lift two 20-pound dumbbells 8 - 10 times you are ready for the real bar! Believe it or not the 45-pound bar is easier to lift than 40 pounds worth of dumbbells, so this method makes for a very smooth and safe transition.
Keep at it and you will make rapid progress. If anyone has any questions or is not sure if they are doing the lifts correctly, videotape yourself in the gym and email it to me. I will be happy to offer my advice. You can also learn how to squat right here.
To get a workout program filled with a ton of awesome step-by-step instructions just like this, check out the COMPLETE 14-week body-toning program!