To continue our series of half rack beginner’s guides, we’re following up with one of, if not the most leveraged exercises for your upper body strength—the barbell bench press. In this blog, we’ll guide you performing this foundational exercise that strengthens your chest, triceps, shoulders, and more all in one.  

The bench press is a compound movement that has stood the test of time in the world of strength training. Besides strengthening the most significant muscles in your upper body, the bench press is also well known for serving as a benchmark for measuring progress along fitness journeys. But whether you're just starting out or a seasoned lifter, the bench press is a suitable and effective exercise for anyone, as you can easily  adjust weight to match your skill level.  


Setting Up for a Bench Press on the Half Rack 

As with any exercise using the half rack, proper setup is crucial. To get started, adjust the J-Cups to a height falls slightly above your chest and ensure the safety bars are appropriately set to catch the barbell in case you can’t complete a rep. To ensure the safety bars and j cups are positioned at an appropriate height, perform an incomplete rep with no weight before proceeding.  

Once the setup is complete, load the barbell with the right weight for your skill level. Then, secure the plates with collars and double-check that the weight is evenly distributed on each side of the barbell. If possible, try and find a workout partner to spot you for extra safety.  

The Bench Press: Step-by-Step Guide 

Step 1: Get in Position 

First, lie on the bench with your eyes directly under the bar. Then, ensure a proper grip by wrapping your fingers over and thumb fully under the bar with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, keeping your wrists straight. Next, plant your feet firmly on the ground to create a stable base to perform the movement.  

Step 2: Unrack with Control 

Unrack the barbell in a controlled manner and ensure it’s directly above your chest. While doing so, keep your elbows slightly bent, engage your lats, and stabilize your shoulder blades. 

Step 3: Lower with Precision 

Once you’ve assumed the right position and have a stable base, lower the barbell slowly until the barbell taps your sternum or breastbone. Throughout the movement, maintain tension in your chest and triceps. Pro tip: try and keep your elbows at around a 90-degree angle

Step 4: Press to Victory 

Press the barbell back to the starting position, fully extending your arms without locking your elbows. As you press, aim to perform a smooth and controlled movement throughout the entire range of motion. 

Step 5: Repeat and Succeed 

Repeat the bench press for your desired number of reps. Once your set is complete, rack the barbell back on the J-Cups.  

Enhance Your Workout: Additional Exercises for Upper Body Strength 

Complementing the bench press with a few other effective compound exercises can take your upper body routine to the next level. Here’s a few we recommend you try on your next upper body day!  

  • Bent-Over Rows: Bent-over rows complement the bench press by working the rhomboids, lats, and traps. Adding this essential back exercise can help you create a balanced upper body routine, add muscle to your back, and improve your posture and stability.  
  • Tricep Dips: While the bench press primarily engages the chest while activating the triceps, dips do the opposite; This essential bodyweight exercise switches the focus to your triceps while activating your chest and shoulders to balance out your workout.  

Ready to Hit the Gym? 

Now that you’re equipped to master the bench press on the half rack, it's time to hit the gym!  

If you're eager for more guidance with the bench press or want to explore additional exercises, our expert personal trainers are here to help. Book a session at our Upper East Side or Battery Park City campus for personalized support tailored to your fitness goals. 

Book A Session

Stay tuned for upcoming half-rack guides to enhance your workout routine in the weeks to come!