Lifters must use right technique in bench press, squat to build strength safely


By Trent Scott

Kansas State Collegian

The bench press is the lift to do if you want bulging pectoral muscles, and for most lifters, it is the cornerstone of their workout. However, a far smaller number of lifters remember the importance of squatting in their weekly routines. Both exercises are essential for total body strength and power. However, it is important to first practice the correct technique of each exercise and to know the importance of including these two moves into your lifting regimen.

Bench press

The bench press is the primary exercise for building strength and power in the muscles of the pectoral girdle. These muscles include pectoralis major and minor, deltoid, triceps brachii and rotator-cuff muscles.

When performing the bench press, start by lying flat on the bench with your feet planted firmly on the ground. Point your toes at a 45-degree angle away from the midline of your body, and never lift your heels off the ground throughout the entirety of the lift.

Never bring your feet off the ground or place them on the bench, especially under heavier weights, as this could cause you to lose your balance and drop the bar, possibly resulting in an injury to yourself or those nearby.

Also, never take your back off the bench at any point during the lift. Doing so could be harmful to your back and spine.

Start the lift by slowly unracking the bar. Ask a friend or weight room attendant for a “lift-off” and spot if the weight is too heavy to easily manage yourself.

Begin slowly lowering the bar to the crest, or nipple-line, of your chest. This is called the eccentric phase of the lift as the muscles involved in the lift lengthen as you lower the bar.

Take at least two seconds to lower the bar completely to your chest.

Never bounce the bar off your chest at the bottom of the lift, because this could damage your sternum, ribs or pectoralis muscles.

Immediately bring the bar back up in a controlled movement after it touches your chest. Take at least one second to complete the concentric, or contracting, phase of the lift.

Once you have finished the lift and returned the bar to its starting position, re-rack the bar with the aid of a spotter.


Squatting is arguably the most important lift of any strength training regimen because it uses the largest muscle groups of your body: the hamstrings, quadriceps femoris, gluteal muscles and stabilizer muscles throughout your core.

Start squatting under a weight that is not too challenging but still will provide some resistance, because perfecting your form is the most important aspect when first starting to squat.

With the bar still sitting on the rack, position yourself so the bar sits just behind the crest of your shoulders. If you cannot find a comfortable spot for the bar to rest, wrap it with a bar wrap provided by Peters Recreation Complex or a towel.

With the aid of a spotter, unrack the bar and take one or two steps back, depending on the rack.

During the eccentric phase of the lift, slowly drop your rear to the floor until your thighs are parallel to the ground, all the while keeping your knees behind your toes and your back straight.

Begin the concentric phase of the lift by slowly standing up, returning to your starting position.

When you are done with the lift, safely return the bar to the rack.

When you begin squatting heavier weights, use a lifting belt to protect your back and abdominal muscles. Lifting belts can be found at the equipment desk at the Rec Complex if you do not own one.

Trent Scott is a junior in nutrition and exercise science and American Council on Exercise certified personal trainer at Peters Recreation Complex. Please send comments to