The bench press exercise is a good way to tone your upper body, including your arms, shoulders and chest. You don't have to hit the bench for hours every week, either. A couple of sessions each week, whether at home or at the gym, is all you need to sport your favorite tank top anytime you wish.
Choosing a Pound Load
You can't just lie down on a bench press machine and start lifting a huge amount of weight. Not only will you get frustrated, but you might hurt yourself. The best way to build upper body strength is to start small and move up to heavier weights as you get stronger and increase your endurance. Start with a pound load that allows you to do 12 repetitions with good form. If it's too hard, reduce the weight on the barbell and if it's too easy, move up a size. In general, a 150-pound woman who is new to bench presses should start with about 75 pounds, according to ExRx.net.
Many women worry that too much weight training will make them look like a power lifter, but not enough won't give them the body they want. It's true that you have to create a consistent routine, but hours at a time aren't necessary either. MayoClinic.com recommends two or three strength training sessions each week. Include bench presses at each session and you'll start seeing results in just a few weeks. Allow a day of rest between each to give your muscles time to repair and recover.
Sets and Repetitions
You don't have to bang out set after set of bench presses to make them effective. Start with one set of 12 repetitions during each of your weight training sessions. When that feels too easy, add another set. You'll probably need to do this every few weeks to make sure your progress stays on track. If you prefer, you can increase the pound load on the barbell and continue to do only one set of repetitions. More repetitions with a lighter weight builds endurance, while fewer repetitions with a heavier weight builds mass and strength. You can also alternate between methods for the most benefits to your upper body.
Bench presses are ideal for getting the arms, shoulders and chest you want, but focusing only on your upper body isn't the best idea. You might end up with muscle imbalances, which increase the risk of injury. You'll also end up looking disproportionate, which is probably not the look you're going for. During each strength training session, combine bench presses with other upper body moves and plenty of lower body exercises. This makes for a well-rounded workout that will give you a silhouette you'll be proud to show off.
Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.