The Bench Press: A Powerful Exercise for Female Rugby Players
The Bench Press: A Powerful Exercise for Female Rugby Players

The Bench Press: A Powerful Exercise for Female Rugby Players


Rugby is a physically demanding sport that requires strength, power, and endurance from its athletes. Female rugby players, need to focus on developing their physical prowess to excel on the field. One fundamental exercise that can significantly benefit their performance is the bench press. In this article, we’ll delve into the specifics of the bench press, its benefits for rugby players, how to perform it correctly, variations, integration into routines, safety tips, common mistakes to avoid, complementary exercises, and alternatives.


The bench press is a compound exercise that primarily targets the muscles of the chest, shoulders, and triceps. It’s a staple in strength training programs for athletes across various sports, including rugby. This exercise involves pushing a loaded barbell or dumbbells away from the chest while lying on a bench, simulating movements often encountered on the rugby field, such as pushing opponents and driving through tackles.

What Muscles Do They Target?

Primary Muscles:

  • Pectoralis Major: The largest muscle in the chest, responsible for horizontal adduction of the arms.
  • Anterior Deltoids: Located on the front of the shoulders, aiding in shoulder flexion and horizontal shoulder adduction.
  • Triceps Brachii: Situated on the back of the upper arm, assisting in elbow extension.

Secondary Muscles:

  • Serratus Anterior: Located on the sides of the chest, helping with scapular protraction.
  • Coracobrachialis: Assists in shoulder flexion.
  • Biceps Brachii: Provides stability during the movement.
  • Stabilizer Muscles: Various muscles in the core, back, and shoulders engage to maintain proper form and stability throughout the exercise.

What Are the Outcomes?

Performing the bench press regularly can lead to several positive outcomes for female rugby players, including:

  • Increased Upper Body Strength: The bench press is an effective way to build strength in the chest, shoulders, and arms, which can improve tackling, pushing opponents, and winning ball contests.
  • Enhanced Power Output: Developing strength in the chest and shoulders translates to increased power generation, allowing players to execute explosive movements such as sprinting, jumping, and driving through tackles more effectively.
  • Improved Muscle Endurance: Rugby matches can be physically demanding, requiring players to sustain their efforts throughout the game. Incorporating the bench press into training can improve muscular endurance, allowing athletes to maintain performance levels for longer durations.

How Do They Benefit Rugby Players?

The benefits of the bench press extend beyond the gym and directly impact performance on the rugby field:

  • Better Tackling Technique: A stronger upper body enables players to engage in more powerful tackles, effectively stopping opponents in their tracks and gaining possession of the ball.
  • Increased Ball Carrying Ability: Building strength in the chest and shoulders enhances a player’s ability to fend off defenders and drive through contact while carrying the ball, making them more challenging to tackle.
  • Improved Scrum Performance: The bench press targets muscles essential for generating force in scrums, enabling players to provide greater stability and power during scrummaging situations.

What equipment do I need?

To perform a bench press, you will need the following equipment:

  1. Barbell: A long, straight bar typically weighing between 45 to 55 pounds (20 to 25 kilograms). It’s essential to use a barbell that is appropriate for your strength level.
  2. Weight Plates: These are added to the ends of the barbell to increase resistance. The weight plates come in various sizes and can be adjusted based on your strength and fitness goals.
  3. Bench: A sturdy bench with a flat surface and padded cushioning to lie on while performing the exercise. The bench should be stable and capable of supporting your body weight and the weight of the barbell.
  4. Spotter: While not technically equipment, having a spotter is highly recommended, especially when lifting heavy weights. A spotter can assist with unracking the barbell, provide assistance if you struggle during the lift, and ensure your safety throughout the exercise.

Optional Equipment:

  1. Power Rack or Squat Rack: Some gyms have power racks or squat racks equipped with adjustable safety bars that can catch the barbell if you fail to lift it. This adds an extra layer of safety when performing the bench press alone.
  2. Weightlifting Gloves or Grips: These can help improve grip strength and prevent blisters or calluses on your hands, especially during high-repetition sets.
  3. Weightlifting Belt: While not essential for the bench press, some athletes choose to wear a weightlifting belt to provide additional support to the lower back and core muscles during heavy lifts.
  4. Resistance Bands or Chains: Advanced lifters may incorporate resistance bands or chains to add accommodating resistance to the bench press, challenging different parts of the lift and improving strength throughout the range of motion.

It’s important to ensure that all equipment is in good condition and properly set up before starting your bench press workout to minimize the risk of injury. Additionally, always follow proper form and technique guidelines, and start with lighter weights before progressing to heavier loads.

Are there any alternative exercises that I can do if I don’t have access to the equipment?

Yes, there are several alternative exercises you can do if you don’t have access to the equipment typically used for bench pressing. Here are some options:

  1. Push-Ups: Push-ups are a highly effective bodyweight exercise that targets similar muscle groups as the bench press, including the chest, shoulders, and triceps. They can be performed anywhere with no equipment required. Variations such as wide grip, close grip, decline, and incline push-ups can provide additional challenges and target different areas of the chest and shoulders.
  2. Dips: Dips primarily target the chest, shoulders, and triceps and can be performed using parallel bars, dip stations, or even the edge of a sturdy chair or countertop. This exercise mimics the pressing motion of the bench press while also engaging the stabilizer muscles in the arms and shoulders.
  3. Floor Press: The floor press is a variation of the bench press that can be performed using dumbbells or a barbell while lying on the floor instead of a bench. This exercise limits the range of motion, making it a suitable alternative for those who may not have access to a bench or prefer a variation that reduces strain on the shoulders.
  4. Resistance Band Chest Press: Resistance bands are portable and versatile tools that can be used to simulate the resistance provided by a barbell or dumbbells. Secure the resistance band around a sturdy anchor point, such as a door frame or pole, and perform chest presses by pushing the bands away from your body while maintaining tension in the bands throughout the movement.
  5. Plyometric Push-Ups: Plyometric push-ups, also known as explosive push-ups, involve pushing off the ground with enough force to lift your hands off the ground. This dynamic movement helps improve upper body power and explosiveness, making it a valuable alternative for athletes looking to enhance their performance in sports like rugby.
  6. Medicine Ball Chest Pass: This exercise involves explosively pushing a medicine ball away from your chest, mimicking the pushing motion of the bench press. It targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps while also engaging the core muscles for stability.
  7. Bodyweight Chest Flyes: Chest flyes can be performed using only your bodyweight by lying on the floor or a mat with your arms extended out to the sides. Bring your hands together in front of your chest, focusing on squeezing the chest muscles throughout the movement.

These alternative exercises can be incorporated into your training routine to target the same muscle groups as the bench press, even without access to traditional gym equipment. Experiment with different variations and combinations to find the exercises that work best for your goals and fitness level.

How to Perform the Exercise Correctly

Performing the bench press with proper form is crucial to maximize its effectiveness and reduce the risk of injury. Here’s how to do it correctly:


  1. Lie flat on a bench with your feet planted firmly on the ground.
  2. Position your eyes directly under the barbell.
  3. Grip the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with your wrists aligned directly above your elbows.


  1. Unrack the barbell and lower it towards your chest in a controlled manner, keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body.
  2. Lower the bar until it touches your chest lightly or reaches just below nipple level.
  3. Press the bar back up explosively to the starting position, fully extending your arms without locking out your elbows.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Variations of the Exercise

To add variety to your training routine and target different muscle groups, consider incorporating these variations of the bench press:

1. Incline Bench Press:

  • Targets the upper portion of the chest and shoulders.
  • Perform on an incline bench with the backrest angled at approximately 30-45 degrees.

2. Decline Bench Press:

  • Emphasizes the lower portion of the chest.
  • Perform on a decline bench with the backrest angled downwards.

3. Dumbbell Bench Press:

  • Increases stability and unilateral strength.
  • Perform with dumbbells instead of a barbell, allowing for a greater range of motion.

Integrating the Exercise into Your Routine

To reap the full benefits of the bench press, incorporate it into your training routine with the following recommendations:

  • Frequency: Aim to include the bench press in your upper body workouts at least once or twice a week.
  • Sets and Repetitions: Start with 3-4 sets of 8-12 repetitions, adjusting the weight to challenge your muscles while maintaining proper form.
  • Progressive Overload: Gradually increase the weight lifted over time to continually challenge your muscles and stimulate growth.

Safety Tips and Common Mistakes

To prevent injury and maximize the effectiveness of the bench press, keep the following safety tips in mind and avoid common mistakes:

  • Use a Spotter: Always have a spotter present, especially when lifting heavy weights, to assist with unracking and spotting during the exercise.
  • Maintain Proper Form: Avoid arching your back excessively or lifting your hips off the bench, as this can strain the lower back and diminish the effectiveness of the exercise.
  • Start with Light Weights: Begin with lighter weights to master proper technique before progressing to heavier loads.
  • Avoid Excessive Ego Lifting: Focus on lifting with control and maintaining proper form rather than attempting to lift the heaviest weight possible.

Complementary Exercises

To enhance the benefits of the bench press and develop a well-rounded strength training program, consider incorporating the following complementary exercises:

  • Push-Ups: Targets similar muscle groups as the bench press while also engaging stabilizer muscles.
  • Dumbbell Flyes: Isolates the chest muscles and improves range of motion.
  • Triceps Dips: Strengthens the triceps and assists with pushing movements.
  • Shoulder Press: Builds strength and stability in the shoulders.

Alternative Exercises

If you’re unable to perform the bench press due to equipment limitations or personal preferences, consider these alternative exercises:

  • Chest Press Machine: Provides a similar movement pattern to the bench press but with added stability.
  • Resistance Band Chest Press: Mimics the motion of the bench press using resistance bands for resistance.
  • Push-Up Variations: Incorporate different push-up variations, such as wide grip, close grip, or decline push-ups, to target the chest and shoulders effectively.

In conclusion, the bench press is a valuable exercise for female rugby players aged 14-21, offering a multitude of benefits for strength, power, and endurance. By incorporating the bench press into their training routines with proper form, variations, and complementary exercises, athletes can enhance their performance on the rugby field while minimizing the risk of injury.