Last updated on October 30th, 2022 at 11:25 am
So, you want to know, “Should Your Eyes Be Below the Bar on a Bench Press?”
You’ve probably heard various bench pressing cues over the years.
And when it comes to how you should position yourself under the bar, there seems to be a vast array of different “rules”.
In fact, it can get extremely confusing.
So, should the bench press bar be over your eyes?
Or is there a better way to position yourself for the perfect bench press.
Allow me to reveal all.
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Bench Press Bar Over Eyes
The ideal starting position for bench press is to have the bar over your eyes when you unrack it. From here you should take the bar to the starting position, which is directly over your shoulder joint. The barbell should be lowered towards your chest and lightly touch the lower part of your breastbone. You should press the bar back up until it’s over your shoulders again. This is also why the ascent on bench press is known as the “J-path”. Throughout each and every rep your eyes should be fixed on the ceiling directly above you.
Where Should You Look When Bench Pressing?
As I’ve mentioned, you’ll hear various cues for where exactly the bar should be prior to benching.
In fact, over the years I’ve personally heard quite a mixed bag of responses for bar-to-body placement.
You’ll hear people say that the bar should be in line with your forehead, nose, mouth, chin, neck, and even your nipple (good luck with avoiding the rack with that one).
However, in truth, the ideal starting position, and the position that the vast majority of people agree on, is to have bar directly over your eyes when you bench press.
I will admit there are times when this may not be the best option, and I’ll get to those in a moment.
But, for now, whenever you set yourself up for the bench press your eyes should be right below the bar.
Now, something else that is extremely important is to NOT follow the bar with your eyes when you bench press.
This may sound obvious to you, but I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen people following the bar with their eyes.
Basically, this will generally involve lifting your head off the bench.
Now, there may well be some people who deem this acceptable, but not in my book.
Any movement of the head will also impact your spinal alignment, which is not something you want to do while pressing a heavy load above you.
You are lying down and therefore your eyes automatically go towards the ceiling.
Keep them there and never move your eyes away from that point on the ceiling directly above you.
The more experienced you get with bench press, the better you’ll understand whether you’re hitting all the other forms cues without actually having to look.
The Bench Press “J-Path”
Okay, so we’ve established that the bar should be over your eyes when you first position yourself for bench press.
However, the actual starting position of the bar should be directly above your shoulder joint.
Therefore, you’ll need to manoeuvre the bar from the rack, over your eyes, to over your shoulders.
As you lower the bar you typically want it to lightly touch the lower part of your sternum or breastbone.
And when I say “lightly touch” I meant it.
You’ll never know how many sternum injuries occur from bench press, simply because of carelessness.
Then from this position you will press the weight back up directly over your shoulders.
This also explains the “J-path” you may have heard about during the bench press ascent.
Basically, by pressing the bar from your lower sternum to above your shoulders, the bar travels in an imaginary J shape.
However, once again, while all of this is going on, your eyes should be constantly looking at the ceiling directly above you.
Bench Press – The J-Path
Are You Bench Pressing With a Spotter?
Now, setting yourself up so the bar is over your eyes is all well-and-good, but there is one slight issue with this.
When you’re performing your warm up sets there’s absolutely no problem with unracking and re-racking the bar.
However, as soon as you get into the realms of benching a heavy load, this is where this setup may not feel right to you.
Basically, to unrack the bar while it’s above your eyes and then to bring it to the starting position over your shoulders can take a fair amount of effort with heavier weights.
Plus, your shoulder joint is in a fairly precarious position anyway, as you unrack the bar.
So, in effect, you’re exerting effort to simply unrack the bar, which could have an impact on how well you bench press.
In other words, you’ve slightly tired yourself out before you’ve even started benching.
Furthermore, there’s a greater chance of shoulder injury when moving a heavy load from over your eyes to above your shoulders.
This is always why I feel that you should bench press with a spotter.
In this situation your spotter is able to “hand off” the bar to you in the right position.
Additionally, I also feel that you should always bench in the power rack, simply as an additional safety precaution.
The Bench Press Can Kill You
The bench press is just about the only lift in the gym that can actually kill you.
I mean, you’ve got an extremely heavy load directly over you with no real escape route.
So, always remember, safety first.
That being said, if you don’t have a spotter then it’s likely that you’ll need to move yourself into a position that is more mechanically advantageous.
In truth, you’ll need to play around with this (while using lighter weights) until you find your perfect spot.
For most people this seems to be when they have their mouth and chin in line with the bar.
This certainly makes it easier to unrack and re-rack the barbell.
However, there is also a greater chance that you will hit the hooks from this position.
So, as I say, you’ll need to play around a bit until you find the perfect position for you.
That being said, I would always prefer starting with my eyes directly below the bar and have a spotter hand off to me.
So, I hope you understand that when you bench press, the bar should be over your eyes.
However, once you unrack the bar, your starting position should see the bar directly over your shoulders.
You then lower the bar to the lower part of your sternum.
Finally, as you press the bar back up it follows a “J-path” from your sternum to above your shoulders again.
Throughout this entire process your eyes should remain firmly fixed on the ceiling directly above you.
If you’re looking to improve your bench press technique then you’ll also be interested in what I have to say about feeling bench press in your arms.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.