Detailed How-To Test
Do Your Work Early (The Setup)
We're going to start from the feet and work our way up.
You can either be flat footed or just have toes on the ground. Either way, push your toes to generate some tension in your quads. Generating tension through your whole body will help you lift more weight.
Point your rib cage at the ceiling and pull your shoulder blades back really hard. Dig your shoulder blades into the bench. This will arch your spine somewhat. This is the only time it is ok to extend your spine. Because you are braced against the bench, the bench will soak up a lot of the tension that would otherwise fall on your lumbar spine.
Grip width should be just outside of shoulder width. Make sure the bar is set very deeply in your hands. This will help prevent your wrists from getting extended, which will in run help you handle more weight safely.
Performing The Bench Press
Un-rack the bar. Break at the elbows and bring the bar toward your rib cage, not chest. The bar path should be an arc like curve.
Make sure the bar touches your rib cage before you initiate the concentric.
At the top of the rep, extend your elbows but stop short of hyperextending as this could lead to an injury.
When the rep is complete, slam the bar back into the rack, then lower into the hooks/cups.
Timing is everything
As you perform the eccentric, you want to move under control, but not slowly. I've seen many times a client or friend miss a heavy rep on the bench press because they moved too slowly during the lowering phase. Moving slowly during the eccentric is usually caused by unsureness. Think about it, when you're lifting a heavy weight, and not sure if you are going to complete it, you move slower.
Also, try to properly time out when you initiate the press. You should begin pressing back toward the ceiling as the bar is touching your sternum.
Lift with confidence always! If you fail the rep, then you failed the rep. No big deal. Just keep it pushing and you'll get it at some point. This leads me to my second tip.
No Shame in Asking For Help
Don't be hesitant to ask for a spot if you don't have a gym partner. Most people are happy to help. There's research showing that a lifter will perform better with a spotter. Your muscles won't be any stronger with or without a spotter of course. So why the improvement in performance? The confidence alluded to in the how to section. Knowing someone is there to get the bar if you fail provides the security to allow you to lift with confidence.
Just make sure you communicate before starting the set.
First, ask them to give you a lift off. I've had many ask me for a spot then say they don't want a lift off. Never quite understood why. In many cases (unless you have very long arms), you will lose your shoulder blade retraction when trying to un-rack the bar. If your arms are mostly extended the only choice you have to un-rack is to protract your shoulder blades. The further you can get your shoulder blades pulled back the better. Retracting the shoulder blades also gives more room in the shoulder joint so it is generally a safer position.
Also, let the spotter know how many reps you're going for so they know what to expect and don't jump in too early. Let them know whether or not you want help completing any reps. For example, "I'm going for 10 reps, but i might fail around 8. If I can't get the all the reps by myself can you help me get the remaining ones?"
Although, I suggest once you hit muscular fatigue, you end your set. Once a muscle hits fatigue, doing additional reps does not induce more muscle growth, but does fatigue you more. Too much risk, not enough reward.