Of all the various lifts I do, the bench press is my favorite. To me, it's the purest expression of the sport: Grab a barbell. Lay down on a bench. Muscle it up. Repeat. Doing a few sets of bench presses gives me a real feeling of power and those endorphins just kick right in.
I'm not the only one who thinks it's a key exercise: Along with the deadlift and the squat, it's one of the three competition lifts in powerlifting. The bench press blasts the pectoral muscles, and, to a lesser extent, develops the triceps and the front of the shoulder. It's like an upside-down push-up, but for some reason, it's so much more pleasurable to do. It's the first exercise I do, as soon as I hit the weight floor.
That's me in the photo up there, lifting my normal bench press weight of 70 pounds--that may not sound like much to guys, but it's a start. Apparently, according to this, I could actually do one rep with 100 pounds, but since I don't work out with a partner, I'm leery of biting off more than I can chew alone.
To top it all off, there's a great bench press anecdote about Arnold Schwarzenegger that his training partner Franco Columbu tells:
"I was doing the bench press, really heavy for six or seven reps. In one set, I got only four reps, then couldn't get the bar off my chest. Instead of helping, Arnold ran out the front door of the gym, turned back and said, 'Franco, let me know when you bring the weight back up.' Then he stood out on the street looking in the window at me. Well, I pushed and struggled and finally managed to get the weight up. When Arnold came back in, I said to him,'You didn't help - you're unreliable.' But he responded, 'Didn't you get the weight back up? You can get the weight up, but you want help? You're so lazy!" When I heard that it made me so mad that my strength came back and I did the next set with even more weight with no problem."
After reading that a few months ago, whenever I feel like quitting a set early, I hear Arnold's voice in my ear saying, "You're so lazy!" And I finish my reps.