The bench press exercise is beloved by many people all over. It’s regarded by many as the quintessential chest exercise and is fundamental in developing upper body strength.
Not only does it work muscles readily visible (because of course you want people to see how fit you are), but it’s a compound movement that works all the pushing muscles in the upper body which means you’re getting to work more muscles in less time.
The most obvious muscles gaining from bench press exercises would be your pectoralis major muscles – or pecs, as they are commonly referred to. These are 2 large muscles that make up the bulk of your chest muscles, fanning from your shoulder to your breastbone.
These muscles are predominantly used to control our arm movements, and even play a part in deep breathing when we pull our ribcage to create room for our lungs to expand.
They are more prevalent in men, whereas in women these muscles typically hide beneath breasts.
The Deltoid muscle is a large triangular muscle that sits on your upper arms, and is the muscle that gives your shoulders that rounded shape. This muscle consists of 3 fibers, namely your anterior, middle, and posterior.
The anterior deltoid is the front portion of this muscle, and helps bring your arms in as you lift weight doing a bench press exercise.
Also referred to as just triceps, this is the large muscle on the back of your upper arm and runs from the shoulder to the elbow. Along with the bicep muscles, it is used to extend and retract the forearm.
Your pecs, the anterior deltoid, and your triceps are the muscles that – so to speak – do the heavy lifting during the bench press exercise. But there are also a few other muscles that are worked albeit to a lesser extent.
While your triceps will do most of the work, your biceps will contract almost as hard as your triceps when doing bench press exercises.
Depending on the weight you’re lifting, you’ll be using almost your entire body to stabilize the weight – it will work your back, your abs, and even your legs (which will be pushing against the ground).
Best Chest Exercise
A few chest exercises were tested to see which one was the best for your, er, chest, and the bench press came out as the winner. It went up against bent-forward cable crossovers, incline dumbbell flies, seated chest press machine, the pec deck, dips, standard pushups, suspended pushups, and stability-ball pushups – note though that the bent-forward cable crossover and the pec deck come close behind, so you may want to try those other exercises too to add variation to your chest exercise routine.
As with any other exercise especially ones where you’re dealing with a lot of weight, make sure you practice proper form. This not only helps you activate the necessary muscles optimally, but also more importantly helps to keep you injury-free – along with wearing proper gym gear and accessories, of course.
If you’re unsure of how much weight you should bench press, check out our blog entry on How Much Should You Bench Press!