The almighty bench press, one of the titans of resistance training exercises along with the deadlift and squat. But for those that aren’t as familiar with all of the benefits of this movement, we are going to quickly discuss the muscles used in bench press so that you can see for yourself just how valuable an exercise the bench truly is.
We intuitively understand that there’s a lot going on during a bench press rep, but what muscles are all involved? Let’s be specific without being too specific. We’ll go over the major muscle groups only and skip all physiological verbiage. Furthermore, we’ll stick with a flat traditional barbell bench press with standard grip and hand spacing.
- Chest: Your pecs are composed of two thick strands of muscle tissue. They are the Pectoralis Major and Minor which is down lower on the chest. See this picture of the chest muscles so you understand where they are and where they connect to your arms/core.
- Core: You should be engaging your core during every rep without fail. To some degree it’s impossible not to, but you should focus on this mentally to enhance how much your core comes in to help you properly execute the heavier reps. (Doing single arm dumbbell bench press is another means of giving your core a solid blasting.)
- Legs: Believe it or not your legs should be one of the primary sources of power during a proper bench press. With feet firmly planted on the ground, you should flex the quads and PUSH down into the ground. This is especially helpful for those heavy sets that are harder to get back up.
- Shoulders: Whenever you elevate your arms in some way, your shoulders are involved. Your shoulder muscles are firing and engaged during a bench press, but they shouldn’t be carrying too much of the load because they’re either weak or compensating for a muscle imbalance.
- Arms: Obviously there’s more tension in your triceps, but your biceps are also engaged because they help to stabilize your arms and keep you from dropping the barbell backwards prematurely or forward onto your lap (ouch!).
Are you one of those guys who experience some shoulder pain after bench pressing? If so, here’s a bit of solid advice…
Don’t Get Barbell Dependent!
How about the incline press? How about some forward leaning dips for a change? When was the last time you did a standing barbell military press (you naturally lean back a little and engage the pectoralis major)? How about dumbbell presses or close-grip barbell presses?
Listen, working the chest is working the chest. The muscles cannot be separated from one another completely but you can focus more on the inside, upper, outside and lower portions of the muscle. There’s a vast array of ways to target your pecs so don’t be one of those people that religiously do nothing but hitting the flat weight bench, banging out endless reps of bench press during their workout routines.
Get in the habit of mixing things up, especially if you’re not really interested in building massive pecs. If just being lean or losing weight is your goal, then add in tons of variety because it’s worth it and you’ll incorporate tons of your musculature.
- 17 Ways to Improve Your Bench Press. Everything you need to know from technique to breathing to grip is covered in this hefty guide. Featuring tips from world record powerlifters, strength coaches and functional movement specialists, take your bench press to the next level with this arsenal of tips.
- 3 Fundamentals of a Powerful Bench Press. Lifting heavy is one thing, but lifting with power is where it is at if you want to bust through those plateaus. Learn the fundamental of lifting with massive torque and be on your merry way to hammering your 1RM.
- 5 Bench Press Mistakes and How to Fix Them. These bench press mistakes are so common that it’s painful. Checking your ego at the door and remembering to lift with proper technique above all else starts with avoiding these 5 bench press mistakes.