For any of you already familiar with weight training, you will appreciate that the bench press is one of the most fundamental of exercises that there is and will almost certainly form a core part of any program that either a personal trainer sets or you put in place for yourself.
That’s because it is highly effective at targeting and developing your entire upper body strength. You might be surprised to hear that the average weight training enthusiast would struggle to bench press anywhere near their own body weight so if you can, give yourself a big old pat on the back!
You are clearly already an expert at isolating the essential muscles groups that you need to be engaging to ensure proper form and function are maintained will carrying out a bench press. If you are currently a novice to the world of weight training, then you are about to get hooked on the bench press! It’s addictive and in no small part because it is such a functional and fundamental exercise.
So let’s delve in and take a look in more detail and answer that burning question today of what muscles does a bench press work?
The Importance of A Bench Press
You can leave your ego in the changing room! A bench press is not just about showing off your physical prowess although it is true that one of the most frequently asked questions between gym buddies is “what weight do you bench press?”
It’s a legendary exercise that rightly so has a real elevated status among body-builders, but there’s a reason why it’s so popular, and that’s not just about bragging rights. It’s because it truly is an all-encompassing fundamental exercise that will work your entire upper body simultaneously.
What Muscle Groups Are You Targeting with A Bench Press?
Here’s where we might get a bit technical so grab your anatomy guide as we run you through just how beneficial that bench press really is! We’ll break it down into layman’s terms alongside so that you really begin to build up the picture of just how impressive and fundamental being able to bench press is when it comes to improving your physique and your strength.
First up you are working those pectorals (AKA the chest) as well as your anterior deltoids (your front shoulders). It’s not all about the front of your body though. The action of bench pressing also requires the activation of your triceps as you extend your arms upwards and your latissimus dorsi (commonly known as your back) as you squeeze in between your shoulder blades to release the back down to your chest.
If you were only ever to pick out one exercise to fully work your upper body, then the bench press would be one of the most popular and frequently recommended by fitness industry experts.
When it comes to bench pressing, less is more when you are starting out
Don’t be fooled into thinking the objective is to lift as heavy as you possibly can. Of course, you will see some serious gains but don’t’ be tempted to over train, especially not in the early days, in a bid to lift heavier than your mates. Use your common sense and start out modestly and realistically with a weight that you can manage.
The benefit of bench pressing comes from really engaging all those upper body muscles and not in overstraining yourself. With all exercises, even those that are designed to target your shoulder, back, chest, biceps, and triceps there is also one other fundamental set of muscles that you need to engage, and that is your core.
Only by really engaging the core will you be able to perform a bench press correctly and progress with increasing your weight. Contrary to what it might physically look like, while it might be your arms and shoulders that visibly look like they are doing all the hard work, it’s firing up and stabilizing that core that is providing you with all that Herculean strength. It’s almost a happy coincidence that in doing so, you automatically will see gains to your chest, shoulders, and arms.
So remember, there’s much more to a bench press than your chest
In order to get the most out of a bench press and to really utilize all those muscle groups that we’ve talked about so far, you need to work on your body mechanics to ensure a great technique is adopted. Just by following these simple tips, you will very quickly progress to bench pressing a heavier weight in next to no time. Only slight adjustments are needed to bring about progress.
First up, adopt a wide gripped handle on the bar. The less distance the bar has to be propelled upwards, the more your muscles will be able to manage the weight. Visualize how you perform a natural push up on the floor then wide your grip by about 3 inches, and you should have the right holding pattern to perform your bench press.
We already mentioned the importance of your shoulders and with most push and pull type movements this is the one thing that you need to be able to isolate for success. It’s all about retracting and squeezing those shoulder blades. Just that action alone, before, during and after your press will provide a more stable surface in which to achieve the correct form.
Don’t neglect to include your lower body either. Your heels can provide stability and be used to really help drive you upward. Kicking and flapping your legs about will serve no useful function so adopt a comfortable stance, bench at the correct height, to enable you to keep your feet flat and to power through your heels.
You might also see the pro’s arching their back too, and that’s not at all cheating. It’s actually the sign of a solid technique. As long as your shoulder blades, head and butt are on the bench, arching your back will actually really help you make serious gains.
Don’t forget to set your goals
Sure you want to increase the weight you bench press, doesn’t everyone! With proper form and regularly incorporating bench press sets into your workouts, believe us, the strength will come. So commit to writing down on a piece of paper your goals. Stick them somewhere that you will regularly see them and get ready to press harder, heavier and with more reps than ever before. Your entire upper body, front, and back will reward you handsomely!