Do Bench Presses Work the Chest and Arms?

The bench press is an effective and enjoyable exercise.
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To many, the bench press is more than just an exercise -- it's a way to gauge success in the world of weight training. Comparing bench press statistics is a practice that seems almost as old as the bench press itself. But don't let such comparisons cause you to lose sight of what the bench press can do for you. No matter how much you're putting up, this exercise offers a great workout for your chest and arms. If you're looking to pack on muscle or simply tone those areas, the bench press is definitely a go-to exercise.

Chest Muscles

    As you might be able to tell from post-workout soreness, the bench press is primarily a chest exercise. The pectoralis major is the muscle mainly doing the heavy lifting. It is involved in a number of helpful movements, such as rotation, flexion and extension of your arm from the shoulder joint. So in addition to the bench press, a strong pectoralis major can help you throw a ball farther and perform more push-ups.


    Your chest muscles do need some help for the bench press and much of that help comes from your triceps. The triceps are located on the back of each upper arm, and you use these muscles whenever you straighten your arms at the elbow joint. Your triceps are also among the most easily visible muscles on your body, so in addition to boosting strength, the bench press can help you develop better looking arms.


    The other highly visible muscles involved in the bench press are your biceps. The biceps are perhaps most commonly known as the muscles most often shown off when someone is asked to make a muscle. And while the biceps may be important aesthetically, they also drive the motion of arm flexion to bend your elbow. Thus, motions of rowing and picking things up wouldn't be possible without your biceps. During the bench press, your biceps help keep your arms stable as you lift and lower the weight. If they did not, your arms might sway and you'd waste energy moving the barbell from side to side rather than just up and down.


    As the bench press works both your chest and arms, the exercise also draws on the strength of the muscles that link those two areas -- your shoulder muscles. Also known as the deltoids, your shoulder muscles coordinate movements of your shoulder and arm muscles when the two have to work together, such as when you shoot a basketball. Your shoulder muscles assist the arms to raise, lower and rotate, so you probably use them more often than you realize.

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