The bench press is often referred to as the “squat of the upper body“. This multi-joint exercise is joint across gyms for those wanting to get bigger, fuller, more muscular pecs!
But what muscle group does the bench press train? Does it merit being referred to as the “squat of the upper body”?
The bench press works the chest, triceps and shoulders, but it also stresses the biceps, which is primarily influenced by how you perform the movement!
In this article, we will look at how the bench press trains the biceps, whether you should add it to your routine for arms training and other great tips to follow if you want to maximise the effects of this exercise!
So let’s dig deeper!
The bench press is a multi-joint weight-lifting exercise that uses dumbbells, barbells or resistance bands.
The exercise is performed on a flat, incline or decline bench, and its primary target is the chest muscles (pectorals). This exercise also hits secondary muscles at varying degrees, including the chest, triceps, shoulders, lats and biceps.
You will likely have seen this exercise performed in your gym, often used as a measure of strength among people. But don’t be misguided. This exercise can add significant muscle mass and strength across your upper body if performed correctly!
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The bench press primarily works the chest muscles, also called the pectoral muscles. It also works the triceps, which are located on the back of the upper arm and the shoulders.
But it doesn’t stop there! Depending on how you perform the movement, the bench press will also hit the front deltoids, rhomboids, lats and biceps! So you can see why this is an excellent choice to build the upper body up for muscle mass and strength gains.
So let’s look into how the bench press can build your biceps!
The biceps are located on the front of the upper arm and are responsible for flexing the elbow joint. This means they are highly resilient and stimulated numerous times per day.
When you perform the bench press, your biceps are used as a secondary muscle group to assist in the movement.
How? Well, as you lower the weight towards your chest (also known as the eccentric phase of the exercise), your biceps control and support the bar to ensure it remains stable.
As you press the weight back up (concentric phase), your biceps help to ensure the elbows remain close to your body until the rep completes.
The scale of bicep muscle activation depends on a few things, including.
– how much weight you are pressing
– how good is your form
– what the hand spacing is on the bar: The closer the hand spacing, the more potential for bicep muscle activation
You should use a close grip and perform the decline bench press to work the biceps more during your bench press. Both of these will force increased bicep muscle activation. But remember always to use proper form and weight suitable for your current strength capability.
We all want to get results. But if truth be told, bench pressing should not be a primary exercise if you want to grow your biceps!
A study in 1997 measured muscle activation when performing the standard flat bench press. It found that bicep muscle activation ranged from 20 to 23% depending on hand spacing, weight and level of incline.
This tells us that the chest and shoulder muscles play a significant role during the movement and the secondary muscles are there for support.
So certainly perform the bench press, and perhaps even add it to a Chest and Arms split, but do not rely on the movement packing on inches to your biceps any time soon.
The biceps are activated while lowering the bar in the bench press. The long head and short head of the bicep (as well as the tendons) will get worked. If you have pre-existing injuries or limitations in any of these three, then Yes, your biceps will be a limiting factor in bench pressing.
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Yes, you can train the biceps and chest together. You can train biceps and arms together in a single workout.
This would take advantage of the triceps and biceps being used in the bench pressing and then being hit directly. Of course, depending on your preference, you can train each muscle in any order.
Training all three would hit them all in one session and create a positive stress response in the muscles, calling on them to grow bigger and stronger during recovery.
It would be best if you didn’t use the bench press as a primary exercise for the biceps.
Yes, the biceps will get worked during the bench press, but they will get minimally stressed and worked.
The optimal number of sets and reps for the bench press if you wanted to train the biceps would be
Decline Bench Press: 4 Sets of 10 Reps and increase the weight once you hit 10 reps.
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The bench press exercise and the close grip bench press exercise have varying levels of bicep muscle activation. If you tend to lower the bar slowly and your elbows are tucked in, you will likely feel your bicep muscles as the reps progress. This is mainly due to blood volume building up in the biceps and triceps.
A shoulder-width grip bench press will work and build the triceps and biceps. But they will never replace direct arm work – such as bicep and preacher curls.
The upper arms get worked during the bench press, so the more volume you perform for the chest and biceps, the greater the stress and muscle fibre breakdown. If you find constant pain after bench pressing, it could be due to the form of the movement or the weight.
Incline bench press works the upper chest, which would be the exercise’s primary muscles. The biceps get worked during the lowering part of the exercise, but its impact is minimal.
Bench pressing will stress the bicep muscles but nowhere near what bicep curls would. The bicep growth from bench pressing will be slow and steady throughout 6 to 12 months but do not expect inches of muscle mass in a few months.
– The bench press can train the biceps muscles but only as secondary muscles, so don’t expect them to be worked too much, and certainly don’t expect them to grow quickly from the just bench press.
– The bench press does train the bicep muscle but only minimally
– Do not expect the biceps to grow quickly from performing bench presses
– If you want to engage the biceps more during the movement, use a close grip and perform the decline barbell bench press.
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