Bench press benefits | 60+ Statistics & Facts [Research Review]

Posted on 27 September, 2021 by Nicholas Rizzo

There are many benefits of exercise for building strength, but no other strength training exercise improves upper body strength as effectively as the bench press.

To demonstrate the benefits of bench presses, we spent 36 hours reading, researching, and analyzing over 20 scientific articles and studies. In summary, the top benefits of bench pressing:

  • Increases chest and arm strength
  • Builds significant muscles 
  • Improves overall pressing power 
  • Low-frequency bench pressing is still highly effective
  • Improves overall health, fitness, and functional strength
  • Is great for men and women
  • Easily modified to target specific muscle groups
  • Many variations to suit any fitness level

Bench pressing builds strength, muscle, and burns fat

Bench press training is one of the strength training exercises you can do if you want to increase muscle thickness in your upper body. 

A 2-week study of untrained men who did 30% 1-RM blood flow-restricted bench presses 6 times a week, revealed that:

  • It increased the triceps brachii muscle thickness (MTH) by 8%
  • It increased pectoralis major MTH by 16%
  • It improved muscular strength by 6%

An 8-week study of resistance-trained individuals who worked out 4 times a week revealed that compared to high-volume (HV) workout, high-intensity (HI) exercise increased:

  • Body mass by 1.3%, and 500 grams more than HV
  • Lean body mass by 2%, and 1.3 kg more than HV
  • Leam arm mass by 6.2%, and 600 grams more than HV
  • Pectoralis major by 9.6%, and 9.4 cm thicker than HV
  • Triceps brachii by 11.9% but was 0.4 cm smaller than those who did HV
  • Body fat decreased by 3%
  • High intensity lost 1.7kg more body fat than high volume 

Bench press positions and muscle activation

The bench press can be done on a flat bench or it can be inclined or declined. Changing the angle of the bench can affect which muscles are activated. 

Bench press athletes participated in a study looking at muscle activation during the workout and it showed that:

  • Triceps muscle activation was at 58.5 to 62.6%, regardless of the bench press position
  • Biceps brachii activation was at 48.3 to 68.7% when doing inclined bench press
  • Using a narrow grip can decrease biceps brachii activation by 25.9 to 30.5%
  • A wide grip increased the 6-RM load by 5.8 to 11.1% 

Based on a study done on resistance-trained men, it was discovered that during the:

  • Concentric or upward phase, a 30-degree angle bench resulted in pectoralis muscle activation 14.5% higher compared to a 15-degree angle incline
  • Halfway point of a bench press, the 45-degree incline resulted in the highest pectoralis major activation of 124.8 MVIC, or 27% higher compared to a flat bench
  • Eccentric or downward phase, a flat bench produced the highest MVIC at 76.4
  • Concentric contraction of the pectoralis minor is 31.9% higher during the 15-degree angle bench compared to the 45-degree incline 

Bench pressing in different positions is good for you because it can help you:

  • Target the muscle groups you want
  • Increase muscle thickness in the arms, shoulder, and chest
  • Improve upper body strength 

Bench press frequency effects

Bench press requires a person to lift a heavy load, but the number of sets you do and the frequency of doing it also affects muscle mass and strength development. 

During a 12-week testing period, it was discovered that:

  • Bench press 3 days a week resulted in: 
    • 62% improvement of upper body 1-RMs
    • 27% increase in upper body strength
  • Bench press 1 day a week caused:
    • 53% increase in upper body 1-RMs
    • 10% improvement in upper body strength 

To maximize the benefits of bench presses, it is recommended to:

  • Have a day interval between sessions
  • Do them 3 to 4 times a week for better muscle improvement
  • Get adequate rest and proper nutrition to achieve muscle gain 

Health benefits of bench press

Aside from improving upper body strength, doing bench presses a few times a week also helps keep the body functioning smoothly.  

Based on several studies of people doing strength training, which includes bench presses, 3 times a week for 6 months to 10 years can:

  • Decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes by 34 to 65%
  • Increase bone density by 26.8 to 30.4%
  • Improve the quality of life by 36% 

In a quick test on the effects of bench presses on the heart, it was discovered that doing the workout out increases:

  • Heart rate by 66.8 to 84.6%
  • Systolic blood pressure by 16.9 to 24%
  • Diastolic blood pressure by 3.4 to 8.5% 

Bench press exercise is good for improving overall health as it:

  • Strengthens the heart muscles
  • Increases levels of good cholesterol
  • Reduces levels of bad cholesterol
  • Lowers the risk of developing heart diseases and diabetes
  • Improves quality of life
  • Regulates blood sugar by burning glucose without the body needing to release insulin

Benefits of bench press for females

Bench presses are one of the most favored chest exercises in men, but women can also benefit from it.

Bench pressing, as part of a strength training regimen, has helped women:

  • Reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 22 to 35%
  • Lowered the risk of getting cardiovascular diseases by 17%

Bench press is great for women because:

  • It strengthens their chest, shoulder, and arms
  • It tones breast muscle but does not necessarily make them bigger
  • It strengthens their core muscles 

FAQs

What is a bench press?

A bench press is a type of exercise that involves pressing weights up off the floor using your chest muscles. This exercise can be done in many different ways, but most people use a barbell for this exercise.

What muscles does bench press work?

The muscles used during bench presses include:

  • Pectoralis major (chest)
  • Anterior deltoids (shoulder)
  • Triceps brachii (arm)
  • Coracobrachialis (arm)
  • Abdominals (trunk)
  • Biceps brachii (front of upper arm)
  • Infraspinatus, supraspinatus, subscapularis, teres minor (rotator cuff) 

How to bench press properly?

1. Lie Down on a Bench with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent.

2. Keep your back straight and your head up.

3. Hold the barbell in front of your chest.

4. Squeeze your shoulder blades together.

5. Lower the barbell down until it touches your upper chest.

6. Pause, then push the barbell back up.

7. Repeat this movement until you have hit your target reptition goal, rest, and repeat for your desired number of sets.

What are the different types of bench press?

Aside from a traditional bench press that uses a flat bench, other variations include:

  • Incline bench press
  • Decline bench press 
  • Flat bench press
  • Barbell bench press
  • Dumbbell bench press
  • Wide grip bench press
  • Narrow grip bench press
  • Glute bridge dumbbell bench press
  • Alternating dumbbell bench press
  • Floor press
  • Resistance band bench press
  • Chain bench press
  • Board bench presses

Is doing bench press similar to push-ups?

Muscles activated in bench press and push-ups are almost the same. However, the difference is that in bench press, you push a barbell upwards and away from you. In push-ups, you push your entire body off the ground.

Push-ups use more joint mobility compared to bench press, because you move more of your body when you do push-ups. In addition, the core muscles are engaged more during push-ups than doing bench presses.

Based on studies, if the conditions are similar (intensity, speed, volume, technique, and rest) for both bench press and push-ups, it would result in similar strength and muscle gains. 

Why does my shoulder hurt when I bench press?

One of the most common injuries in bench pressing happens on the rotator cuff or the muscles and joints of the shoulders. To prevent shoulder pain, make sure your posture is correct. 

If your shoulders are not flat on the bench or stretched back, regardless of the incline, it will put a lot of pressure on your rotator cuffs. By pulling your shoulders back, pressure on the rotator cuff is reduced.

Consider narrowing your grip as well, as studies have shown that the force on the shoulders are 1.5x greater when you bench with a wider grip in comparison to a narrow grip.

Why does my chest feel tight after bench pressing?

The most common cause of chest pain after bench pressing is Localized fatigue. It usually happens in the heads of the chest, shoulder, and arm muscles. To prevent this, you need to do some light stretching and mind your hydration. 

However, if you feel a sharp pain from deep inside, seek immediate medical help as there could be something wrong with your heart or lungs. 

Should basketball players do bench presses?

Basketball players have longer arms, which means they need a wider grip to perform a proper bench press. This position puts more strain on the muscles and the joints. 

Longer arms mean you need to lift the barbell higher to get the full effect of the bench press, which means a person is carrying the load for a longer period. 

These scenarios increase the risk of injuries for basketball players. 

What other exercises are effective at building strength?

Each strength exercise is effective at building strength in their own way. While some may target very specific muscle groups, others are a full-body workout that engages nearly every muscle group. These exercises are incredibly effective at building strength: 

Conclusion

Bench pressing, as part of a strength training regimen, offers various benefits for the body. Aside from building muscles in the upper body, it also strengthens a person. 

Bench press exercise also positively affects a person’s overall health. It helps strengthen the muscles of the heart, lower heart rate, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels.

Though bench pressing offers a ton of benefits, it should be done with care as reckless lifting can cause injuries to your rotator cuff.

About RunRepeat

RunRepeat is a one-stop shop for people looking for experts and use reviews, as well as finding a pair with the lowest offer. 

Though you don’t use your lower limbs much when you bench press, it’s likely you are doing it as part of a workout routine. So what shoes should you wear? Any training shoes can be used for bench press, but some people who are short prefer wearing weightlifting shoes because the elevated heels on them keep their feet planted on the floor while doing their sets. Meanwhile, others prefer the use of CrossFit shoes as they are multipurpose - they can be used while doing other workouts, and help the user feel rooted when doing bench presses.

Use of content

  • If you liked reading this piece on bench press benefits and want to know more, you can reach out to Nick Rizzo at nick@runrepeat.com. Nick is also available to do interviews.
  • Feel free to use the data in this article in any online publication. We only request that you link back to this original source.

References

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/45147505_Effects_of_low-intensity_bench_press_training_with_restricted_arm_muscle_blood_flow_on_chest_muscle_hypertrophy_A_pilot_study

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4562558/

https://www.hindawi.com/journals/mse/2016/3649478/ 

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317551634_The_Effects_of_Bench_Press_Variations_in_Competitive_Athletes_on_Muscle_Activity_and_Performance 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5504579/

https://barbend.com/bench-press-frequency/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26543539/

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/dmrr.3143

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4214007/ 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1888754617300278

https://www.isitbadforyou.com/questions/is-bench-pressing-bad-for-you

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/weight-training-can-help-people-with-type-2-diabetes#Other-factors

https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/average-bench-press#average-for-women

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5161704/ 

https://www.girlsgonestrong.com/blog/articles/all-you-need-to-know-about-the-barbell-bench-press/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25799093/

https://blog.nasm.org/biomechanics-of-the-bench-press

https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/bench-press-muscles-worked#variations

https://www.madbarz.com/blog/154-push-ups-vs-bench-press---which-is-better-or 

https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2015/01000/Bench_Press_and_Push_up_at_Comparable_Levels_of.31.aspx

https://anytimephysio.com.au/shoulder-pain-bench-press/

https://www.stack.com/a/chest-pain/

usab.com/youth/news/2011/10/is-the-bench-press-good-for-basketball-players.aspx

Author
Nicholas Rizzo
Nicholas Rizzo

Nick combines 10+ years of experience in the health and fitness industry and a background in the sciences in his role as the Fitness Research Director. During his competitive powerlifting years his PRs have him sitting in the top 2% of bench presses (395 lbs), top 3% of squats (485 lbs) and top 6% of deadlifts (515 lbs) for his weight and age. His work has been featured on Bodybuilding.com, LiveStrong, Healthline, WebMD, WashingtonPost, and many more. Along the way, collaborating with industry leaders like Michael Yessis, Mark Rippetoe, Carlo Buzzichelli, Dave Tate, Ray Williams, and Joel Seedman.