What Muscles Does a Bench Press Work?

First published on November 11th, 2021. Updated on November 11, 2023.
3 minutes average read.

If you’re a bit of a gym buff, or even if you’re just starting out on your fitness journey, you’ve likely come across the bench press. This classic exercise is a staple in many weightlifting routines, and for good reason. The bench press is not just about developing those chest muscles for a more defined look. It’s actually a comprehensive exercise that targets multiple muscle groups. So, what muscles does a bench press work, you ask? Let’s break it down!

1. Pectoralis Major

First up, and probably the most obvious, are your pecs, or more formally known as the pectoralis major muscles. These are the large muscles in your chest, and they’re the primary muscles targeted by the bench press. When you lower the barbell to your chest and push it back up, you’re mainly engaging and working out these muscles.

2. Triceps Brachii

Your triceps, located on the back of your upper arm, are also heavily involved in the bench press. They’re responsible for extending your elbow, or in simpler terms, straightening your arm. So, when you’re pushing the weight back up during a bench press, you’re giving your triceps a good workout.

3. Deltoids

Your deltoids, or delts, are the muscles that give your shoulder its rounded contour. The bench press primarily targets the anterior deltoid – the front part of these three-part muscles. While they’re not the main muscle group being worked, they still play a significant role in the lifting phase of the bench press.

4. Latissimus Dorsi

Now, this might be a surprise to some folks, but the bench press also engages your latissimus dorsi. These are large muscles in your back, often known as your “lats.” While they’re not the primary muscles at work, they do provide stability during the movement. When you’re lowering the bar, your lats help control the motion, keeping it smooth and steady.

5. Serratus Anterior

Lastly, let’s talk about the serratus anterior – they’re the muscles that sit on the sides of your chest, wrapping around your upper ribs. They might not be the showiest muscles, but they’re seriously important in the bench press. These muscles help stabilise the shoulder blades and play a role in all pushing and punching movements.

Now, while the bench press is fantastic for working out the above muscles, it’s crucial to remember the importance of proper form. The effectiveness of the bench press (and any other exercise, for that matter) heavily relies on how well you perform it. Poor form won’t just decrease the exercise’s effectiveness, it could also lead to injuries. So take it from me, it’s always worth taking the time to learn the correct form!

It’s also worth noting that the bench press is just one part of a balanced workout routine. While it’s a great exercise for building upper body strength, you’ll want to combine it with exercises that target other muscle groups for an all-round workout.

And remember, everyone’s body responds differently to weight training. So, if you’re new to this, start with lighter weights, focus on your form, and gradually increase the weight as your strength improves.

In a nutshell, the bench press isn’t just about building a strong chest. It works several muscles, contributing to overall upper body strength. Whether you’re a pro powerlifter or just want to tone up a bit, the bench press could be a great addition to your workout routine. So, what are you waiting for? Get pressing!


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