In the past we’ve written about the undeniable benefits of squats and deadlifts, but I’m here with a pressing new issue. I’m putting it all on the bench and making a case for the king of the upper body lifts: The bench press.
For myself and many others, this lift was THE LIFT to perform when we began our lifting journeys. Hell, it still is for a lot of us, it’s just taken a different form in our training. For powerlifters a strong bench is essential for competition; for strongman and weightlifting, a strong bench can support overall pressing strength.
Whatever your strength sport or goals may be, there’s no question a strong bench means a strong upper body. Although besides strong pecs, how else does the bench press benefit you?
1. Increased Upper Body Push Strength
This point is kind of a no-brainer, but the bench press improves the amount of weight we can push/press. The more weight you can bench press (with good form) the more weight you can most likely shoulder press.
A good rule of thumb when tracking your press strength is to use the rationale from Lon Kilgore and Mark Rippetoe’s book “Practical Programming for Strength Training.” They discuss keeping your shoulder press somewhere between 59-67 percent of your bench press. These percentages differ depending on one’s training age.
2. Predictor of Upper Body Strength
A strong bench press can help predict upper body strength for a variety of movements. One study from 2013 used an athlete’s 1-RM bench to correlate other upper body lift numbers.
While it’s not always a fool proof method for predicting upper body strength (and many argue against it due to mobility, anthropometric, and other issues), this is why the bench is often used to test an athlete’s upper body strength. Think NFL combine 225 lb press and 1-RM bench tests.
3. Bigger Pec Major
The bench press builds the pec major. This is the muscle most associate getting bigger and working on when benching. It’s the glamour muscle of the chest and what gives pecs their larger, strong appearance. It’s one of the prime movers in horizontal protraction.
4. Stronger Pec Minor
The pec minor doesn’t receive enough credit for the bench press. This muscle lies deep under the pec major and is trained indirectly through horizontal pressing movements. The pec minor plays a key role in scapular downward rotation.
5. Shredded Serratus Anterior
In my opinion, this is one the coolest muscles on the human body. This muscle wraps around the rib cage under the upper arm and feels like fingers in-between each rib. The serratus is strengthened through pressing movements and promotes a strong bench press.
6. Iron Forged Delts
The anterior and medial deltoids develop and grow stronger from bench pressing. They are among the prime movers in this form of press and their growth will support stronger shoulder presses as well. In addition, building these muscles will help push you further to achieve the capped shoulder look.
7. Crazy Strong Triceps
The tricep is made up of three heads and makes up roughly 2/3 of the arm. Bench pressing helps strengthen and build all three of the tricep heads (long, lateral, and medial) throughout different ranges of motion during the lift. Stronger triceps will have carry over to other pressing movements, plus big triceps make your arms look great.
8. Look Great In Shirts
There’s no question that athletes with big chests and backs instantly look better in their shirts. Not only will shirts tend to fit better, but a chiseled chest and big triceps are a great way to subtly show your strength. Also, a big chest and shoulders help provide us with the V-taper look.
9. Improved Bone Health
The bench press like other compound movements help support healthy bones. When there’s added resistance on the body’s structure, especially from larger movements such as the bench press, we promote our bone health. A study from 2014 saw bone health improvements when the bench press was included in a workout plan for medicating osteoporosis.
10. Great Instagram Videos
A strong bench press makes for great Instagram content. It’s the one lift everyone seems to sympathize with, even non-lifters. If you’re looking to beef up your Instagram feed, then start benching….I’m somewhat serious and kidding here.
11. Epic Pec Dances
Feature image courtesy of @lisahaefnerphoto.