Walk into any gym, anywhere in the world, and 9 times out of 10 we can virtually guarantee that there will be at least one person in there working their chest while performing a variation of the bench press.
That is very apt because today we’re looking at a number of proven bench press benefits to help convince you why this is one of the most popular exercises of all time.
A real favorite with arguably the G.O.A.T Arnold Schwarzenegger, this bench press is the ultimate pectoral muscle exercise that also provides countless other benefits along the way.
Put simply, if you want to get fit, increase your strength, improve your physique, and improve your functionality in and out of the gym in the process, the bench press is an exercise that you simply cannot pass up or overlook.
But just what is it about the bench press that makes it such a popular and effective exercise?
Let’s take a look, shall we?
- 1 The History Of The Bench Press:
- 2 So, What Are The Bench Press Benefits?
- 2.1 1. Increase Your Pressing Power
- 2.2 2. Increases Upper-Body Strength
- 2.3 3. Burn Calories
- 2.4 4. Increase Muscle Mass
- 2.5 5. Great Compound Lift
- 2.6 6. Easy To Do
- 2.7 7. Different Variations To Try
- 2.8 8. Work All Angles Of The Chest
- 2.9 9. Great For Showing Off
- 2.10 10. Stronger Bones
- 2.11 11. Stronger Joints
- 2.12 12. Can Be Done Without A Spotter
- 2.13 13. Increase Testosterone Levels
- 2.14 14. Look Great In A Shirt
- 2.15 15. Get Those Pecs Popping
- 2.16 16. Very Adaptable
- 2.17 17. Strong Core
- 3 Conclusion:
The History Of The Bench Press:
Before we can get to the good stuff and start looking at why the bench press is the ultimate mass-building exercise for a barrel chest, first off let’s take a journey back in time and discover more about the history of the bench press.
The Russian Lion:
If you really want to get pedantic, you could trace the bench press back to the Greco Romans and the plyometric exercises they used to do when they would perform variations of the push-up, and other similar weighted exercises.
A push-up, however, may work the same major muscles as a bench press, but a push-up is a push-up, and a bench press is a bench press.
The first recorded mention of the bench press we know and love today, came around 1899 when George ‘The Russian Lion’ Hackenschmidt performed the first recorded floor press.
The man responsible for the invention of the hack squat machine would lay on the ground, roll a barbell loaded up with 350-pounds up over his face, and press it off the ground.
This exercise would go on to kick-start a bench press revolution and create the most popular chest exercise in existence.
The Belly Toss Technique:
With the birth of the floor press, more and more strongmen started incorporating Hackenschmidt’s exercise into their routine, testing out just how strong they were.
Strongman Georg Lurich would go on to floor press 443 pounds just three years later.
While Hackenschmidt’s variant of the floor press was incredibly strict, George Lurich utilized what became known as the ‘belly toss technique’.
By placing the barbell over the abdomen, lifters could perform a type of glute bridge and explode up, using momentum from the core and lower body to press the bar into the air.
It looked incredibly messy, and it certainly wouldn’t fly in a powerlifting contest today, but back then it became the favored technique for pressing a barbell from the floor.
The belly toss technique proved popular up until the 1920s.
Death Of The Belly Toss:
In the 1920s, weightlifters began expressing their disdain towards the belly toss, and by the 1930s, it was criticized so much, that people stopped doing it.
A prominent lifter by the name of Bob Hoffman despised the belly toss and wrote as much in numerous pieces, where he basically said it was cheating and wasn’t a true measure of strength.
Hoffman’s advice and influence, in general, would go on to shape many fundamentals surrounding weightlifting, Olympic lifting, and powerlifting, so he clearly knew his stuff.
By 1939, in strength contests, the belly toss was no more, as it was officially banned.
Goodbye Belly Toss And Hello Bench Press:
In a few gyms in the 1930s and 40s, some lifters had started to use benches and boxes to perform their version of the floor press/belly toss.
Interestingly, after noticing not only increases in strength but also increased muscle mass in the chest and the triceps, bodybuilders began turning their attention toward these variations of the lift.
It was the 1950s that saw the true emergence of the bench press however when rack stations were developed.
This made it easier to lift the weight off and it allowed more weight to be used as well.
Suddenly, the version of the flat barbell bench press that we know and love today, was in every gym and was the most popular lift.
Joe Weider himself called it the ‘greatest lift of them all and in just two decades, a lift virtually nobody outside of strength training had heard of, was the MVP of the lifting world.
Soon, benches were developed to be adjusted to different heights and angles, and this took the bench press to a whole other level entirely.
Bodybuilders began performing the exercise with dumbbells as well as barbells, we had a flat, incline, and even decline bench press alternatives, and the fitness world, in general, fell in love with this exercise.
In the 1970s and 80s, both bodybuilding and pro wrestling hit the limelight, and with larger-than-life stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sly Stallone, Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior, Rick Rude, Jesse Ventura, Superstar Billy Graham, and many more, all performing this lift and sporting hugely muscular physiques, this only helped to solidify the bench press as the king of the chest exercises.
So, What Are The Bench Press Benefits?
1. Increase Your Pressing Power
For some reason, up until recently a lot of strong men and women wouldn’t train bench because there were no events that mimicked this lift.
While that is true, the bench press is a fantastic exercise for working the triceps and increasing your pushing/pressing power.
When you think about it, it makes perfect sense because you’re still pressing the weight, except, rather than overhead, you’re pressing it from your chest.
Bench press may work the pecs primarily, but it also works the triceps very effectively, and as the triceps are responsible for a lot of pressing power, the stronger they are, the more weight you’ll be able to press.
2. Increases Upper-Body Strength
It isn’t just your pressing power that will increase with the bench press.
Another of the brilliant benefits that we’re looking at today is the fact that the exercise helps to boost your upper body strength.
Pressing a heavy barbell or set of dumbbells up off your chest is no small feat, and the more pressing you do, the greater your upper body strength will be.
3. Burn Calories
People often forget that resistance training is a great way to burn calories and lose weight.
While it’s true that cardio is indeed a great way to burn fat and lose weight, it isn’t the only way.
Resistance training through the bench press requires a lot of energy, which means that plenty of calories is burnt off.
As well as that, because most bench press variants are compound movements, you’ll find that you burn off more calories because you’re utilizing more muscle groups to perform the lift.
4. Increase Muscle Mass
Let’s face it, when most people grab a set of dumbbells or a barbell and begin performing a bench press, they’re doing so because they want to build muscle.
The bench press is an awesome exercise for increasing your muscle mass.
The exercise primarily targets the pectoral muscles, so if you want a full and swole chest that would give Arnie a run for his money, make sure you perform the bench press.
As well to your pecs, you’ll also add some quality muscle mass to your triceps, delts, and back as well.
This brings us to…
5. Great Compound Lift
The bench press is an awesome compound lift that is ideal for increasing muscle mass, strength, and overall size as well.
A compound lift/exercise is one that, when performed, targets several muscle groups all at once, and the barbell bench press is a key example of that.
If you perform a chest press on a machine, the machine will isolate your chest and only your chest.
With a free weight such as a barbell, though, because of the mechanics of the lift, you’ll find that your triceps also get a great workout, along with your delts, your back, and even your core as well.
Basically, despite being a chest exclusive exercise, the bench press is one that works numerous other parts of your anatomy as well.
6. Easy To Do
Some exercises are very complicated to perform.
You need to spend ages getting into position, locking your wrists in a certain way, angling your hips, bracing your sternum, straightening your back, and much more besides, until you’re able to successfully complete a rep.
With the bench press, another awesome benefit is that it is much more straightforward.
There is more to it than this, but the basic premise is that you lift the weight off the rack, lower it down to your chest, and press it back into the air, without bouncing the weight.
Because it’s so easy to master, it’s a great exercise for people of all abilities to take part in and have a go at.
7. Different Variations To Try
Ever notice how some exercises just seem to feel a lot more boring than others?
Sure, at first they’re fun and enjoyable to perform, but after a while, the longer you go on doing the same thing week in and week out, the more bored you begin to feel.
Bench press exercises, however, are great because you can try so many.
There are flat bench barbell presses, incline, and decline barbells, flat, incline, and decline dumbbells, hex bar presses, smith machine presses, and plenty more on top.
Having so many different variations to choose from not only makes your training more enjoyable, but it also means that you get to hit the pecs from a slightly different angle each time.
This leads us to…
8. Work All Angles Of The Chest
When working your pecs, if you want a full and aesthetic chest, you need to ensure that you work all angles of it.
It’s no good focusing solely on incline presses for example, because these primarily work the upper pecs, meaning that the tops of your pecs will look full and muscular, whilst the middle and lower pectoral regions will look flat and uninspiring.
Different angles of the exercise will work different parts of the pecs.
Incline presses, for example, work the upper pecs, flat bench presses are great for adding mass to the upper and middle pecs, whereas decline bench presses, which are often overlooked, are great for the lower pecs.
Combine all of these angles and variants together, and you’ll have a huge aesthetic chest in no time at all.
9. Great For Showing Off
First off, in the gym, there is no place for ego-lifting.
Ego-lifting is dangerous, it’s annoying, and it makes you look like an arrogant jerk.
With that said, it is nice to put some big numbers up on the bench press just to give you some bragging rights with your buddies, and on social media.
Providing you are safe, in control of the weight, and have a spotter, going for a 1 rep max and nailing it is a great feeling, and take it from us when you do bench 315 for the first time, you won’t forget how awesome it really felt.
10. Stronger Bones
This might not just be a benefit exclusive to the bench press, but in any event, it’s important so we’re including it.
Resistance training is a great way of increasing bone mineral density and strengthening your bones, making them harder and tougher.
This is very important, especially as you grow older because as we grow older, our bones tend to weaken and become more brittle.
Bench pressing is ideal for bone health as it can help reduce the risk of Brittle Bone Disease, Osteoporosis, and much more besides.
11. Stronger Joints
Another of the benefits we’ll be looking at today is the fact that bench pressing also helps to strengthen your joints.
Bench pressing promotes optimal cartilage health, which is important as we grow older because as we age, the cartilage between the joints wears down, which can cause pain and inflammation.
Cartilage is basically a protective layer between your muscles and joints, to stop them from rubbing together. Without cartilage, they rub, and boy, do they hurt.
By benching, you can strengthen your joints which will not only reduce your risk of injury, but it’ll also reduce the amount of pain and discomfort you experience.
12. Can Be Done Without A Spotter
Okay, first and foremost, when benching, if you are going heavy or are trying a variant of the exercise you haven’t tried before, you should always try and do it with a spotter whenever possible.
With that said, thanks to the breakthroughs in modern gym equipment and design nowadays, it is indeed perfectly possible to bench press heavily, without a spotter.
If you use a squat rack or a power rack, they are equipped with safety bars that will catch the bar if you drop it, or if you can’t press it.
That means that, rather than having to try to lift a heavy barbell off of your chest, you can let the safety bars do the work, slide under the bar, and walk away without a scratch.
13. Increase Testosterone Levels
Heavy compound exercises such as deadlifts and squats, including the bench press, have been found to promote an increase in the production and secretion of androgenic, anabolic hormones such as growth hormone and testosterone.
The more of these hormones you produce, the stronger you’ll be, the more energy you will have, and the more muscle you will build.
14. Look Great In A Shirt
Again, this is perhaps another benefit related to bragging rights, but who cares?
When we lift weights, a lot of the time, we do so because we want to look good as well as feel good.
Bench pressing is a great way of doing that because, as your chest becomes bigger, it will help fill out your shirts better and make your waist look smaller.
Not only that but as benching also brings up your triceps, your arms will look better and bigger as well, so you’ll fill out a shirt much better and will look awesome in the process.
15. Get Those Pecs Popping
We aren’t sure whether Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson or Terry Crews has a better pec pop, but either way, it’s a cool party trick.
If you want to make your pecs bounce like you see bodybuilders, wrestlers, and hyped-up movie stars doing, bench pressing is a great way to do that.
Basically, the more muscle you build in your chest, the more muscles you will have to flex, so you’ll find it easier to have a truly epic pec pop if you incorporate the bench press into your training routine.
16. Very Adaptable
Another of the many proven benefits we’re looking at today is the fact that the exercise itself is so adaptable.
Whether you’re a beginner new to weights, or a seasoned powerlifter, you can still perform the bench press and reap the rewards.
Furthermore, if you do have joint issues, or are dealing with an injury, you could try using dumbbells instead of a barbell, altering the bench angle, or even using the smith machine to help take the pressure off of your joints.
17. Strong Core
While these are all great for the core, bench presses, especially free-weight barbell bench presses are also great for strengthening your core.
This is because, when you lift the bar off the rack, lower it down, and press it, even though your back is supported, you are still using your core stabilizer muscles to stabilize the bar and keep it straight and level as you lower it down.
The more benching you do, the stronger your core will likely be.
After checking those bench press benefits, now, you’ll be able to choose the right exercises if you’re looking to build up your chest.
And the more you’re benching, the more you’ll see the benefits.