The bench press is one of the best upper body exercises you can add to your fitness routine.
If you go into any gym on a Monday (a.k.a. Universal Chest Day), you’ll probably find dozens of individuals trying to outlift each other at the bench press station.
While it’s fun to compete with your friends to determine who can bench the most, bench pressing has multiple benefits.
The bench press is a compound movement, so it incorporates a variety of different muscles in your upper body. It’s used to develop strength, hypertrophy, and muscular endurance in the shoulders, chest, and arms.
But what specific results will you see from bench pressing regularly, after one month and beyond?
Some of the results you can expect to see after benching consistently for at least a month include:
- Increased upper body strength
- Bigger chest muscles
- Stronger tricep muscles
- Improved bone health
- Improved functional strength
- A symmetrical physique
Because of its many advantages, the bench press is an excellent addition to any routine.
To help me explain the benefits of the bench press, I interviewed Dr. Stephen Newhart, PhD, of vigoractive.net to learn more about the results you can expect from this popular exercise.
Increased Upper Body Strength
When people first decide to do the bench press, their main goal is to gain upper body strength.
Many beginners report seeing rapid increases in their upper body strength after doing bench presses consistently.
I asked Dr. Stephen Newhart to break down the science of this phenomenon. He says:
“The majority of strength increases that are observed when a beginner initiates a bench press program are due to adaptations of the nervous system.
“This means that the nerve fibers from your brain to those muscle groups will change in order to send a more aggressive signal.
“This allows a stronger, more broad contraction at the muscle. These neural adaptations will be the reason for the strength increases until about a month.”
As your body gets used to the stimulus, it acts quickly to adapt and increase your upper body strength.
While it’s exciting to get stronger consistently, it’s important to remain cautious during your workouts. Dr. Stephen Newhart notes that you can expect this increase:
“During this time, the exerciser’s strength may increase by 50-100lbs if performed 2/3 times a week.”
That’s a fast strength increase!
However, as with most exercises, you may or may not experience these same results.
Everyone’s body reacts differently, and you should focus on your own progress.
We often hear about the benchmark of reaching the 225lb bench press.
This is a huge milestone for many weight lifters, but you shouldn’t feel discouraged if you don’t reach this weight quickly.
Bigger Chest Muscles
An increase in strength is associated with an increase in muscle size.
Bench presses target the pecs and are often ranked as the top exercise if you want to increase the size of your chest.
As you reach one month of doing the bench press consistently and your nervous system becomes accustomed to the exercise, the next stage is when the muscle growth begins, as Dr. Stephen Newhart describes:
“After the nervous system is fully accustomed to the new movement, significant muscle breakdown will begin to occur, and at this time, the muscles will begin to grow rapidly.
“From this point, should the program consist of the proper mixture of strength training and hypertrophy training, the strength will continue to climb, and the muscles will continue to grow until the body’s natural potential is met.”
Bigger chest muscles are often seen as a sign of strength and power among men, but developing the pectoral muscles can benefit women as well.
It helps prevent muscle imbalances and gives the appearance of a well-rounded physique.
You’ll want to develop both the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor muscles.
The pectoralis major muscle makes up the majority of your chest. The pectoralis minor lies beneath the pectoralis major and helps balance the chest’s appearance and functionality.
While most exercises that target the pectoralis major also work the pectoralis minor to some degree (like the bench press), you can do pec minor dips to isolate the pectoralis minor.
Pec minor dips are similar to triceps dips on a dip station.
But instead of bending your elbows until they’re at a 90-degree angle, keep your arms straight and do a reverse shrug.
Focus on pushing your shoulders up to your ears and using the pecs to squeeze down and push the shoulder blades back to the starting position.
Try to aim for sets of 10 reps and add weight if the movement feels too easy.
Stronger Tricep Muscles
The bench press doesn’t just target your chest and shoulder muscles.
Your tricep muscles play a prominent role in helping you complete the movement and push the bar upwards.
Other pushing movements such as the military press and push-ups work your triceps as well.
As you increase the weight on your bench press, your performance on other exercises will improve, too.
As Dr. Stephen Newhart explained:
“Bench press will enhance the neuromuscular systems of the body areas that help you push objects away from your upper body.”
And while having stronger triceps is beneficial for improving athletic performance, it also increases the size of your arms.
The tricep muscles make up two-thirds of the arm, so it’s important to train them regularly if you have aesthetic-based goals.
If you want to put more emphasis on strengthening your tricep muscles, you should perform a close-grip variation of the bench press.
While it’s more suited for intermediate weight lifters, anyone who wants stronger triceps can do it.
To perform the close-grip bench press, bring your hands in so they’re just outside your torso instead of holding the bar with a wide grip.
The narrower grip targets your tricep muscles more, making this a great tricep isolation exercise to add to your fitness regimen.
Improved Bone Health
One lesser-known benefit of lifting weights is that it can help improve your bone health and mineral density.
When you perform the bench press, you increase the strength of your muscles along with your bones.
Bone is strengthened by mechanical weight loading, and resistance training is one of the best ways to improve bone density.
If you’re young, your bone density may not be important to you.
However, as you get older, your bone density decreases and becomes more fragile.
By adding weight training exercises like the bench press, you can improve the bone mineral density of your upper body.
It doesn’t take much to help strengthen your bones, but when lifting weights, you should focus on keeping the weight manageable.
A weight on the bench press that is too much can be very dangerous for both muscle and bone health.
When you do bench presses, you should always have a spotter who will help if you can’t get the weight back up.
Being stuck under the barbell is terrifying and can have major consequences.
Get someone to spot you or use spotter arms to prevent the risk of serious injuries.
Improved Functional Strength
If you play sports, the bench press is an important movement for almost every type of athlete.
Some people hate the bench press and believe it doesn’t have a lot of carryover to sports.
However, many coaches understand its benefits and regularly incorporate it into their athletes’ routines.
Anyone can use the bench press to improve your functional strength.
Even if you’re not training for a sport, the bench press emulates movements we perform every day, such as pushing strollers, shopping carts, and heavy doors.
You can also tailor your routine depending on your goals.
For example, a football player will have a different routine than a bodybuilder, and a bodybuilder will have a different routine than the average gym-goer.
A football player will focus more on brute strength while a bodybuilder will focus more on aesthetics.
The average gym-goer may focus on a combination of the two.
Individuals with strength-based goals should do sets of three to five reps while those who are training for hypertrophy should do sets of 10-15 reps.
A recreational gym-goer can alternate between the two, with one day of strength-based training and one day of hypertrophy training per week.
If you’re not sure how to incorporate the bench press so it aligns with your goals, you can have a personal trainer create a plan for you that will give you the results you want.
A Symmetrical Physique
Symmetry is crucial for aesthetics, overall health, and performance.
Performing different variations of the bench press will help you develop a proportional physique and prevent muscle imbalances.
If you only do barbell bench presses, your more dominant side will overcompensate for your weaker side.
And when you favor one side of your body more often than the other, you can have asymmetrical muscle development.
If you want to ensure that your right and left sides are trained equally, doing dumbbell bench presses is a good choice.
Your chest and shoulders will develop strength evenly for improved performance and aesthetics.
Additionally, on a smaller note, you should emphasize balancing bench presses for your lower and upper chest.
An upper body with dominant lower chest muscles and lagging upper chest muscles (or vice versa) will look disproportionate.
Bench press variations you can do that target both areas of the chest include:
- Decline bench presses
- Reverse-grip bench presses
- Dumbbell incline bench presses
- Kettlebell bench presses
The bench press is a compound exercise that has remained a key movement in most individuals’ fitness routines.
Whether you’re a beginner or a veteran in the gym, it will help you:
- increase your upper body strength
- build a bigger chest
- and develop functional strength.
For beginners, the bench press can be an intimidating exercise.
To eliminate those initial worries, I always recommend asking for a spotter at the gym to help you if you get stuck under the barbell.
But whatever you do, get started! Amazing benefits are just around the corner.
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Hope this helps!