A man performs a barbell bench press while another spots him.

The bench press, or chest press, is a weight training exercise where a person presses a weight upwards while lying horizontally on a weight training bench. Although the bench press is a compound movement, the muscles primarily used are the pectoralis major, the anterior deltoids, and the triceps, among other stabilizing muscles. A barbell is generally used to hold the weight, but a pair of dumbbells can also be used.[1]

The barbell bench press is one of three lifts in the sport of powerlifting alongside the deadlift and the squat. These are the only lifts in the sport of Paralympic powerlifting. The bench press is also extensively used in weight training, bodybuilding, and other types of training to develop the chest muscles. Bench press strength is important in combat sports as it closely correlates to punching power. To improve upper body strength, power, and endurance for athletic, occupational, and functional performance as well as muscle development, the barbell bench press is frequently used.[2]


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The person performing the exercise lies on their back on a flat bench with a barbell grasped in both hands. They lower the barbell to chest level until it touches the chest, then press the barbell upwards, extending the arms until the elbows are locked out. This is one repetition (rep).

Position yourself on a flat bench with body weight resting on your buttocks and upper traps, an arched back, and feet pressed against the floor. The weight must be lifted at full arm's length, lowered to upper torso, paused, and then lifted to starting position. Improving performance in powerlifting involves powerlifters implementing specific techniques. These include arching, taking deep breaths, and actively pressing their feet into the floor. These methods engage all body parts during the lift, ensuring proper weight distribution across the back, legs, and floor.


The bench press has evolved over the years, from floor, bridge, and belly toss variations to the methods used by bodybuilders and powerlifters today. It became popular from the late 1950s onwards.[3] Despite the fact the parallel dip is safer (the dip does not require spotters or safety bars[3]), in the 1950s the bench press took over the dip in popularity and became the standard fare for chest exercises. [3]

At first the strict floor press was the most popular method. In 1899, using a barbell with 48 centimetres (19 in) discs (plates), George Hackenschmidt, inventor of the barbell hack squat, rolled a barbell over his face (which was turned to the side) and performed a strict floor press with 164 kilograms (362 lb). This stood as a record for 18 years until Joe Nordquest broke it by 1 kilogram (2.2 lb) in 1916.

Around this time, new methods started gaining ground. Lifters began to discover that strong glutes could help them get the bar from the ground to overhead. They would lie on the floor and position the bar over their abdomen, then perform an explosive glute bridge movement, catapulting the bar upwards and catching it at lockout.[4]

Lifting techniques, training, and drugs have improved over the years and the bench press record lift has grown from 164 kilograms (362 lb) to 355 kilograms (783 lb) (raw, record held by Julius Maddox) in approximately 100 years.[5]

The bench press is used as a test of upper-body explosive strength during the NFL combine, where prospective NFL draft picks attempt to get as many reps of 225 lbs as possible.[6][7]


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A conventional bench press uses the pectoralis major, front deltoids,[8] and triceps brachii to horizontally adduct the shoulder. While flat bench pressing, the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor muscles are activated.[9][10] The exercise also uses the triceps and anconeus to extend the elbows.[8] The triceps are most crucial around the end of the press to help complete and lock out the elbows. With the right form, parts of the deltoids will be used to help make the lift, including the anterior deltoids.[8] Wider hand spacing places a greater emphasis on shoulder flexion and narrower hand spacing utilizes more elbow extension. Because of this, wider hand spacing is associated with training the pectorals and narrower hand spacing is associated with training the triceps. Both close and wide hand spacing trains the deltoid area.[8]

In addition to the major phasic (dynamic) muscles, the bench press also uses tonic (stabilizing) muscles, including the scapular stabilizers (serratus anterior, middle, and inferior trapezius), humeral head stabilizers (rotator cuff muscles), and core (transverse abdominis, obliques, multifidus, erector spinae, quadratus lumborum.)

A female athlete performing a bench press at the IPA world championship 2007, in the "Bench Only" category


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Variations of the bench press involve different groups of muscles, or involve the same muscles in different ways:

Possible injuries

A man (lying down) performs a bench press with a spotter using a thumbless grip.

Performing the bench press can contribute to multiple types of injuries:

Many of these possible injuries can be avoided by using dumbbells instead of a barbell since dumbbells can be dropped without hitting the chest or neck, while also allowing greater external rotation of the shoulder which can help prevent shoulder injuries. Studies have also shown dumbbell bench press activates the pectorals more, which can lead to increased muscle growth.[23]

See also


  1. ^ a b A movement may be considered as having any number of strength phases but usually is considered as having two main phases: a stronger and a weaker. When the movement becomes stronger during the exercise, this is called an ascending strength curve i.e. bench press, squat, deadlift. And when it becomes weaker this is called a descending strength curve i.e. chin ups, upright row, standing lateral raise. Some exercises involve a different pattern of strong-weak-strong. This is called a bell shaped strength curve i.e. bicep curls where there can be a sticking point roughly midway.


  1. ^ John F. Graham (August 2000). "Dumbbell bench press". Strength and Conditioning Journal. 22 (4): 71. Retrieved 7 September 2014.
  2. ^ Ronai, Peter (November 2018). "The Bench Press Exercise". ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal. 22 (6): 52–57. doi:10.1249/FIT.0000000000000432. ISSN 1091-5397.
  3. ^ a b c McRobert (1998), p. 210.
  4. ^ a b Contreras, Bret (2011-12-15). "The Best Damn Bench Press Article Period". T Nation. Retrieved 2014-08-14.
  5. ^ "Powerlifter Will Barotti benches 1,105 pounds for a new world record". muscleandfitness.com. 6 July 2020.
  6. ^ "What Is The NFL Combine? | How Does The NFL Combine Work?". Football IQ Score. Retrieved 2021-09-25.
  7. ^ Kahler, Kalyn. "NFL Combine Drills and Workouts, Explained". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2021-09-25.
  8. ^ a b c d Parry, Alex (2022-01-17). "What Muscle Does Bench Press Work?: Diagram, Guide and Exercise Variations". characterstrength. Retrieved 2022-11-18.
  9. ^ Rodríguez-Ridao, David; Antequera-Vique, José A.; Martín-Fuentes, Isabel; Muyor, José M. (2020-10-08). "Effect of Five Bench Inclinations on the Electromyographic Activity of the Pectoralis Major, Anterior Deltoid, and Triceps Brachii during the Bench Press Exercise". International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 17 (19): 7339. doi:10.3390/ijerph17197339. ISSN 1660-4601. PMC 7579505. PMID 33049982.
  10. ^ Bhatia, Deepak N.; de Beer, Joe F.; van Rooyen, Karin S.; Lam, Francis; du Toit, Donald F. (August 2007). "The "bench-presser's shoulder": an overuse insertional tendinopathy of the pectoralis minor muscle". British Journal of Sports Medicine. 41 (8): e11. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2006.032383. ISSN 1473-0480. PMC 2465431. PMID 17138640.
  11. ^ 6 Reasons Not To Use The Suicide Grip For Bench Press: https://powerliftingtechnique.com/suicide-grip-for-bench-press/
  12. ^ https://stronglifts.com/bench-press/#No_Thumbless_Grip
  13. ^ a b Williams, Pete. "Pro Training Secrets". Men's Health. June 2006: 134.
  14. ^ "How to Bench Press like a Pro: A deep look at Bench Press Form". LIFT. Retrieved 2014-08-14.
  15. ^ Hutchison, Dan (29 June 2017). "Using variable resistance for the bench press". Perform-X.com. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  16. ^ John Jaquish, Henry Alkire (2020). Weight lifting is a waste of time. Lioncrest publishing. pp. 33–36.
  17. ^ Dickinson, Josh (18 April 2005). "Full And Partial Repetitions For Massive Gains!". bodybuilding.com. Retrieved 30 March 2021.
  18. ^ IOC Sport Medicine Manual 2000 available in .PDF form online
  19. ^ hilarispublisher (PDF). Journal of Spine https://www.hilarispublisher.com/open-access/spinal-cord-injury-due-to-cervical-disc-herniation-caused-by-bench-pressing-2165-7939-3-154.pdf. ((cite web)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  20. ^ researchgate. Journal of Spine https://www.researchgate.net/publication/274129831. ((cite web)): Missing or empty |title= (help)
  21. ^ "Petition Requesting Labeling of Weightlifting Bench-Press Benches to Reduce or Prevent Deaths Due to Asphyxia/Anoxia" (PDF). US Consumer Product Safety Commission. May 13, 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-01-08. Retrieved 2014-08-14.
  22. ^ Imai, Eriya; Watanabe, Jun; Okano, Hiromu; Yokozuka, Motoi (June 2023). "Efficacy and safety of supraclavicular versus infraclavicular approach for subclavian vein catheterisation: An updated systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials". Indian Journal of Anaesthesia. 67 (6): 486–496. doi:10.4103/ija.ija_837_22. ISSN 0019-5049. PMC 10355348. PMID 37476443.
  23. ^ Sgobba, Christa (2017-07-12). "This Kind Of Bench Press Will Hit Your Pecs the Hardest". Men's Health. Retrieved 2020-12-17.