The bench press is everyone’s go to exercise when it comes to training the chest. It’s a highly effective compound movement that primarily targets your chest, front delts, triceps. However, does the bench press work your biceps?
Well, your biceps act as a stabilizer muscle throughout the pressing motion. Hence, they are involved during the bench press to a small degree, but they are not a prime mover.
So, does this make the bench press an effective exercise to work the biceps?
In this article, we will go through the primary and secondary muscles involved during the bench press. We will also discuss if the bench press is an effective exercise to include in your bicep routine.
Let’s get right into it!
Muscles worked during the bench press
Being one of the best compound movements, the bench press works many different muscle groups, even the biceps!
However, it focuses mainly on the chest with your front delts, and triceps involved to high degree. These muscles work together to help push the bar up from your chest.
1. Chest Muscle
The primary muscle worked during the bench press is the pectoralis major and minor.
– Pectoralis Major
The pec major is the largest of the anterior chest wall and lies underneath the breast tissues. The pec major is split into two parts:
- Clavicular Head
- Sternocostal head
The clavicular head is referred as the upper chest while the sternocostal head is responsible for the mid and lower chest.
During the flat bench press, our sternocostal head is more activated compared to an incline bench press which targets the clavicular head.
The primary function of the pectoralis major is horizontal adduction which means brining the arms towards the midline of the body. It also helps with internal rotation which means rotation towards the center of your body.
– Pectorialis Minor
The pec minor is a triangular shaped muscle that is located right underneath the pec major.
The primary function of the pec minor is stabilization, abduction or protraction, internal rotation, and downward rotation of the scapula.
Hence, it’s a stabilizer muscle that helps during the pressing motion.
2. Anterior Delts
Your anterior (front) delts are the front part of the shoulder that connects to your clavicle. The main function is shoulder flexions which means to move the arm up.
Hence why it’s involved during the bench press when you have to push the bar up.
Your triceps are the back part of the upper arm muscle with the primary function to extend the forearm at the elbow joint.
Your triceps actually make up two thirds of your upper arm muscles. So, if you want to fill up those sleeves, start incorporation triceps exercises.
Related Reading: 5 Must-Do Medial Head Tricep Exercises
Does bench press work the biceps
Now that we have discussed what muscles the bench press mainly works, let’s answer the topic of today – does the bench press work the biceps?
The bench press does work the biceps but to a much lower degree compared to the chest, front delts, and triceps.
And while there is bicep involvement, the biceps only act as a stabilizer muscle during the pressing movement.
The main function of the biceps is elbow flexion, which means bending your elbows. While there is elbow flexion involved during the eccentric (the downward motion), it’s the triceps that are contracting the most. This is because the biceps are involved in “pulling” movements the most whereas the bench press is a “pushing” motion.
It’s important to note that gravity is pulling the weight down during the bench press which reduces tension on the biceps. In contrast, exercises like barbell curls or hammer curls have much higher bicep activation since you are curling the weight up against gravity.
Hence, although the bench press does work the biceps to a small extent, it is NOT enough to build bigger biceps. To understand this better, let’s look at the anatomy of the biceps.
Biceps Anatomy and Function
To understand bicep involvement during the bench press, lets look at the bicep anatomy.
There are two parts of the biceps – the short and long head.
1. Short Head
The short head of the bicep is the medial part of your upper arm. It originates from the tip of coracoid process of the scapula.
The short head is often referred as the inner bicep and is responsible for thickness of your bicep muscle.
2. Long head
The long head is the outer or lateral part of the bicep which is responsible for the bicep “peak”. Specifically, it originates form the supraglenoid tubercle of the scapula.
The Function of the Biceps
To understand if the bench press works the biceps, we need to understand the function and movement partner of flexing and extending the bicep muscle.
The primary functions of the biceps are elbow flexion and supination of the forearm. Let’s do a quick practical analysis.
Simply, bring your forearms towards your shoulder with your palms facing you. You will notice that your biceps are contracted. Hence, this is the movement that our biceps follow. So, will the bench press help work and grow the biceps since there is elbow flexion.
Can The Bench Press Grow Bigger Biceps?
While the bench press does work the biceps to a small extent, it’s not enough to build bigger biceps. The biceps simply act as a stabilizer muscle and not a prime mover.
The bench press primarily works the chest, triceps, and front delts. And although there is some bicep activation, it’s relatively small compared to exercises like bicep curls, hammer curls, or concentration curls.
If you’re looking to grow bigger biceps, these two articles are all you need:
- 6 Best Long Head Bicep Exercises for Greater Peaks (2023)
- Short Head Bicep Exercises – What You Need to Know
So, if you want to develop your biceps, perform exercises that focus on your biceps primarily.
Can stronger biceps improve your bench press?
Although the bench press isn’t primarily for the biceps, having stronger biceps can defiantly help with your bench press form and balance.
It helps stabilize the shoulder joint which can reduce the chances of injury.
During the eccentric of the bench press, the tendons of the biceps lengthen which can cause pain. Hence, having weaker biceps can be a limiting factor in your bench press.
So, it’s vital to train your biceps but with the correct exercises. Chin-ups and curl variations are the best to develop strong biceps.
The bench press is a powerful exercise that can help you grow a bigger chest while also working the triceps and front delts. However, it also incorporates the biceps to some degree.
Your biceps act a stabilizer muscle throughout the movement and hence the bench press alone isn’t enough to grow your biceps.
You need bicep specific exercises to build stronger and thicker biceps.
We hope this article helped you understand the relationship between the bench press and biceps.
As always, stay Fit & Healthy and I will see you guys’ next week!