In this article, I will be discussing why the bench press is a staple in nearly every lifter’s routine. Read on to discover the top 5 bench press benefits, some of which may surprise you.
#1. Builds the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
This is one of the most obvious bench press benefits. It is no secret that increasing your bench press can build a significant amount of muscle. In particular, as you get better at bench pressing, your chest and anterior deltoids will increase in size.
#2. Increases natural testosterone production.
This is one of the most unusual bench press benefits. It turns out that moving a very heavy weight (90%+ of your 1 rep max) for a low rep set increases the body’s natural production of testosterone. On the bench press, lifters can lift as much or more weight than on any other upper body exercise. As a result, the bench press (along with heavy leg training) is one of the best ways to improve the body’s natural testosterone production.
#3. Improves shoulder stability and “functional” strength
While machines can also be used to build a big chest and shoulders, one of the benefits exclusive to free weights is that unlike machines, free weights challenge shoulder stability. As a result, the bench press not only trains the chest but also trains the musculature surrounding the glenohumeral (shoulder) joint.
Note that this is not that important to the average gym rat who is trying to build some muscle. However, this shoulder stability will carry over to athletes, such as a football player who is blocking and using similar muscles to the bench press.
In short, while I think the term is grossly overused, one of the many bench press benefits is that benching builds functional strength with good carryover to real life activities that involve pushing.
Note: One of the criticisms of the functionality of the bench press is that at no point in an athlete’s career will he be lying down on his back and pressing. In other words, benching is not specific to any particular sports movement.
In defense of the bench press, the idea that any general strength training exercise results directly in huge improvements in sports performance is a ridiculous notion.
Building size and muscle mass helps, but it still takes an athlete some time before his brain realizes how to use these gains by actually getting out on the field or court. This is why professional teams have preseason training.
Simply playing the game will teach the athlete’s brain how to best use newly achieved size and muscle, and the bench press is one of the best exercises for upper body size and strength.
#4. Improves wrist bone density.
This is probably the most overlooked of all the bench press benefits. The bench press places a load on the wrist which results in an increase in bone density. As a result, not only is the bench press great for athletes, bodybuilders, and pursuers of strength, but it is also great women interested in general health.
The wrist is one of the three areas (hip and spine are the other two) most likely to be fractured when someone with osteoporosis or low bone density falls. Bench pressing can increase bone density at the wrist and make the wrist less likely to break due to a fall.
#5. Contributes to an impressive set of spinal erectors.
Holding even a modest arch when benching heavy requires an intense isometric contraction of the spinal erectors, particularly around the thoracic (mid) spine. As a result, one of the great benefits is an impressive and powerful set of spinal erectors. Well-developed erectors look great and take some time and hard work to build.