bench press biceps

Do bench presses work biceps ?

The bench press is a fundamental exercise in many strength training programs, touted for its effectiveness in building upper body strength, particularly in the chest, shoulders, and triceps. However, a common question that fitness enthusiasts often have is whether bench presses also work the biceps. This article explores the role of the bench press in bicep activation, variations of the exercise, and how it integrates into achieving comprehensive fitness goals.

What Muscles Does the Bench Press Work?

Primarily, the bench press targets the pectoral muscles in the chest. The major muscle worked is the pectoralis major, which helps in the movement of the shoulder joint. The exercise also heavily involves the anterior deltoids (shoulder muscles) and the triceps brachii, located at the back of the upper arm. These muscle groups are essential for pushing movements and are the primary drivers during a bench press.

The involvement of the biceps brachii, though less significant, is also notable. The biceps act as stabilizers during the press, helping to maintain the position of the upper arm by stabilizing the shoulder girdle.


The Role of Biceps in Bench Presses

The biceps brachii, while not the main focus of the bench press, play a supportive role in the exercise. During the bench press, the biceps work to stabilize the arms, particularly during the eccentric phase (lowering of the weight). This stabilization is crucial for maintaining proper form and ensuring the safety and effectiveness of the exercise.

Exploring Bench Press Variations and Their Impacts on Biceps

  • Flat Bench Press: The traditional flat bench press is performed on a flat bench and targets the middle part of the chest. The grip width can affect muscle activation— a wider grip emphasizes the pectoral muscles, whereas a closer grip can engage the triceps more intensively.
  • Incline Bench Press: Performed on an inclined bench, this variation shifts the focus towards the upper chest and shoulders, also known as the clavicular head of the pectoralis major and the anterior deltoids.
  • Close Grip Bench Press: By reducing the distance between the hands to narrower than shoulder width, this variation places more emphasis on the triceps and the pectoralis major, reducing the involvement of the biceps.
  • Decline Bench Press: Targets the lower part of the chest muscles (pectoralis major) and reduces the role of the deltoids and biceps.

Each variation adjusts the muscle focus slightly, offering opportunities to emphasize different muscle groups based on your fitness goals.

Bench Press and Fitness Goals: Do They Help Build Biceps?

If the primary goal is to enhance bicep size and strength, the bench press may not be the most efficient exercise. While it does involve the biceps, it does so minimally, not enough to induce significant hypertrophy or strength gains comparable to direct bicep exercises. For those looking to specifically enhance their biceps, incorporating isolation exercises like bicep curls, hammer curls, or concentration curls would be more beneficial.

Integrating Bench Press Into Your Fitness Routine

To maximize the benefits of the bench press for overall upper body strength, it should be integrated into a well-rounded fitness routine that includes both compound and isolation exercises. This approach ensures that all muscle groups, including the biceps, receive adequate attention and stimulation.

  • Strength Training: Incorporate the bench press with other compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses to build overall strength.
  • Muscle Hypertrophy: Combine bench press variations with isolation exercises that target the biceps and triceps to enhance muscle size.
  • Endurance Training: Use lighter weights and higher repetitions in your bench press routine to improve muscular endurance across the upper body.


While the bench press is an excellent exercise for developing upper body strength and enhancing the chest and shoulder muscles, its impact on the biceps is limited. For those aiming to develop their biceps specifically, it is advisable to include targeted bicep exercises in their workout regimen. Nonetheless, the bench press remains a staple in strength training for its significant benefits to the pectoral muscles, anterior deltoids, and overall upper body conditioning.