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The bench-press exercise strengthens the upper body.
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"How much can you bench?" is a question that is heard at many fitness centers. For many athletes, the bench press is the standard measure for strength. It is an upper-body strengthening exercise. Most everyone can perform it since you can lie face up and use free weights or sit upright and use a bench-press machine.
The bench press is typically performed on a flat bench using a barbell or a pair of dumbbells. You start by lying face up and holding onto the resistance with your hands at chest level and your elbows bent at your sides. To execute the press, straighten your arms. Your arms, chest and shoulders work together to support and lift the resistance. The same is true if you sit upright and press the weight away from you on a bench-press machine.
The bench press is a chest-strengthening movement. The pectoral muscles are located on both sides of your chest. They extend from your collar bone and the top of your arm, down your breast bone to your sixth ribs. As you press the weight away from you, the pectorals contract. Also involved in this movement are your anterior deltoids. These muscles are on the front of your shoulders and contract as you raise the weight.
You could not do bench presses without the help of your arms. The muscles along the backs of your upper arms, the triceps, contract when you straighten your arms. If you position your elbows close to your body during the bench, your triceps move a higher percentage of the resistance. The muscles on the fronts of your upper arms, the biceps, are also involved during the bench. The biceps do not contract and relax during the press. Instead, they remain in a slightly contracted state throughout the movement to stabilize your arms during the press.
When you use a resistance amount that causes muscular fatigue during the bench press, the pectorals, deltoids and triceps are damaged. This damage is repaired and strength gains are made. The muscles require a minimum of 48 hours to repair the damage so that you ultimately will be able to lift the maximum amount of weight for your desired number of repetitions. Since the bench is a multi-joint, multi-muscular exercise, it is best used at the beginning of a training session when you are the strongest.