The bench press and overhead press are two pushing exercises that can be executed with dumbbells or a barbell, but that's where the similarities end. They each have their benefits and work your body in different angles. The bench press targets more muscle groups than the overhead press -- which makes it a more time-effective workout -- and the overhead press is a more applicable exercise in terms of real-life translation, reports the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Other than that, you should examine their joint actions and prime movers to understand what benefits you will obtain from performing either lift.
Muscles Worked for Bench Press
The National Strength and Conditioning Association reports that the bench press will target your pectoralis major muscles, your tricep muscles, your coracobrachialis muscles and your anterior deltoid muscles as the prime movers. Your serratus anterior muscles -- the saw-like muscles underneath your armpits -- will also be worked if you fully extend your arms on each rep.
Joint Actions and Real-Life Application for Bench Press
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the bench press strengthens your shoulder girdle protraction, elbow extension and horizontal shoulder flexion. This will help you be able to push objects away from your body using your large upper body muscles, and will functionally train your body to push a force vertically away from gravity.
Muscles Worked for Overhead Press
The overhead press will target your anterior deltoids, posterior deltoids and triceps as the prime movers, notes the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Your serratus anterior, levator scauplae and trapezius muscles also act as secondary movers. Then your abs and lower back muscles will be exercised statically if you perform the overhead press standing or with no back support.
Joint Actions and Real-Life Application for Overhead Press
The American College of Sports Medicine states that the overhead press strengthens the joint actions of shoulder abduction, elbow extension, shoulder girdle elevation and external rotation of the shoulder. This exercise relates to many functional activities in daily life, and -- depending whether you choose to stand or eliminate the back support -- can train your core stabilizers as well.
- Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning; Thomas R. Baechle, Roger W. Earle
- ACSM's Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription: Eighth Edition"; American College of Sports Medicine