The bench press exercise activates a large number of muscle groups in the upper-half of your body. Such groups include your pecs, deltoids, your forearm muscles, hand muscles and your abdominals. Add the bench press to your workout to build your strength for push-ups, improve your power for sports performance and build bone density in your upper body. The American College of Sports Medicine encourages older adults to use multi-joint, free-weight exercises as a method of improving bone mass, muscular strength and muscular endurance.
Build Strength for Push-ups
Push-ups require upper-body strength. If you cannot do push-ups on your toes, start with the bench press exercise using a 35-lb. bar. Once you complete two sets of 10 to 12 reps, begin using the 45-lb. barbell, the big bar your typically see on a bench press. Add five pounds once you are able to complete two sets of 10 to 12 reps of the heavier weight. Every four weeks, attempt to do push-ups on your toes. Record your progress.
Power is a measure of fitness for many recreational and competitive athletes. Power is your ability to exert force, or strength, over a given distance as fast as possible. Use the bench press to first increase your upper-body strength. As your strength grows, focus on performing each repetition as quickly as you can. Do six sets of three to six fast repetitions to increase your power.
Improve Bone Density
The American College of Sports Medicine advises that the rate of bone mineral accumulation peaks at puberty while peak bone density is reached in a person's late 20s. Including the bench press as one of your main upper-body exercises causes your bone cells to deposit bone tissue in the bones involved during a bench press: arm, hand, shoulder and chest bones.
Maximize Workout Sessions
When you are short on time, use the bench press as your upper-body exercise. In addition to working your pecs, you are also working your deltoids, your triceps, your hand flexors and your abdominals. Do the bench press when you have no time to do exercises for your smaller, upper-body muscles.
Improve Your Running Efficiency
Running with proper form requires less energy, thereby improving your efficiency while you run, helping you to run faster. Proper upper-body mechanics means you keep your head up, look forward, chest open, shoulder's relaxed and elbows close to 90-degrees. Your chest muscles help effectively swing your arms forward at the shoulders when your elbows are behind you. Strong arm-pumping, or the swinging motion at your shoulders, helps you to run faster and run more effortlessly. The bench press, when you perform multiple sets of 15 to 20 repetitions, conditions your chest muscles to help you run more efficiently.
- American College of Sports Medicine: Exercise and the Older Adult
- American College of Sports Medicine: Physical Activity and Bone Health
- Personal Trainer Manual; American Council on Exercise; 1997
- Essentials of Strength and Conditioning: National Strength and Conditioning Association: 2000