Muscles Used During the Concentric Phase of a Bench Press
The bench press has two phases: eccentric and concentric. The first phase, as you lower weight toward your chest, is called the eccentric, or muscle-lengthening motion. The second phase, as you raise the weight back up, is called the concentric, or muscle-shortening phase. It is during the concentric phase that you can feel your chest getting tight. Learning which muscles are used during the concentric phase of the bench press is beneficial for focusing your mind on the correct area and therefore improving your exercise technique.
The primary concentric mover of the bench press is the pectoralis major, which you may better know as the chest. Depending on which version of the bench press you are doing, you will be recruiting a specific part of the muscle group. The regular bench press on a flat surface mainly works your middle pecs. The incline and decline versions mainly work your upper and lower pecs, respectively.
Anterior Deltoid and Coracobrachialis
Assisting the larger pectoralis major muscles are the anterior deltoid and coracobrachialis of the shoulder. The anterior deltoid, which you may know as the front shoulder, is considered a secondary concentric mover. The coracobrachialis, a small muscle that runs below the anterior deltoid, acts as a tertiary concentric mover. This means that it is involved less than the anterior deltoid.
Triceps and Anconeus
Another set of assisting movers during the bench press are the triceps and anconeus. These muscles extend your elbow during the concentric phase of the movement. The larger, three-headed triceps acts as the primary elbow extensor, but as a secondary mover during the bench press. The smaller anconeus muscle, located at the back of the elbow, acts as the secondary elbow extensor and as a tertiary mover during the bench press.
Adding the bench press to your workout routine will help you build all of the aforementioned muscles, allowing you to increase the mass and strength of your torso. Since the bench press is a compound, or multi-joint exercise, you will be able to lift a heavy workload. Also, you should not hesitate to go heavy as long as you use the best possible range of motion and exercise form. Never bounce weights off your chest, but rather focus on moving the resistance in a slow and controlled manner, two seconds down and two seconds up. Also, focus on squeezing your muscles during the concentric phase to force more blood, and thus nutrients, to your target muscles. When doing the bench press, complete three to five sets of 10 to 12 reps. Work until muscle failure for optimal muscle-building and -strengthening benefits.
Richard Choueiri is a fitness and nutrition expert and the author of "The Human Statue Workout." He began writing professionally in 2007 and his work has been featured in Bodybuilding.com and "Physique Magazine." Choueiri studied exercise science and nutritional science at Rutgers University. He holds an American College of Sports Medicine CPT, and a National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association CMMACC.