Should You Work Out Your Arms After You Bench Press?

High angle view of a young man exercising in a gym

The primary muscles used in your bench press workouts are the pectorals (chest) and triceps (back of the upper arm). Bench presses and similar lifts, such as incline or decline presses, call on the pectorals and triceps to work in unison, driving the weight upward from your chest. Because the pectorals are stronger and call on the triceps during presses, it’s important to work the press lifts first and isolate the arms after.

Compound Lifts vs. Isolation Lifts

The bench press is a compound lift, meaning it uses multiple muscle groups and multiple joints. Incline, decline and flat bench presses use the muscles of the chest, arms and shoulders to extend the elbow and shoulder joints. In contrast, isolation lifts focus on a single muscle and joint group. Dumbbell flyes, for example, emphasize lifting form to isolate the pectorals by keeping the elbows extended and limiting the arms’ role in the lift.

Why Bench Press First?

Since compound lifts use multiple muscle and joint groups, they require more exertion and more coordination to control the weight being lifted. Your energy and coordination both drop due to fatigue while you lift weights. This fatigue has a greater impact on the heavier, more complex compound lifts than on the lighter, form-intensive isolation lifts. Consequently, it’s important for beginners and intermediate weight lifters to bench first and isolate the triceps second.

Why Isolate the Triceps?

Advanced weight lifters learn a lot about what works best for their training, and some might choose to work their arms before they bench or to not isolate their triceps at all. However, for most people, isolating triceps is a good way to work your arms more than by bench presses alone. Over time, the additional work can bring additional gains. Working arms after your bench press workout can help improve your long-term results on the bench press.

Lifts for Isolating Triceps After Bench Press

Those who choose to work their arms after the bench press have many workout options for isolating the triceps. Among the most common exercises serving this purpose are the various forms of triceps pushdowns. These can be done with straight bars, angled bars or a thick rope handle. If you’re seeking a variety of exercises or want to step up to intermediate weight lifting by adding multiple triceps lifts, there are plenty of options. Try narrow-grip bench presses and body-weight resistance exercises such as dips and close-grip pushups. Explore further and create the workout that’s most effective for you.