Stabilizing Muscles for the Bench Press

Man bench pressing

Part of any effective strength training routine is the bench press. This exercise isolates the entire pectoral muscle group, and when done properly can fully fatigue these muscles. As with many exercise movements, especially those done with free weights or barbells, the bench press exercise calls upon several stabilizer muscles. Stabilizer muscles are designed to help maintain a particular posture or to keep a joint in place. Muscles that assist another muscle to complete a movement are known as synergist muscles.

Short Head Biceps Brachii

The short head biceps brachii is located along the inner portion of the bicep muscle. Biceps have two “heads,” which include the long head, located on the outer side of the bicep, and the inner head. Within every bench press movement, which includes the standard supine barbell/dumbbell movement, incline and decline movement, the short head biceps brachii provides stabilization support. According to, this muscle group is classified as a dynamic stabilizer in all bench press variations. Dynamic stabilizer muscles are biarticulate muscles capable of shortening at a target joint and elongating at the neighboring joint. The primary purpose of a dynamic stabilizer muscle is to counter force during a movement.

Anterior Deltoids

Anterior deltoids are located on the front of the shoulders. These muscles connect from the clavicle muscle to the lateral humerous muscle. In bench press movements, these muscles primarily act as synergists, or stabilizers. Outside of stabilizing during a bench press, anterior deltoids allow the arms to rise laterally away from the body, moving the upper arm away from the torso in a rising motion.

Triceps Brachii

The triceps brachii muscle is located underneath the armpit and extends to the elbow joint. This muscle is responsible for supporting the extension of the elbow and shoulder while also providing support for shoulder abduction, or the vertical lateral movement of the upper arm. During all bench press variations, the triceps brachii help stabilize the weight and provide support during lifting and lower actions.

Clavicular Pectoralis Major

During the standard supine and decline bench press movements, the clavicular pectoralis major muscle group acts as a synergist. This muscle group is located along the top portion of the chest muscle, which extends from the center of the clavicle and attaches at the top of the humerus arm bone. It’s only during the incline bench press that this muscle converts from a stabilizing muscle to a target muscle.