Does Bench Press Work Biceps? (Not Enough To Grow)

March 15, 2023

The biggest bench pressers also tend to have huge biceps. But has the years of thrashing the bench press got them these upper arms?

The bench press does not work the biceps significantly to promote muscle growth. While there is some muscle activation, the biceps act as a stabilizer during the bench press, not a prime mover.

Therefore, you can’t use the bench press as a biceps exercise. But to understand why we must understand basic biceps anatomy.

Biceps Anatomy

The biceps brachii consist of two heads:

  • Short head
  • Long head
Biceps Anatomy

Both heads originate at the shoulder and insert on the radius bone in the outer forearm [1]. The primary function of the biceps is to flex the elbow and supinate the forearm. They also help flex the shoulder. The biceps brachii elicit the greatest muscle activation when the forearm is supinated.

But two other muscles are lumped into the biceps group because they perform elbow flexion. The brachialis and brachioradialis. They are targeted with different hand positions.

The brachialis originates on the bottom of the upper arm and inserts on the ulnar bone in the inner forearm. It has the primary function of flexing the elbow [2]. It’s the strongest elbow flexor. Even stronger than the biceps brachii.

A neutral hand position targets the brachialis, so exercises like the hammer curl. The brachioradialis contributes to elbow flexion and pronates and supinates the forearm. The most significant activation occurs when performing curls with a pronated hand position [3]. Exercises like the reverse curl targets this muscle.

Does the bench press movement recruit the biceps?

Does Bench Press Work Biceps?

The bench press does not work the biceps and shouldn’t be used to target the biceps. The bicep’s primary function is elbow flexion. While the elbows flex during the bench press, it’s the triceps contracting eccentrically, controlling the barbell on the descent.

During the concentric action, the triceps shorten and extend the elbow. However, the biceps experience some muscle activation during the bench press [4]. But that doesn’t mean they have adequate tension to stimulate muscle growth.

Can You Get Big Biceps From Bench Press?

You can’t get big biceps from bench pressing. The bench press primarily works the chest, shoulders, and triceps. The biceps stabilize the shoulders and elbows. But they don’t contribute directly to pushing the barbell.

You must emphasize elbow flexion through various biceps curls to get big biceps. Chin-ups are an excellent compound exercise for the biceps you can do at home with minimal equipment.

Why Do I Feel My Biceps When Bench Pressing?

Can You Get Big Biceps From Bench Press

It could be a technical issue if you feel your biceps when bench pressing. If you tuck your elbows and lower the bar close to your face, you may be smushing your biceps under load, causing discomfort.

Another potential issue is the biceps tendon near the shoulder which can flare up if your bar path is off or your shoulder doesn’t function properly.

Do Biceps Help Bench Press?

The biceps help the bench press by stabilizing the shoulders and elbow joints. They don’t help by pushing the bar off your chest or lowering it. Building larger biceps can help with the bench press to improve stability.

Is Bench Press For Biceps Or Chest?

The bench press is for the chest, shoulders, and triceps. Not the biceps. There is no way to modify the bench press to target the biceps. If you want to perform exercises for the biceps, you need to emphasize elbow flexion with various hand positions.

For example, biceps curls (palms up, supinated), hammer curls (palms neutral, semi-pronated), and reverse curls (palms down, pronated). These three exercises will target the four main muscles grouped as part of the biceps, emphasizing elbow flexion.


The bench press doesn’t work the biceps even though they are slightly activated during the movement. They are activated as stabilizer muscles but don’t create enough tension to stimulate muscle growth.


1. Tiwana, M. S., Charlick, M., & Varacallo, M. (2018). Anatomy, shoulder and upper limb, biceps muscle.

2. Plantz, M. A., Bordoni, B. (2022). Anatomy, Shoulder and Upper Limb, Brachialis Muscle.

3. Kleiber, T., Kunz, L., & Disselhorst-Klug, C. (2015). Muscular coordination of biceps brachii and brachioradialis in elbow flexion with respect to hand position. Frontiers in physiology6, 215.

4. Alizadeh, S., Rayner, M., Mahmoud, M. M. I., & Behm, D. G. (2020). Push-ups vs. Bench press differences in repetitions and muscle activation between sexes. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine19(2), 289.

About the Author

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your training.

Want More Great Content?

Check Out These Articles