Will Bench Press Alone Build Chest?

bench press
August 5, 2022 0 Comments


In this article I will be answering the question “will bench press alone build chest?”. This is a loaded question but one that is very important to unpack.

Many lifters want to develop thick and muscular chests – the bench press is one of the best exercises for acquiring this, but is it the best?

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Will Bench Press Alone Build Chest?

Yes, it is in fact possible to build a thick and well developed chest from just bench pressing. However, it is not optimal.

For optimal development it is best to hit the chest from different angles with a few exercises. A few variations of bench pressing and the chest press machine would be best to maximise chest hypertrophy.

You can also do more advanced movements such as weighted parallel bar dips to maximise chest thickness. 

Flat And Incline Benching Is Powerful

Flat and incline bench pressing will be responsible for the majority of your chest development. These are fantastic foundation movements that will build a great chest. 

The incline variation will target the upper pecs to a greater degree, flat bench will fill out all the rest. 

Personally I don’t think that decline bench pressing is necessary. It is better to spend the time working on the flat and incline variations and building them up over time through progressive overload.

Grip Width Is Critical 

It is very important to note that the grip width you employ on your bench presses will play a large role into how developed your chest becomes.

By benching with a wide grip you are bringing your pecs into the movement a lot more than if you use a close grip. The close grip variant targets the triceps to a far higher degree. 

If your primary objective is to maximise chest development, you would be better served using a medium to wider grip style of benching. 

The video below gives a good outline of the grip width you should choose based on which muscles you want to bring into the movement the most. 

Push Ups Are Highly Effective

Personally I believe that push ups are one of the best exercises that you can do to develop a very muscular chest. 

Any time you are moving your own body through space you are using a lot more stabiliser muscles and can build muscle very effectively. 

I believe that you should find a space for push ups in your routine to complement your benching. You can load push ups by using resistance bands. This is exactly what I do in my training. 

>> See which resistance bands I use in my training 

Dumbbells To Maximise Development

The flat barbell bench by itself can only do so much for building a massive chest. Dumbbells are an incredible tool that all bodybuilders should use to maximise chest development.

By performing flat dumbbell benches occasionally and incline dumbbell bench you will get significant muscle growth in the pecs. 

Dumbbells are a lot harder to stabilise than barbells, therefore they will really force your muscles to work hard to stabilise the weight throughout the range of motion. You can also go deeper as well on the eccentric portion of the exercise. 
dumbbell bench

Hammer Strength Chest Press

In my view a hammer strength chest press can isolate the pecs even better than the bench press. Therefore, for optimal chest hypertrophy you should incorporate this exercise every now and then.

The tension is placed on the pectorals to a greater degree with the chest press. This is why many bodybuilders love this exercise and perform it regularly in their chest routine.

It has been found that bench pressing variations allows greater triceps brachii and lateral deltoid excitation compared to the chest press [1]. 

The chest press is fantastic for really isolating the pectorals and achieving great muscular contractions. 

hammer strength chest press

Weighted Parallel Bar Dips

Weighted parallel bar dips is an advanced exercise. It is not suited to everyone due to individual anthropometry. Therefore you should start this exercise with bodyweight to see if you can execute it without any pain.

If the movement does not feel natural for you then discontinue it. Much like weighted push ups, weighted bar dips while leaning forward will stimulate the chest significantly. 

You will feel a deep stretch in the pecs on the way down and a powerful muscular contraction on the way up. This exercise will also carryover well to your bench press. By being able to get stronger on the bench you will increase the workload on the pecs indirectly. 

In my training I utilise this exercise very sparingly. I believe it is best to simplify things as much as possible. In this article I am giving you all the information you need so that you can pick and choose the exercises you do to get the best possible chest development. 

Eric Spoto, who is a very strong bench presser and arm wrestler, swears by weighted dips. They will add serious meat to your pecs and triceps. This exercise is intended to be used to complement bench pressing. 

Final Thoughts

In this article I have answered the question “will bench press alone build chest?“. The answer is that flat and incline benching will go most of the way to building a great chest. 

However it is not the optimal way. For the best possible chest development it is advisable to include a hammer strength chest press, push ups and weighted dips.

You don’t have to do all of these exercises – but at least one would suffice in addition to benching from different angles. 

If you want to you can also incorporate a dumbbell flye or pec deck movement – but this is not really necessary in my view. You can get similar benefits from just doing chest flyes with resistance bands on off days. 

If you have any questions about anything I have discussed in this article please leave me a comment below. I love interacting with my readers and finding out more about the way you are training. 

As always stay safe and enjoy your training!


[1] Saeterbakken, A. H.Mo, D. A.Scott, S., & Andersen, V. (2017). The effects of bench press variations in competitive athletes on muscle activity and performanceJournal of Human Kinetics 

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