Strength training has become an integral part of fitness routines for countless individuals worldwide. Among the various exercises in a weightlifter’s repertoire, the bench press holds a special place.

It is an exercise that targets the upper body, primarily the chest, shoulders, and triceps. But have you ever wondered when the bench press was invented and how it evolved into the popular exercise we know today?

Let’s embark on a journey through strength training history to uncover the origins of the bench press.

The Beginnings of Strength Training

To understand the birth of the bench press, we must first delve into the roots of strength training itself. Ancient civilizations like Egypt and Greece recognized the benefits of physical fitness and developed training techniques to enhance their warriors’ performance.

These early training methods included pushing, pulling, and lifting heavy objects, laying the groundwork for strength exercises we know today.

The Emergence of Weightlifting as a Sport:

Fast forward to the late 19th century, when the concept of strength training began to take shape as a competitive sport.

Weightlifting competitions started to gain popularity in Europe, and various lifts were developed to test athletes’ strength and power. However, the bench press as we know it was yet to make its debut.

Enter Eugen Sandow and the Birth of the Bench Press:

In the late 19th century, Eugen Sandow, a renowned strongman and a pioneer in modern bodybuilding, played a significant role in the development of the bench press.

Sandow was known for his impressive physique and showmanship, and he introduced many new exercises to the world of strength training

It is believed that Sandow first introduced the bench press as part of his physical training routine in the late 1800s.

However, the exercise was not performed in the same manner as we see it today. Instead of lying flat on a bench, Sandow would lay on the floor and press a barbell upwards with both hands.

This movement resembled more of a floor press rather than the conventional bench press.

Evolution and Standardization of the Bench Press

The bench press underwent further evolution and refinement in the early 20th century. As weightlifting continued to gain popularity, athletes and fitness enthusiasts sought new ways to develop their upper body strength.

Around the 1920s, the flat bench press, as we know it today, started to take shape. Athletes began using specialized weightlifting benches with a sturdy framework and an adjustable backrest.

This modification allowed lifters to achieve a greater range of motion and target specific muscle groups effectively.

In 1928, the bench press became an official part of weightlifting competitions when it was included in the program of the Olympic Games held in Amsterdam.

This marked a significant milestone for the exercise, solidifying its status as a staple in strength training and competitive sports.

Popularity and Modernization

Over the decades, the bench press gained widespread popularity, not only among weightlifters and bodybuilders but also in general fitness circles.

Its effectiveness in developing upper body strength and aesthetics propelled it to become one of the most recognizable and widely practiced exercises.

With the advancement of exercise science and the emergence of strength training as a mainstream fitness activity, variations of the bench press were developed.

Incline and decline bench presses were introduced, allowing individuals to target specific muscle groups more precisely.
Furthermore, the bench press also found its place in powerlifting competitions.

Powerlifters focus on maximal strength and use the bench press as one of the three core lifts, alongside the squat and deadlift.


The bench press is a strength training staple despite its evolution.

The bench press has come a long way from Eugen Sandow to the Olympics and broad appeal today.

Bench pressing can enhance your strength whether you’re a professional athlete, fitness enthusiast, or just someone looking to get stronger.

Prevent injuries and optimize this exercise’s advantages by prioritizing good form and technique.

It’s intriguing to look back at the bench press’s roots as fitness and strength training evolve.

Understanding the historical background and evolution of these workouts deepens our enjoyment and illuminates the brilliance and passion of individuals who pioneered modern fitness.

Next time you sit on a weightlifting bench, consider the bench press’s history.

The bench press has made its impact on strength training since Eugen Sandow invented it.

Challenge yourself and gain strength and confidence with this classic exercise. The bench press represents human potential and the pursuit of physical excellence.

So grab that barbell, sit on the bench, and press on, knowing you’re part of a decades-long legacy. The bench press will inspire generations of strength-seekers.

Embrace history, challenge, and bench press power. Remember that while you exceed your limits, you’re honoring this classic exercise’s history.

Happy lifting!



Shakir Hasan is a fully qualified personal trainer and award winning writer, with a decade’s worth of experience under his belt. He has helped hundreds of people to meet their dietary and fitness goals, writing exercise and nutrition plans to suit any and every requirement. Shakir founded ThisIsWhyIamFit as a way to share his vast knowledge of exercises, diets, and general fitness advice.

Write A Comment