In 2006, while still playing for TSV 1860 München, Bender has won the Fritz-Walter trophy, ahead of then Mönchengladbach's Marko Marin and his twin brother, Sven Bender. On 18 August 2009, Bender signed a three year contract with Bayer Leverkusen. Bender scored his first goal in the Bundesliga against Eintracht Frankfurt. In the 2010–11 season, he was expected to degrade as a fourth choice central midfielder with the arrival of the experienced Germany captain Michael Ballack. However, the season turned out to be a successful one for Bender, consistently playing in good form earning him regular first team status.He plays as a central midfielder.
On 31 October 2013, Bender signed a new contract with Bayer Leverkusen, keeping him at the Werkself until 2019.
Bender was chosen as part of Germany's 23-man squad for Euro 2012. He was a late substitute in Germany's 1–0 win against Portugal in their opening Group B match of the European Championships, a late substitute in Germany's 2–1 win against The Netherlands in their second Group B match, and a starter at right-back in their third Group B match against Denmark, replacing the suspended Jérôme Boateng. In Germany's last group game, he scored the winning goal, making the scoreline 2–1 in Germany's favour. He scored a brace on 29 May 2013 in a friendly against Ecuador in Boca Raton.