The Bench Press: Overused and Outdated?

23 Feb

The Bench Press:

Overused and Outdated?

I’m going to start off saying a bench press is by far one the most poorly executed exercises. As a measure of strength, it’s absolute nonsense! High School boys measure their Max Bench Press on a chart at school. The higher the max, the more macho the man! It’s not a useful exercise unless you know how to apply it properly. Let’s take the conventional bench press and look deeper as to why it may be overused and outdated.

A True Measure of Strength?

The bench press has long been regarded as a measure of strength. Unless you’re laying under a car and trying to push it off of you, it makes no sense to me. Applying strength on a fixed machine is much different than applying strength off machines. Why? You can probably get away with lifting heavier because it requires no activation of your abdominal wall.

I’ve taken big muscular men and put them on a Swiss Ball or Bosu Ball. Is it ever interesting to literally watch them squirm. The kicker is, they aren’t even lifting weight. Simply holding their body weight is difficult. What’s the difference? A ball is not a fixed bench. They have nothing to brace against. You can get away with having poor core strength on a bench. An unstable object reveals the true nature of abdominal weakness.

Mechanics of a Bench Press

Basic Bench Press on Swiss Ball

This is a demonstration using a light bar in order to show the appropriate technique for a bench press on the ball. I see too many do this exercise poorly and want to make sure you don't hurt yourself! I often use this technique with my clients to practice proper execution of the exercise. This is a great exercise for shoulder rehab after a rotator cuff operation.*Please ask before trying any new exercise in the gym*

Posted by All Fit All Ages Gym on Thursday, February 22, 2018

As a trainer working with people who have bad shoulders, the bench press is the LAST exercise I’d prescribe. I’m referring to a bench press on a fixed bench, not a swiss ball. I tend to teach my clients to get really good doing a bench press on the ball. Why? The mechanics of how your body moves during an exercise is important to know. If you don’t know why you’re doing an exercise, why do it?

We all know where our shoulder blades are located. Each shoulder blade is connected to the shoulder joint. It acts as a support for the shoulder when it moves. When you move your arm in any direction, the shoulder blade follows suit to allow proper range of motion. When you’re on your back, on a fixed bench, what happens to the shoulder? Your shoulder blades are not allowed to move therefore leaving the shoulder unsupported. This a good way to really hurt yourself. Especially if you bounce the bar off your chest. Anyone call for a dislocated shoulder?

Doing it Right

A swiss ball poses more of a challenge. Your body is having to combat the balance issue in order to keep from falling over. In simple terms, that means it’s a hell of a lot harder. It engages more of the body and mind. Often what happens is that people wiggle on a ball. This is a very normal response for the body when it’s an unbalanced position. It’s literally trying to right itself. Do you have to worry about that on a fixed bench? Not so much. That bench isn’t moving anywhere so you can get away with lifting more.

Any of you out there who think I’m full of it, I dare you to try a swiss ball. If you’ve never ever done it before then please ask a professional. For the sake of your safety (and your pride) watch my demonstration first. I’ve been using a Swiss Ball for 19 years. Take my word for it, this exercise is harder than it looks. Especially if you’ve NEVER incorporated a ball in to your work out. If you’re going to do an exercise, do it right! Don’t sacrifice your shoulders for the sake of lifting too much.

Here’s to your health!


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