Do you bench a lot?
Here are four reasons you need to alter your workout to do all you can to avoid the bench:
Reason #1: The Bench is an excellent test of your ability to push a bar off your chest while resting on a bench. Thats about it.
It is NOT a good indicator of your ability to perform in an athletic event (other than bench press contests, I guess). It is NOT a good indicator of how many push-ups you can do. Many athletes have been amazing without good bench press strength (see this article on Kevin Durant – he is one of the next NBA draft picks.)
It is NOT real world in any way shape or form (unless you happen to wake up with a bar wrapped across your chest every morning.)
Reason #2: The bench in bench press immobilizes your shoulder blades and can make you more susceptible to shoulder issues as a result.
Think about where your shoulderblades go when you lie down on a bench. Think about how freely they move in any other standing exercise. The difference between you standing vs you lying down with the blades pinned is staggering and is one of the main reasons people experience such shoulder issues as a result of this primitive exercise.
If you want a workable solution try dumbbell presses on a fitball. That works great for keeping the shoulderblades fluidly moving. It also requires other muscles to play in with the exercise.
Reason #3: You already have an overdeveloped chest.
Think about every time you get up off the ground. Every time you try to move furniture. Gravity is such that we use our chest much more than we use our backs. It is also the easiest thing to see in the mirror, so we naturally work it to make it more prominent.
Our poor back and rhomboids on the other hand get left behind more often than not. If our shoulders are pushed forward that can irritate the capsule which can lead to reduced force production.
Reason #4: Death
Every year a few people die doing this non-functional exercise, when they would receive so many more benefits from doing a dumbbell press or 1-arm flyes instead. If just one person dies because of this exercise, that means there are many more out there that have been injured through improper (or absent) spotting.
More often than not this exercise is safe. However, every now and then, this happens:
Although I cannot deny that if you want to work a muscle group the chest press is an excellent exercise, the potential for injury (usually coming in the form of a more sneaky rotator cuff or elbow issue that starts as a twinge and grows into a bona fide problem) far exceeds the potential gains when we examine the close relatives of this exercise:
Alternatives to the bench press that significantly reduce the risk of shoulder injury and simultaneously activate the core:
Barbell/Dumbbell Press on Fitball
Chest fly on fitball
Push-ups with different hand positions
Of course, if you tell your friends about this they will likely want to keep doing bench press.
It’s human nature to keep doing what is easy rather than what gets us where we want to be.
Know that this article is not about to convince your friends to do the more functional and practical alternatives listed above. Just don’t let them come crying to you when they start to experience back/shoulder/neck/elbow/wrist pain or postural imbalances from doing such a non-functional exercise.
In short, the bench press is an easy exercise to teach and do. That doesn’t make it the best, and it doesn’t mean there aren’t a dozen other exercises out there that will provide better gains for the energy and effort expended.
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