So the topic of today’s discussion is going to involve the good ole bench press. So what can I say about the bench press other than the fact that it is probably the most misused and abused exercise involving the upper body and free weights since the invention of strength training, period.
Often trainees that don’t understand the proper technique involved with the bench press practice with terrible habits and even worse form for long periods of time until one day something stupid happens to get their attention. The point I’m making is why wait for that day to come because I’m going investigate this exercise right here for your knowledge obtaining convenience. Read on my young Jedi!
Core Stability=Bar Stability
Some important things to point out about the bench press exercise is that it is all about stabilizing the bar, having a good spotter, making sure the weights are secure, and executing with good technique. As far as your technique is concerned you should always start by making sure that you are falling in line with the 5 points of contact when getting into benching position. The 5 points involve the following:
1. Your head touching the bench
2. Your scapulae (upper back) on the bench
3. Your butt on the bench
4 &5. Each foot on the floor on each side of the bench.
Pretty simple right? Well, with everything mentioned see if you can spot how many of these rules this bencher violated:
Yeah, I believe I counted 4 violations. He didn’t have the best spotter, the weights were not secure, his butt was so far off the bench he would’ve been better off doing a hip thrust, and there was obviously no stabilizing the bar. There might have been a 5th violation, but I couldn’t see his head from this particular camera angle so who knows?
Anyways, the point is that over the years I’ve witnessed youngsters like this one (fortunately never under my watch) more concerned about how much weight they can improperly try to lift on the bench press rather than executing any actual quality bench press. Aside from bad technique most people usually lack some core strength/stability to be attempting the bench press, at least early on, in the first place. If this is the case then with those people I say just stop lifting those free weights…
You see the bench press is an open kinetic chain exercise performed with a free weight. Therefore it is up to the lifter to create stability where there is instability.
This is a great way to create stability (for instance with the bar), however as a strength coach I feel that it is also important to have some baseline of core stability before an exercise like the barbell bench (or dumbbell bench for that matter) is introduced to any young novice. In other words, with the BRF school of training you have to earn the right to bench press.
So what the hell is an open kinetic chain BR? Well an Open Kinetic Chain exercise is one in which the force applied by the body is great enough to overcome the resistance. In other words, the limb being exercised is not in any contact with the surface like the barbell bench press in this example. Simply put it’s just being held up in the air by your arms. You can overcome the resistance of the barbell by applying enough force.
Now after seeing the bench press being misused and abused so commonly it’s not that I think the bench is necessarily overrated across the board, but to me its misuse is too pervasive throughout the fitness universe in my opinion.
I just get frustrated that people get hung up on this particular exercise while not even being able to properly execute it. Maybe it stems from the old high school football days of coaches just wanting us to bench the hell out of the weight room even though this lift by itself hardly applies to the overall demands of football athleticism?
Maybe it’s because a bunch of us are all infected by some sort of bench pressing virus and folks just can’t walk into the gym without giving it a shot, regardless of how awful their lifting technique may actually be. Who knows???
In any case I’m just simply trying to point out that maybe there is just too much emphasis put on this particular exercise for a lot of folks for the wrong reasons. The execution of the bench press, or any other exercise for that matter, should be an attempt at a quality lift regardless of how much weight is on the bar. The bottom line is that if it’s going to be done then people should be doing it correctly, period!
Strength comes in all forms my friend. If you are interested in learning more about what you can do to improve your personal level of strength and fitness in ways that go beyond just bench pressing then you need to check out my interactive ebook Brandon Richey’s Unconventional Conventional Method Of Strength!
Please don’t hesitate to leave your own questions and comments in the comment section below my friend. Remember that most anyone can train hard, but only the best train smart. Start your smart training today if you haven’t already.
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