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The Bench Press…Overrated?

The Bench Press…Overrated?

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. 

By the way this demonstrates some tremendous strength and stability tactics!

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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??? 

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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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I'm a Certified Strength And Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and author. I have had over 17 years experience in MMA fitness, strength and conditoning, and athletic performance for most every sport. As an author and specialist I've written close to a million words on fitness and strength. I'm also a Muay Thai practictioner and enjoy helping others to reach their peak potential through fitness and performance.

This Post Has 11 Comments
  1. The primary concern I have with the BP is that of real world application. Where in real world do you find yourself prone, face up on a supporting surface, and your elbows are free to travel to the rear breaking the plane described by the surface of the back?

  2. Very good point Doc! I believe the bench press is best suited for creating mass upper body strength, but it stops right about there. There is not a whole lot of translation into any other aspect of human function because of the limitations of the movement itself. I think the purpose for that strength is solid, but there are other ways to obtain in addition to the bench press.

  3. Sure, the BP is a good way to pack some mass onto the pecs and most guys like a little something there … nothing “wrong” with that. Once that goal is achieved it’s time to move on and for me that translates to functionality. If I can’t use it, I probably don’t want to be carrying it around … which might just be an Old Man thing.

  4. Brandon if you only want to do kettlebell swings for your cardio. I have read about ladders and countdowns and things like doing 10 reps rest 60 seconds and keep doing this. Do you have any more of these kind of workouts any where that I can look at?

  5. Rick I include mapped out programs with both kettle bell technique and designed workouts in my ebooks Brandon Richey’s Better Than Steroids and in the Kettlebell Power And Speed Formula.

    As far as the countdown workouts you can structure those a number of different ways. You can follow a line of 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 applied to doing kb swings and push ups alternating between the two exercises in a superset if you are looking for a tremendous metabolic/cardiovascular conditioning workout.

    In addition to this you can keep your exercise selection with the kettle bell simple and perform the likes of presses, swings, snatches, and squats in the form of a circuit only doing 5 reps per lift with a moderately heavy bell. Once again another great metabolic/cardiovascular conditioning workout with kb’s.

    I expand on kettlebell workouts in further detail in both my ebooks, particularly the Kettlebell Power And Speed Formula, along with other tremendous exercises to perform to enhance your kettle bell and other dynamic lifts. Hope this was helpful.

    1. Rick you can order the Kettlebell Power And Speed Formula by clicking on the banner or link right above here in the next to last paragraph of the article above the comment section. It will take you right to the page where you can read all about what’s all in the product. Thanks again for comments and questions. 🙂

  6. Brandon according to you kettlebell swings not only work your whole body, they put your heart in great shape, strengthen all the posterior parts of your body, burn all the fat, give you six pack of abs and on top of all these things it lowers cholesterol, blood pressure, insulin, triglycerides and all the bad things in your body that you want to get rid of. Otherwords it cleans out your arteries of plaque at any age? Is all this true my friend? I have been reading your articles about this plus the swings are kicking my butt in a good way. Let me know and thanks for your help.

  7. Brandon, you are SOOOO right on with this article! The bench press is WAY over rated, but it’s what most gravitate to in the weight room….myself include back in the day. There’s no point in me elaborating here because you hit everyone right on! Great article my friend!

    1. Andrew I appreciate your feedback! Yes, I believe that many folks just tend to overemphasize the use of the bench press while neglecting other key components of their physical needs. The key to developing a well rounded body is by developing one that is as close to symmetrical as possible. Squats and deadlifts are important too. Hopefully I was able to communicate that in the article. Thanks again bro!

  8. Rick, you are definitely pointing out a lot of different things. The health benefits of exercise are vast, but to be specific many of these such as the lowering of cholesterol, bp, triglycerides may vary from person to person.

    Can kettle bells help with this, well sure, but it also depends on the individual, their genetics, and what kind of lifestyle they lead for themselves. The same goes for getting that much wanted “6 pack set of abs.” Moderate to vigorous exercise does offer a great bunch of benefits to all of us, but the level which it benefits us may vary from person to person.

    The bottom line though is that it’s a good idea for all of us to invest in our bodies, because the alternative is sickness, immobility, and diminishing health. Thanks again for your question Rick!

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