It is perhaps the popularity of this lift that has made it uncool. Maybe it’s the fact that almost no one has anywhere close to good form.
Or perhaps coaches and “functional trainers” started giving it bad press because so many lifters seemed to bench at the expense of just about everything else. But these vanity lifters are not my concern.
My concern here is to give the Bench Press a fair trial.
The most common argument against the bench is this:
“There isn’t a real life situation where you’ll find yourself lying on your back pushing a weight off your chest”
Ok, I admit, there is some weight in that, most people wouldn’t find themselves in that scenario. Then there’s the “You don’t want saggy breast like pecs” argument, and that’s just plain silly. and it’s silly because even the most “functional” personal trainer ought to know, we must train a horizontal pushing movement at some point in our training if we are to maintain balance.
“Oh, yeah, like for sure man!” Functional guy replies, “We do push ups” Ah, so in a real life situation, when would you be lying face down on the floor and have to lift yourself up only with the arms while maintaining a perfectly straight body? Doesn’t the push up use the same prime movers as the bench press and so results in saggy breasts?
Push ups are an incredible exercise that everyone should be performing. But eventually you will run out of bodyweight to lift, our kickboxers regularly bang out 3 sets of 50 push ups in a warm up, that’s not exactly in the power portion of the strength curve. So how do we add load? Yes we can use bands, weighted backpacks even a training partner, or we can flip over and use a bar.
You see the problem lies with the direction that gravity chooses to do its work.
Gravity works vertically. So to train a horizontal movement pattern we must alter our body position accordingly, this means lying down either on our front (push up) or our back (bench press). You could also try standing horizontal presses using the cable stack (very popular in a gym I worked at a while ago) but you’ll struggle to maintain your upright posture as the weight pulls you back into the machine.
So in order to train my body in a balanced manner, I need a horizontal pressing lift that engages a huge amount of my body, not just the pecs. The powerlifting style of bench press sounds just the ticket to me.
Now, I’m no powerlifter, but I know a few so I’m going to refer you on here for some tips on proper technique and getting the most out of your press. If you’re a fan of strenth, you may have heard of Dave Tate a world class powerlifter, well, if you click this link it’ll take you to a series he produced for his EliteFTS website. This is how you bench.