Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Hype About The Bench Press

Anyone who's ever been to the gym has heard this question: "How much can you bench bro?"

People have the idea that going to the gym is all about bench pressing. They even design their work outs around the bench and the ab crunch. A lot of women don't want to lift weights because they think weight lifting just means bench pressing and they don't want to make their chest muscular. A lot of people think strength is all in the chest. I can go on and on about the hype and misunderstandings of this exercise. Let me do some corrections here.

The bench press is not that important! I rarely have my clients do it and I almost never do it myself. WHAT???

First of all training, weight lifting, is not about the bench press. Well it shouldn't be. True power and athleticism comes mostly from the hips, the core, and the legs. You look at any sport and where is the drive coming from? Their legs. When a football player tackles all his power comes from the legs, the arms more direct the force. Same with basketball, the jump comes from the legs. Anyone who throws anything, the power comes from the hips and core to generate that torque. The arms just directs that force and most of that is done by the shoulders not the chest. Why do you think people blow out their shoulders or legs in sports? When do you ever hear someone blow out their pectoral muscle? Rare. Because it's almost non-consequential in most athletic endeavors.  The back and shoulders are more important most of the time.

You ever see any strong animals in the wild with a big chest like humans like to create? If anyone thinks true strength is measured in how much they can bench is sadly mistaken. The squat and dead lift are much more accurate measures because those are exercises where you lift something straight up with the weight loaded onto your whole body. Look at football players, they have tree trunk legs. Now bench press isn't totally useless. We need to be able to push, pull, squat, lunge. But a lot of out ability to push something comes from our roots. What do we plant on the ground to push? Our legs right? We want to be multifunctional and we want the movements to be dynamic and realistic. Do we want to look like a meathead or do we want to look athletic? Do we want to just be big or do we want to be as lean and as strong as possible?

Why do a lot of so called gym experts, gym rats and guys who think they know a thing or two about lifting, and a lot of personal trainers have it all wrong? Because they are not scientific. Their ideas are not based in any science and not at all based on physics which is the key to any lift and the most important part of sports science or anything that evens movement, moving parts, and kinetic energy. To state simply, if I was an architect and was designing a building that was supposed to carry heavy load, would I want to focus on the foundation of the building or would I want to focus near the top of the building and make that as big and as wide as possible? I would know nothing about structure, design, and physics if I chose the latter. A lot of times guys get in good shape on accident. And a lot of times experts are gain their clout from personality and charisma more than science. When was charisma ever a big part of real science? You expect them to be stuffy and know what they are talking about.

So guys if all you do is bench press, it's time to modify your work outs and focus on the key strength areas. And ladies weight training is not all about the bench press and getting a muscular chest.

Now don't get me ever started on how often I see people do bicep curls... I see trainers all the time. A girl walks in and wants to lose weight and tone up and the trainer has her doing a million bicep curls...geez. Will she be happy that months of training and not only is she the same size as before but her arm measurements are now bigger?

Most overused exercises are the bench press, the crunch, and the bicep curl. Do not do this typical work out: treadmill, crunches, bench, and bicep curls.


About the Author:

Sam Y. is a Personal Trainer, Coach, Performane Enhancement Specialist, Corrective Enhancement Specialist, and holds multiple certifications. He is also an avid Martial Artist, training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Kickboxing, Boxing, and MMA. He is also the author of the popular fitness blog All Out Effort as well as the popular martial arts blog Inner BJJ. You can find him in the Los Angeles area personal training his clients, or at home annoying his wife, or on Facebook at his personal fitness page.
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