Whoa - What did he say?
What's that Mr. Carlin??? He really doesn't exist?
Yep - that's right. I said it. The bench press is essentially.....useless.
Realizing I just uttered the gym equivalent of saying God doesn't exist in the middle of mass -
Anyways, what I'm trying to say is that if I am going to state something so - crazy, I owe you guys some sort of explanation. It wasn't easy for me to admit this to myself, but after a week of wrestling with it - there was no other answer. So here goes.....
1. I can teach someone to perform a push-up correctly in 2-3 minutes. To teach someone to bench correctly in order to prevent them from completely wrecking their shoulder(s) can take in upwards of 2-3 sessions - if not more. The cost-benefit analysis here is heavily skewed in one direction.
2. Speaking of wrecked shoulders - is there any bigger culprit than the bench press? From the guy at Bally's with the scarecrow technique, to the elite powerlifter - the list of guys who have injured their shoulders on the bench in some way is extensive. Hard to be fit or strong if you are constantly walking around with a "bum" shoulder. Again, Risk-Reward in skewed in one direction.
3. On the flip-side, the push-up facilitates shoulder health by 2 main pathways. First, because the scapulae are allowed to move freely instead of being locked in retraction against a bench, scapular MOBILITY is enhanced. Second, the increased serratus anterior muscle activiation in comparison to the bench helps to enhance scapular STABILITY. Enhanced scapular stability and mobility=no more achy shoulders.
4. Your core. Admittedly, I despise the term "core" - I need to come up with something better. Trunk perhaps? Anyways. Because you don't get to lay down on a bench, your rectus abdominus(abs) muscles are forced into action to STABILIZE your body into a rigid "planked" position. The result is increased function and strength of the abdominals in their true purpose - STABILIZATION - not FLEXION as has been incorrectly touted ad nasuem through the recommendation of other pointless(and possibly harmful) exercises like sit-ups, crunches, etc.
and most importantly.......
5. Speaking of laying down on your back, there is only one situation I consider that beneficial - and the bench press ain't it!
There it is, that's my case against the bench press. Unless you are a powerlifter - or an adolescent tying to impress you friends with how diesel you are - the bench press seems pretty useless.
Some related reading written by people much more intelligent than me....
- For more on how push-ups relate to shoulder health and function, as well as some video of push-ups being performed correctly(take special note of shoulder and elbow posiitoning) with some nice progressions - check out Push-Ups, Face Pulls, and Shrugs by Bill Hartman and Mike Robertson.
- For more push-up and other body-weight exercise progressions - check out Convict Conditioning by Paul Wade.
- For more on why crunches and sit-ups and the like are not only useless, but potentially harmful - check out anything by Dr. Stuart McGill.
- For more on effective ways to train the "core" - check out Anterior Core Training by Michael Boyle and Complete Core Training by Mike Robertson for starters.