There are a few essential tools for becoming strong but the exercise bench is not one of them.
Take a few lessons from old-time strongmen, modern champions, sports science, and common sense about why exercises on benches waste your training time – and may be keeping you in pain.
1. You Already Lay For 8 Hours and Sit For 8 More Every Day.
Sleep facilitates recovery from training so, however begrudgingly, you have to accept that laying down is part of your training routine. But, if you spend every day parked at a desk or in a vehicle, your training should at least counter the myriad impacts of sitting.
You need to lengthen hip flexors and hamstrings, strengthen traps, and challenge balance, all best-accomplished standing. Sitting on a bench to train cannot fix problems caused by sitting.
2. You Want To Be In This Strength Game A While.
You would struggle to find a powerlifter or bodybuilder without nagging shoulder or elbow pain from bench pressing, the primary use of exercise benches. Jack Reape admits full-range presses can wreck shoulders and Doc Hatfield counsels athletes on elbow pain weekly.
Beyond competitive lifters, few older trainees can handle even moderate bench pressing without pain. One goal of becoming strong is being functional and independent in old age. For shoulder health and longevity, dump the bench.
3. You Train Alone.
A firm bench against your back boosts your sense of stability and lets you handle more weight.
However, laying on your back restricts shoulder blade movement and slows rotator cuff reflexes so when you miss the technical groove of a reclined exercise, your stabilizers end up overloaded and without enough proprioceptive feedback to save you.
If you train heavy on the bench and get stuck under a massive load, your family may soon find you buried under a bar.
4. You Actually Want to Become Stronger.
An average gym-goer does exercises on benches because they have short action, the distance from your fixed support to the weight’s end position, which makes those exercises easier. Standing on your feet, straining to stabilize weight overhead is hard work!
Bent presses, overhead presses, and Turkish getups, favorites of Hackenschmidt and Saxon, are brutally difficult because they require balance and focus to move heavy weight through a long range. Strength demands hard training. Benches make training easier. Are you looking for “easier” or “stronger?”
5. You Want Only the Most Useful Equipment.
Before defending bench exercises for upper body development, remember Turkish Getups and floor presses also train your pecs, deltoids, and triceps. Dips train your pecs, deltoids, and triceps. Pushups train your pecs, deltoids, and triceps. If you like rows for the back, swings, snatches, and renegade rows train your traps, lats, and erectors.
Pushups train your pecs, deltoids, and triceps. If you like rows for the back, swings, snatches, and renegade rows train your traps, lats, and erectors.
If you like split squats for legs (a fine exercise!), front squats, pistols, and deadlifts train your hips and thighs, too. Benches waste money and space without improving on the results from just two kettlebells and a set of rings.
Bonus: Conventional Trainees Use Benches.
The bench press + chest fly + seated curl routine is conventional. The big box gym with twenty different flat, incline, and decline benches is conventional. Saying “kettlebell” and neglecting deadlifts is conventional.
As a proud member of the Onnit Academy, you dare to reject conventional, so toss benches out along with lousy exercise programs that don’t get results, then grab a heavy kettlebell and press it overhead.
That is unconventional training in this modern fitness world. Now, you can become a certified Onnit Academy trainer, mastering the techniques associated with unconventional training. Get off the bench and started with the art of unconventional training.
Avoid a Bench Press Injury with the Onnit Academy Certification
Onnit Academy’s Certifications provide a unique experience in the realm of fitness education. They combine a foundational framework that opens your ability to plug the System into ANY fitness or training modality, with the in-depth instruction to utilize an array of tools.