10 Reasons You Should Never Bench Press

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Perhaps one of the most overrated exercises these days is the bench press. Walk into any gym and you will constantly hear the question, “How much do you bench bro?”

All across the country gyms are packed with guys competing with each other in an attempt to find and keep a bench press set up on Mondays out of the misguided belief that they must use the barbell bench press for maximum chest gains. An increase in bench press-related injuries, along with recent research indicates and supports the fact that the bench press isn’t the most efficient or effective exercise for the chest, nor is it necessary to perform this exercise at all.

10 Reasons You Shouldn’t Bench Press

Reason #1 – Dumbbell Presses Provide More Range of Motion

When a barbell is used for bench pressing your hands are forced to remain in the same position throughout the exercise from start to finish. You can only bring the weight down to the top of your chest because the bar prevents your arms from dropping any lower.

Dumbbells have the advantage of allowing the weights to be lowered further, increasing the range of motion and effectiveness of the movement. Additionally, hands can be in the traditional position for bench press, facing each other or even rotating through the press for additional benefit.

Reason #2 – Shoulder and Elbow Injuries

Elbow Injuries

Don’t bench press. Ever! Your elbows will hate you.

Heavy bench pressing will eventually result in elbow and shoulder injuries.

Look around the gym and take notice of the gym veterans using the bench press stations. Most of the guys will be wearing elbow sleeves or forearm bands because their elbows are shot. Watch the way these same guys gingerly move their arms with great care to prevent their shoulder pain from ending their workouts.

Reason #3 – Spotter or Power Cage Required for Heavy Barbell Bench Presses

We all know it is a proven fact that you must use an extremely heavy weight in order for the bench press to have any effect on the pectoral muscles. Everyone has heard the great Ronnie Coleman exclaim, “Everybody wants to be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift no heavy a** weights.” [1] This is especially true with the bench press and it leaves the average trainee with three choices:

  1. Find someone strong enough to provide a spot every time they bench press.
  2. Attempt to steal a power cage from people squatting so the pins can provide safety.
  3. Bench press with a weight that isn’t heavy enough to get pinned under or produce results.

Using dumbbells for your presses allows you to simply drop the weights to either side when they become too heavy to safely use.

Reason #4 – Cables and Dumbbell Flies Produce More Efficient Tension on the Pectorals

A recent study showed that cable and dumbbell flies produce more efficient tension, and that the additional time under tension provides superior results than the traditional bench press does for the pectorals. [2] Bench pressing allows for a brief rest at the top and the bottom of the exercise but dumbbell flies only provide a short rest at the top and cables keep tension on the pectoral muscles through the entire movement.

Reason #5 – Bench Pressing is Only Beneficial for Individuals Competing in Power Lifting Competitions

There is no need to perform the bench press unless you are a competitive powerlifter.

Those powerlifters that compete concentrate on their three main lifts: Bench press, squats and deadlifts. These exercises are also known as the big three and they all provide excellent opportunities for serious injuries if performed incorrectly.

These exercises are a recipe for disaster for most individuals involved in the fitness lifestyle. Most powerlifters wouldn’t ever perform the bench press if it wasn’t a required lift for their competition. [3]

Dumbbell Bench Press

Dumbbells have the advantage of allowing the weights to be lowered further, increasing the range of motion and effectiveness of the movement.

Reason #6 – Bench Pressing is Just a Bro Exercise to Show Off

Please don’t join into the bro mentality that you must show off how much weight you can lift in the gym. Compete against yourself and concentrate on making the best version of yourself as possible.

There will always be someone stronger willing to take the title of strongest bench presser in the gym. It has been said that you shouldn’t waste your time entering a competition that you might not win. [4]

Reason #7 – Fill Your Shirt with Effective Trap, Arm, Back and Shoulder Exercises Instead of Wasting Time Bench Pressing For Your Chest

Many trainees lift weights because they want to look big. There are better exercises to use than the bench press, because the pectorals will not fill your shirt as well as other muscles.

Shoulder and arm work will make your sleeves fill out; trap and back work tighten the shirt. Bench pressing raises your pectorals as they firm up but do little to show your size when clothed.

Reason #8 – Bench Pressing Requires More Gear

Weightlifting GlovesBe prepared to purchase additional equipment and gear if you choose to bench press heavy and correctly. Gloves are needed to prevent the bar from rolling out of your hands and onto your face. Calluses are reduced from the use of gloves but individuals that bench press will eventually have to learn to suffer from callused hands. [5]

Quality wrist wraps are also required to slow the onset of damaged wrists that repeated bench pressing eventually causes. This wrist damage eventually causes the individual to lose their ability to keep a grip on everyday objects.

Reason #9 – Bench Pressing is an Outdated Exercise

Arnold, Franco, and all the great old-school bodybuilders developed great physiques with the bench press but they also used a lot of exercises that are not commonly used today with new breakthroughs in technology. Modern inventions such as bands, hydraulics, machines and CrossFit have all found more efficient ways to develop the pectorals while reducing the chances for injuries and over training.

Most likely your phone is not a rotary phone and you use the Internet to get your news instead of a newspaper, catch up with the times and take advantage of modern technology.

Reason #10 – Your Swolemate Isn’t Impressed With Your Bench Pressing

Why would you bench press if your swolemate isn’t impressed? She doesn’t want to go to the gym with you on chest day since that isn’t an exercise that you can easily do together because you’re constantly adjusting the plates.

Those calluses on your hands don’t feel good to her when you touch her. She isn’t impressed with how much you can bench press because she has seen and heard you whine about how sore your pectorals get after a great session. You will never have a better looking chest than your swolemate and she knows this. [6]

Don’t waste your time bench pressing and consider learning to cook if you really want to make her happy.

Should You Stop Benching? April Fools!

You should want to kill me by now if you haven’t figured out this is an April Fools article. It’s not a game but we’re going to have fun when we can.

My apologies to my fellow powerlifting friends who live and die by the big three. Same thing goes for everyone that forces that bar up from his or her chests. I hope you haven’t already made plans to hurt me.

Everyone that knows me will know this was an April Fools joke from the first line in this article. If you don’t know me and want to you can find me on Instagram by looking up @robert.engelman

NOW GO BENCH PRESS BUT NOT ON MY SET-UP!

References

Ronnie Coleman’s words are his words. They don’t need to be in a book or video, trust the man.
Phillips, Paylor & Garrison: A newbies attempt at evaluating pectoral development in the Mars Hill Gym: 3/2016
Schwarzenegger, Engelman & Columbu: Words a power lifter would never say unless they were trying to get you out of their way: 12/2015
Lineman & NL Day: Josh’s cross-fitter words of wisdom: 10/2015
Yarborough: Will my calluses pop like a blister: 11/2015
May: Don’t get Kareyed away, stop whining and lift: 1/2016

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Name: Robert Engelman

Bio: Rob Engelman is a self described hillbilly fitness motivator who lifts weights in a outdoor gym located in the North Carolina mountains. Rob motivates those around him by drawing from his experiences playing soccer, being raised by a mother with her PHD in sports psychology and a father who coached college wrestling.