A couple of years ago, I was the functional corrective guy who said these words “if you’re lying down pushing weight away from you, you just got smothered by someone who was bigger and stronger” that’s why you need to train on your feet. I said at the time that the bench press isn’t a functional exercise. I sit here today shaking my head at that statement, and understand that the bench press translates well into a strength and conditioning program. I’ve demonized exercises in the past and in hindsight realized there aren’t any bad exercises, just poor applications to that exercise. The bench press is a polarizing exercise that is a test in the NFL combine, young athletes gravitate towards the bench press station when they walk in the weight room, and the question “How much yah bench?” is a frequent topic in the gym among males.
We talk about having a balance in strength training. If you can do 50 pushups, and only 5 inverted rows you would be better served working on your pulling strength. If you can squat 1.5 x your body weight, and struggle with half your body weight on the deadlift (pull) you would be better served working on your deadlift( pulling strength.) There are always lifts that an individual is going to be stronger at, different anatomy/anthropometry.(bone lengths, etc..) In the world of strength training, you want to bring up your gaps.
My gap wasn’t pulling strength as I could do 10 body weight pull-ups, it wasn’t a hip and hamstring strength as I could deadlift 2x my body weight, my gaps were pushing (chest and triceps and squatting(quads.) I could barely bench press 135lbs for 3, and I could not front squat 225Lbs for a rep. I know many that come into the doors of Precision Fitness with the opposite of gaps (glute and hamstring weakness, quad dominance and upper back weakness, chest dominance. Our jobs as trainers are to bring up your gaps and create balance. So off we go with more glute and upper back exercises and a funny thing happens, you feel better and the lifts you were stronger at initially (squats, pushing exercise) become even stronger, without the nagging muscle or joint pain. So when I started programming the bench press and front squat more often I got stronger at the lifts I was already good at and all my strength numbers improved. Bring up the gaps in your training and everything becomes more efficient and easier. A couple of weeks ago I hit a bench press PR of 235, where my previous best was 225 7 years ago. Last week I hit 5 singles at 235 on the front squat, where 4 years ago I was at 215 for a single rep. How did I get it there? I bench pressed and squatted often for the last 2 years. My form improved over time and I pushed myself to keep improving my numbers. How do your shoulders feel you ask? Feel great, and have never felt stronger! In fact my overhead pressing numbers are way up too because of improving the bench press.
Find the gaps in your training and work on those gaps. Keep doing the lifts and exercises you like and are good at, but at the same time do the ones you don’t like and aren’t good at too! You will notice everything becoming easier and more efficient.
I’ll leave you with an excerpt from Dan Johns “Intervention” book:
“Absolute strength is the glass. Everything else is the liquid inside the glass. The bigger the glass, the more of everything else you can do.”