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Is the Bench Press Functional?

July 13, 2010

“When I was young and knew nothing, a tree was simply a tree, a mountain simply a mountain, and a lake simply a lake.  When I had studied and learned some, a tree was much more than a tree, a mountain much more than a mountain, and a lake much more than a lake.   When I became enlightened, a tree was once again just a tree, a mountain just a mountain, and a lake just a lake.” – Albert Calmus, The Stranger.

Bench day.  Back in High School (like many guys), Bench day was always my “look-forward-to” day.  I always put it on Monday so I could start the week off right.

A recollection of that time in my life is what brought me back to Bench Pressing.  As a skinny freshman, I had two primary goals: 1. I wanted to be really strong for Football and 2. I wanted to have big arms.  After first being introduced to it in summer camp before freshman year, I quickly realized that the Bench Press would help me to achieve both of these goals.

After my days of playing football had ended, I continued to perform the Bench; it was something I had always done.  Over time, I started reading and thinking about “functional” strength and Crossfit-style workouts, and the Bench Press fell out of favor in my mind.  I still did it for a while, but I half-assed it and didn’t really care about progress.  Then, about 6 months ago, I finally stopped doing it altogether.

Still more time has passed, and as I return to my general gut feeling (and as evidenced by those who adopt my systems) that Powerlifting is the base of the most efficient and productive strength/conditioning/health programs, I am coming back to the Bench Press.

Strength is strength.  Bench Press is an efficient and effective developer of upper body strength and has a place in any program.  Are there folks with shoulder problems that need to rehab before they start hitting heavy triplets?  Of course, but that goes with any lift.

I’ll say it again: strength is strength.  The development of chest, deltoid and tricep strength is the basis for many sport specific movements, such as: throwing/swinging motions (any activity bringing the arm to the mid-line of the body such as tennis), throws in track and field, prone swimming, punching, some gymnastic executions, and defensive and offensive football functions.  A big Bench becomes functional as soon as it is applied to pushing a Sabretooth off you, grabbing/holding onto a whooly mammoth, or whatever it is you do in your spare time.  Like deadlift, strengthening the body through the use of the Bench enables the functional display of power throughout (almost) any motion.

Let’s be real: you can do all the Plyo-Pushups you want, you’ll never push that 240lb Linebacker off of you if you don’t Bench.

My version of the above quote goes something like this… First, Bench Press was just Bench Press.  It made you strong, it made you big and it made you better at sports.  Then, Bench Press became “unfunctional” – how can that laying, prone push-from-a-bench be applied to the real world?  Finally, the Bench Press is just the Bench Press again –  it does what it has always done: it makes you strong, it makes you big, and it makes you better at (almost all) sports.  Call me enlightened.

WORK: Bench Press (1)

  1. Z-Health Warmup
  2. Handstand Holds/Pushups
  3. Jump Rope x 100-200
  4. Bench Press – use the rep structure from yesterday’s Deadlift workout.
    • 45 x 5
    • 95 x 5
    • 135 x 5
    • 155 x 3
    • 185 x 2
    • 205 x 5
    • 225 x 3
    • 250 x ?
    • 225 x 3
    • 205 x ?
  5. Press or Bench Press – 5 x 10 @ ~40-50% 1RM
    • I am doing Press because my shoulders need the work, either is fine
  6. Horizontal Rows (from the floor, “Pendlay-Style”) – 5 x 10

Grub:

I will be eating these AWESOME sounding wings tonight.  Don’t worry – I’ll use Kerry Gold in the wing sauce!

EDIT: Full Recipe here.  Two words: Man Ranch.

Long live the King

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