Just Another Victim


It happened again this morning, another victim claimed by the flat bench press. My buddy called and told me he tore his pec while benching heavy over the weekend. It didn’t shock me at all. This lift has been destroying shoulders and tearing pecs since the beginning.

Back in the golden days of the Iron Game, when the military press was the upper body exercise of choice, nobody ever heard of rotator cuff injuries or pec tears. It was only after the bench press achieved extreme popularity that shoulders and pecs started getting obliterated at record rates.

The bottom position of a heavy bench press puts your shoulders in a very vulnerable and dangerous position. Some people can tolerate this for decades. For others it will only take a few years. But sooner or later it’s bound to happen. It’s really not a question of if, but when. The flat bench press will eventually lead to some kind of shoulder problems or pec tear in the majority of lifters who do it heavy enough and long enough.

Like a lot of you, I was obsessed with bench pressing for a long time. And I always trained athletes who were getting tested on it. I proudly proclaimed it to be a great size and strength building lift and measure of upper body power. Nothing made me happier than helping one of my guys add 50 pounds to his bench in the off season and watching him go to camp and destroy the competition.

But after 20 years in the game, having been witness to far too many injuries resulting from the flat bench press and getting my own shoulder cut open recently, I have finally had to look myself in the mirror and admit the truth that I have been hesitant to come to grips with for far too long…

Bench pressing sucks!

I have discussed this issue with many of the worlds top shoulder specialists in recent months and they are all in full agreement.

That’s not to say that you can never bench again. I know many of you will refuse to stop and I can relate to that mindset. If you get tested on the bench or compete in powerlifting, of course you have to do it. For the rest of you, who still love to press big weights and impress your friends and gym members I recommend you do so with extreme caution.

Make sure your technique is picture perfect, bringing the bar down under control to your nipple line, with your arms tucked 45 degrees to your side, shoulder blades squeezed tightly together and a crushing grip on the bar. Always drive your feet into the floor and use your lats when pressing the bar back up. Secondly, don’t use the flat bench for more than 4-6 weeks without switching to a safer version of a barbell press like an incline or floor press.

The smartest route, however, is to get rid of this destructive exercise forever. There are far more effective movements that will build mind blowing strength and size in your chest, shoulders and triceps while saving you years of frustrating and costly injuries.

While the bench press is probably the most dangerous exercise most of you are doing on a regular basis, it is not the only harmful one. Unfortunately many of you are probably doing damage to other body parts without even realizing it.

To discover the most effective and safest exercises that will replace the bench press and many other useless movements, check out Muscle Gaining Secrets at http://www.MuscleGainingSecrets.com/ today… before it’s too late.

Train smart,
Jason Ferruggia

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14 Responses to Just Another Victim

  1. Matt November 19, 2008 at 7:02 am #

    I hear ya man!
    My bench has never been super big and i’ve been trying for a long time to get it up. But, during that time i’ve been halted by shoulder problems. Nothing too severe, but enough that I had to stop and take time off from any benching or pressing movements. It’s also seemed to alternate from left shoulder to right shoulder and back again! I’ve focused on fine tuning my form, shoulders squeezed together, elbows flared in, and not going below parallel…all of these have helped alot.
    I’ve also found that with me, the incline barbell bench seems to hurt my shoulders even more so, yet you say it is a safer version? thoughts?
    Great post…yet a big ego deflater for lots of ‘meat heads’.

  2. Johnny June 20, 2011 at 11:09 am #

    Yeah my bench pressing days are long gone too & I have incorporated many variations of pushups as well as using (blast straps) to hit the chest. Another idea is to utilize cables or straps to hit the chest area too. My shoulders have been damaged for years now and it’s what I have to consider when lifting.

  3. Dean Coulson June 20, 2011 at 10:55 pm #

    This is one exercise I never prescribe to my clients at all. It has always felt wrong for me and at first I thought it was just mindset and that I was piss weak in this exercise. Howeer, over time I realised that there was a reason why, it just didn’t feel natural at all!

    My body was telling me my joints were moving in a range they weren’t comfortable with and as a result, my joints were inhibiting my muscles and protecting themselves through athrokinetic inhibition.

    I realise everyone is different, but I agree with Jay here, there are much safer ways of building awesome pecs, for me, as an alternative it would be dumbbells every time, however it isn’t the only method, weighted pushups or strap pushups are some other ways that really work too.

    Enjoy your training and stay safe!

    Dean

  4. John Mooney June 21, 2011 at 6:59 am #

    I am starting to see the light about waht you are saying in this article, as I have had some shoulder issues over the years. I read your article a while back about benching at a slight incline and finally tried it. I was dealing some some shoulder pain going flat bench, but with just a slight incline I was able to go almost as heavy but without the pain in my shoulders. Now I see the light and couldn’t agree with you more on this. Thanks for the info, and I will make sure I pass it on to friends and clients.

    John

  5. Clement June 21, 2011 at 7:33 am #

    I haven’t benched in 6 months after reading about all the criticism surrounding it.

    Funnily enough, though, I’ve continued military-pressing although it’s taken even more heat. It’s partly because I haven’t got a bench in my home gym – just squat stands and an olympic barbell, but also because I feel that it’s just badass!

    But does the bench press help in throwing horizontal punches in any way?

  6. Justin June 21, 2011 at 9:00 am #

    Clement, punching power comes more from the hips than from the chest. Their are MANY boxers with vicious power that have never benched.

  7. CB June 21, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    If you continue straining your shoulders and pecs or the movement “doesn’t feel natural” then that means your form sucks !! Plain and simple. Like many others I too would feel more strain in my shoulders and even had a small tear in one. That was before I learned proper form, setup and execution. Stop ‘shoulder pressing’ like the majority of dopes in the GYM. Bring it low. Keep the elbows tucked as much as possible. Press straight up — or rather imagine pressing away from you. Don’t worry about fropping the bar on your lap. It won’t happen. And keep a high arch ! Squeezing the shoulder blades together and getting back on your traps when setting up will help the arch.

    Need a visual? Just search for Tate’s video on the bench press on youtube that he did way back during a seminar at Westside. If things don’t ‘click’ after watching that a time or two then chances are you will never get it.

  8. Dean Coulson June 21, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

    LOL CB, I appreciate your comment, however no one is built the same and it just doesn’t work for some people. In my experience and as Jay says this can wreck your shoulders plain and simple, no matter what Dave Tate Says or does.

    I know proper form, it doesn’t work for me and due to how technical the lift can be as you point out it will do alot more damage to alot more people and there are safer variations.

    • CB June 22, 2011 at 10:58 am #

      I know what you are saying Dean, but ask yourself and answer: “what isn’t working” in regards to benching ? When you say it doesn’t work for you are you referring to not making the gains you hope for, not feeling as comfortable as you would want when performing them, sustaining injury as a result of them or something else?

      Trust me, I don’t have ideal genetics for benching to start with (my genetics actually suck) – long orangutan arms are counter productive to benching big ! However, if you learn, or more importatntly are taught, what you are currently doing wrong and correct your form then you will be able to bench without pain or risk of injury. The problems with most are:

      -they do not research enough on their own to figure out where their faults are
      -they do not seek the right help (not talking about asking the 20 year old PF trainer for advice)
      -even after getting sound advice they revert back to their bad habits because their bench will eventually go down while they relearn proper form (impatience)

      Unless you posses a debilitating injury which physically prevents you from performing the movement, then there is no reason why you can’t learn the proper way to execute it and do so without pain or risk of injury.

      Or, like most whom complain about it – you can do nothing but come up with exceusses and accept defeat. Which will you be ?

  9. Jay June 21, 2011 at 10:48 pm #

    Joe Defranco says overhead pressing is horrible but bench pressing is good, you say benching is horrible but OHP is good, Mike Mahler says benching is good and so is OHP, this guy says carbs are horrible, this guy says carbs are a must, you say heavy dips are bad, Poliquin says they are amazing and to do them with 201.2 lbs with 38.4 seconds rest inbetween sets two and a half times a day, Dan John says ATG squats are the only squats to do ever, This guy says any type of spinal flexion is horrible, Ross Enmait says its fine, then this guy says its great, Matt Rooney says one thing Mike Boyle says the opposite, Dave Tate says this, this guy says that, the other guy says that, Paul Check says theres magical fairies living inside of us all and then Eliot Hulse spends his afternoon talking to a camera for 4 hours.

    • Jason Ferruggia June 22, 2011 at 10:44 am #

      @Jay: Now that was awesome. I laughed out loud at that one. Thanks for the entertainment. And, I get your point. That’s why I tell people information overload is very, very bad. Stick with one person to follow and listen to them. All the guys you listed are awesome. But if you listen them all you’ll be fucked. Pick one or two and follow what they say. Even if that means never reading this blog again. It will do you more good. Trust me.

  10. Vaclav Gregor June 25, 2011 at 4:11 am #

    Another great tip. You said you do not recommend doing it for more than 4-6 week. What if somebody is doing this exercise just once a week? For ex.: I do flat bench only once a week and the rest is always done with incline form. What do you think about this? Can this work long term without a need to switch?

    Would you recommend keeping the inclines and switching from flat to decline?

    And finally the third question does this applies to dumbbells as well? Because it is not entirely the same exercise, the motion is quite different and even in the flat position, there is not so much stress on the shoulders as when doing the flat bench with barbell.

    Thanks for answering. Have a nice day,

    Vaclav Gregor

  11. rmg June 28, 2011 at 5:16 am #

    Jason – Can not totally agree w/you. Believe that the Bench Press, as with almost any other exercise – can be done to add muscle if it is done corectly. While I also do DB Presses (flat, decline and incline) I belive that the BB Press has it’s place in a workout.

  12. DiscoStew January 27, 2012 at 10:51 pm #

    Jason,

    a) would you suggest people continue with the incline bench press or ditch that too?

    b) would you suggest people also ditch flat dumbbell bench pressing too?

    DS