Friday, December 16, 2011

Consider me OLD SCHOOL

Consider me OLD SCHOOL

I like to bench press as much as any weight room meathead. It’s a vanity thing, the first thing everyone asks when they find out you lift a few weights is; how much do you bench? I like being able to have a respectable number to throw out there and let the jaw dropping gasp pump up my ego. But come on, who is anybody kidding, how useful (or “functional”) is laying on your back and vertically pressing a weight 20 inches away from your chest (probably 10 if you’re a big chested super wide-grip powerlifter and let’s not even talk about bench shirts)? If you can bench press your bodyweight than at least you know you can push yourself off the floor if you get knocked off your feet.

Don’t get me wrong, real men and real strength athletes press. They just don’t do it lying on their back. It is called overhead pressing and there are a lot of useful variations. In light of 21st century trends I have grown to hate the term “functional,” but I can’t think of anything more “functional” than moving something from shoulder level to overhead (other than from the floor to overhead). From the initial press, to the overhead support of the weight itself, every muscle in your body is activated. I read an article the other day claiming there to be no better upper body lift than the bench press. “What other upper body lift requires a good amount of leg drive, sufficiently activates the lats, delts, pecs, and tri’s (authors note: I can activate the same muscles pushing myself up off the toilet after a heavy squat workout), is stable enough to allow for the hoisting of huge loads, and is specific to many sports due to the horizontal pressing nature of the lift?”, the author asks.

I am fine with people wanting to bench press, but what bugs the heck out of me is when they try to promote it as some great God sent “functional” lift that is applicable to almost all sport and everyday life (that’s strength training whoredom).  Let’s be real here, how is lying on your back and pressing a weight specific to anything that is real? I am not anti-bench press. It can be a great assistance exercise (I prefer a close grip though). But if you want to do something “functional,” I think that overhead pressing 300lbs beats laying on your back and pressing the gold standard 400lbs any day, especially for an athlete of any sport. Honestly, when is the last time you saw a sport played while lying down?

And it is interesting to note that most people’s bench press would probably benefit greatly from increasing ones overhead strength.  

Now enough of the ranting, let’s look at some great overhead pressing variations:

Overhead Supports:

Military Press:

Push Press:

Push Jerk:


Dumbbell Press:

We're not talking about 35 pounders here either.

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