Do you even lift bro?
I thought so, but how do you prove it.
The average lifter usually judges you on your lift. Yes- just one lift- the bench press.
It just looks so badass seeing the most jacked guy in the gym burying himself under a mountain of iron and pumping it down to his chest and back up again.
And even personally, I cannot even count the amount of times I’ve received the “Hey, how much can you bench, man?” question.
Over time we grow bigger, stronger, and a bit older and wiser in the process, showed me that the flat bench isn’t all that.
In fact, the flat bench may be KILLING your progress in the gym.
Here are 3 reasons you need to ditch using the flat bench for good today.
#1 You Want Muscle- Not Man-Boobs
Ever see a big muscular guy pop his shirt off only have have big saggy pecs?
That guy may even be you! See, all that effort pushing the pace and killing it in the gym might not be helping your body. This happens despite getting a solid night of sleep regularly and eating the cleanest foods with plenty of protein and veggies.
It drives most guys crazy to not figure this out sooner. The secret is your biomechanics. Here’s what I mean…
When you use a flat bench you develop the muscle and make it larger. That’s kind of the idea of exercise, so that should make sense. However, it isn’t that simple.
You see, new research is showing that muscles are composed of different units. For example, you can split your chest into an upper unit and a lower unit. While flat bench can work the lower region it doesn’t efficiently work the upper part. The result?
Your chest muscles get larger but they sag when you stand because the top muscles aren’t developed as much as they can be.
The solution is simple. You want to skip the flat bench and go right into an incline bench. With different leverage on your muscles, you’ll work the chest here with a greater emphasis on the upper chest to give you those ideal pecs that are strong AND catch attention at the beach.
#2 You Don’t Want to Turn Into A Plank
Generating stability and pressing for a heavy bench press may build your chest and get you stronger…
But it may be destroying your mobility.
You’ll notice in the tiny aspects of your life that while you feel stronger and put up bigger numbers on your flat bench, it’s tougher to tie your shoes or put on shirts. Even your walk is more mechanical and still.
It literally looks as if you have a stick shoved somewhere unpleasant, right?
That’s because when you set up for the bench press your shoulders are pinned under all that weight. This means, you’re placing a heavy load on your body and pinning your scapula and spine down.
Without working on your mobility, this shoulder tightness simply spreads making you stiffer and stiffer, possibly leading to injury.
Another alternative is skipping the flat bench and working the chest in a similar way with cables or with bodyweight pushing exercises. You can get massive strength (and bring out your 6-pack abs) with the stability demands of cable pressing or working towards a 1-arm pushup.
#3 You don’t want excess elbow and shoulder stress
Bench pressing can put a ton of stress on your wrists, elbows, and shoulders if you’re not used to it. Unfortunately, the joint strength comes largely from the condition of your tendons and ligaments. There take much longer than muscles to respond to training loads and grow stronger.
This means that if you’re pushing your strength and muscles on the bench press you may be overtraining these vital connective tissues!
That being said, the flat bench is a surprisingly technical lift- it isn’t just lay down and push.
You need to have your arms the proper distance apart (based on your arm length), you need traction from the floor, your shoulders back and down, ribcage slightly lifted, torque generated in your shoulders, and traction from the floor.
Whew, that’s a lot!
And if you’re off a bit it could mean more strain down the road because your elbows, shoulders, or wrists will have to make up for the slack.
A good alternative is to use dumbbell presses.
Here, you don’t have a rigid barbell so you can more easily rotate and align your body for optimal pushing. The extra stability challenge means that you can use LESS weight but still build REAL strength.
At the end of the day, the flat bench press isn’t going anywhere. It’s a classic test of strength. But maybe, it should remain a test and not a normal part of your training. Unless you want to get really good at the flat bench press, you really don’t need to practice it all the time.
Instead, use the substitutions in the article above and you won’t even miss the flat bench press.
You’ll be able to build more functional strength with increased shoulder and core stabilization.
You’ll be able to improve the look of your pecs so no one mistakes your chest muscles for man boobs after all your hours in and out of the gym.
You’ll even save your joints tremendous strain by preventing pain in your elbows, shoulders, and wrists.
Not to mention, you’ll save time at the gym by not having to wait for EVERYONE to use the flat bench.
Try these variations this week and enjoy your results.