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Why the Bench Press Fails and how to really exercise for Strength

Written by: Nick Jack
Category: 2014
on 03 April 2014
Hits: 7851

One of the most over used exercises in the gym would have to be the bench press. Almost every guy wants to have elusive Bigger, Stronger Chest and Shoulders but what if I told you could achieve that, without ever actually doing the traditional exercise the bench press? And what if I told you that the bench press is no where near as effective as many of the Functional Strength Training exercises for overall total body strength. If you really think about it, when would you ever need to actually ever use this type of exercise or skill in the real world anyway? The only exercise I can think of is if I got stuck under a car and had to push it off me to avoid getting crushed!! It isolates a particular group of muscles well, but because it lacks integration from the rest of the body it is an inferior exercise and serves no function or use other than in rehabilitation or as a training variation. I am not saying you can never do it, I am going to explain that when you see there is much better exercises for achieving the same thing you won't want to do it anymore!


Yet the bench press is used as almost the gold standard for assessing someone’s strength and fitness from Trainer certification programs to sports teams fitness testing! We train several VFL and AFL football players and even with all the modern technology and knowledge that is available at this elite level the bench press test is used at the club to determine the player’s strength. I find this mind boggling!!! When would a football player ever need to do this?

Watch the videos below for ideas on Functional Strength Alternatives that are far more effective

Have you ever been in a situation where someone strong walks in to a room and hear someone say "I wonder what he can bench?". Or when discussing sport, the same question comes up, "How much can you bench?" A better question would be “ I wonder how fast he can sprint up that hill or how much weight he can throw?”

The bench press exercise was never intended to be a benchmark of a person’s total body strength and fitness. It is simply an exercise for making you look good in a mirror and improving the size and/or strength of the chest, anterior deltoids and triceps, nothing else. But what most people don’t realize is that this method of building muscle comes at a cost, especially for anyone playing sports, as it teaches your body how to become separate from the core and the legs when performing a pushing movement! It is almost as if you are telling your body you are paralyzed from the waist down. The star player on any sporting team is rarely the one with the biggest bench press! It is usually the player who has unbelievable balance, speed, stability, explosive power and strength resulting in awesome movement skills in a standing position. Nearly every sport that requires these attributes is played in a standing position. And to top it all off overdoing the bench press, which is usually combined with poor technique, ultimately leading to several shoulder injuries for both the sporting star and the average Joe who just wants to get fit and strong. Many people do not have ideal posture or pushing mechanics to perform this exercise correctly but it is in almost any training certification course or manual for everyone to do. There are far better ways to train the that not only avoid injury but significantly improve performance and muscle size to do what your conditioning is supposed to do, help you play sport better. Not just look good.

Read our articles on Sports Training below.

Great websites to look up and read about see what experts such as Paul Chek at and Peter Twist from Twist Conditioning at say are invaluable. Both provide a mountain of information about this exercise and how they train Professional athletes in America and Canada.

So What Exercises Do We Use Instead Of The Bench Press?

If you want stacks of ideas on how to do this, I suggest getting a copy of our Little Black Book Of Training Secrets report below. In this I provide you with 101 different programs ranging from strength, size, weight loss to sports and rehabilitation. You will see endless variations and combinations to achieve the goal of added muscle that not only work more effectively for total body strength but also much faster! Click here to get your copy.

My preferred choices for working the chest muscle groups are below:

  1. Cable Push variations
  2. Barbell Push variations
  3. Push Ups
  4. Dumbell single arm press.

Within each of these exercises is multiple ways of achieving your goal. All of these can be done as single arm or dual arm, even the push ups! And all of these exercises all require a great degree of Core Strength and Stability with the progressions requiring much more athletic ability and agility, a perfect combination for anyone playing sports. Yet also extremely effective for the average person wanting to lose weight and tone up. In short you get a big bang for your buck!

These exercises, are predominately done in a standing position, however we may use an exercise lying down on a swissball to simplify the pushing movement, and allow us to slowly teach you how to integrate the legs with the upper body. This we regard as a starting point for most people, with the progressions involving barbells, cables and dumbbells in various positions and angles to mimic real life situations and movements.

But can they add muscle as much as the bench press? Even after all I just explained a lot of people have a hard time coming around to the idea that you will build more muscle with cables and standing exercises. And the answer is you will not only build more muscle but activate muscles you never would have in the bench press. For example the serratus anterior is heavily activated in the push ups and single cable push exercises but is often missed in the bench press. A weak serratus anterior will lead to shoulder pain and very painful injuries like shoulder impingement, or rotator cuff tears. Both of these injuries will mean no bench pressing for a long time with the added bonus of extreme pain.

Read our articles below to see more


As I said at the beginning I am not saying you can never do the bench press, for even I still use it from time to time for some variation in my training. But most of my training for myself, athletes and especially anyone trying to rehabilitate injuries is to learn how to strengthen the body in a standing position. This is how we move effectively and efficiently. By adding these exercises to your routine, ensuring correct technique, nutrition timing and quality along with precise program design you can Build that Bigger Stronger and more explosive Chest and Shoulders you have always been looking for. 

If you live in Melbourne and would like to know more about our programs you can schedule a Free Consultation by filling the form below.