Thursday, April 17, 2008

Bench Press? ....... it isn't functional

Take a look at this excellent post from Rannoch . He makes some superb points about the value of functional exercise, which he expands in a comment:

There is a truism in MA (martial arts) and SD (self defence) that says "You fight the way you train". You could simply say you perform the way you train, whatever the activity.

I for one do not want to fight lying on my back with my hips and core immobile and using only my chest, tri's and shoulders to get out of there.

I'm loathe to recommend any particular exercises in a sport specific context. Want to punch effectively? Go Punch!

That said, when we training movements we create patterns that can be replicated with force and power in our chosen activity. When we train msucles...we train muscles.

We do not live and move in isolation. Why train that way?

This is simple but really important stuff. I've pointed to a few ideas on functional training in the past and quoted Vern Gambetta who has this same principle: Train Movements Not Muscles!

Vern Gambetta has a principle that states "Train Movements not Muscles". It makes sense. When the body moves all sorts of muscles are firing in sequence to move, stabilise and balance. Isolating a muscle is not how we move in real life. We move in squats, twists, pushes, pulls, bends and lunges. It therefore makes sense to train in those movements too.


Dave Clary said...

I noticed that one of the commentors on Ronnoch's site was a CrossFitter. But the Crossfit website features videos showing people doing WODs that include a bench press. Hmmmmmm.

I brought this up once before on Devany's site, and got responses saying there were some practical application of the bench press. I was a little skeptical of the responses.

Chris said...

Hi Dave

There have been one or two videos of the Bench on the CF site, but I've just scanned through their WODs back to December and I couldn't see the bench prescribed once, but I may have missed something. There is a workout that includes the bench - Lynne - but it doesn't come up a lot.

By and large I don't think it is a functional exercise, but it is better than some others (tricep kickbacks?). Rannochs real point was that you need to be competent in handling your own body in exercises like the pushup before you worry about the bench.

Chris said...

Have a look at this article from Crossfit on their Crossfit total. They rejected the bench from their basic test of strength because: "it cannot be done with limit weights safely without spotters, and it is not a very functional exercise since it is performed while lying on a bench that supports the weight during the movement. "

CrossFitCS said...

Dave - I posted on Rannochs site. Yes we do use the bench press in CrossFit workouts - but as Chris has stated it hasnt been part of a workout for a long while.

Personally I dont like it and only ever do it as part of the CrossFit WOD, whenever it comes up.

Rannoch Donald RKC said...


I love your blog and read it regularly. I didn't imagine for one minute I'd wind up quoted on it! Thanks for the interest.


You miss my point. Benching for benching sake is no less valid than doing the long jump if that is your thing.

I glaze over when people blindly put together a bunch of exercises in an arbitrary fashion and expect it to impact positively on their overall performance.

The person in question wanted to know if Benching wouldn improve their MA performance. My response? Is there anything you do in performance than can be replicated in any way shape or form by the movements you train?

And perhaps more importantly, is there anything in your training that is inhibiting your performance?

All the best


Dave Clary said...

Thanks all! I would agree that if "your thing" is competing in events that include doing the bench press, then you have to train it. I think my reaction to the CrossFit folks came after seeing a video of that woman, who appears often, doing an outdoor routine that included repeated bench sessions. And that came right after reading the "fitness in 100 words" piece that mentions only olympic-type lifts.
But I'm glad we have a bunch of benchers atg my gym--leaves more room at the squat rack for me!! :-)

Anonymous said...

I've yet to meet a strong bench presser who wasn't strong at a whole bunch of other pressing stuff... and that includes just pushing things out of the way like people.

Mike OD - IF Life said...

I agree, train movements not muscles. (although I think Chek came up with that motto first...). I have met "strong benchers" who had no stability and balance to apply the same level of force while pushing someone in a sport while moving laterally. So if your sport is "pushing people" then you want to train from that position you will see more athletes using the "jammer" machines vs benching (although they also probably have that in their programs too). Personally I've met too many people with shoulder injuries too from heavy benching...and injuries is not something I really want. (or anyone wants for that matter)

Chris said...

Thanks Rannoch

I enjoy your blog very much. Mine tends to be bits and pieces cut and pasted from elsewhere, but you are offering some deeper and original insights that are good to read


Rannoch Donald RKC said...

I am afraid I've met plenty of people who are strong in a limited range of motion. I've also met a couple of benchers who cannot get there arms much above shoulder height.

I am not knocking bench press. I am asking why are you doing it if it has not obvious transfer to your chosen game. And no matter how you cut it I can't think of anything BP would significantly help with.

On the subject of "movements not muscles" I take no credit for that but I would suggest the principle is nothing new.