The bench press is one of the most used lifts in weight rooms all across the country. The reason and the thought behind the bench being a useful lift for sports such as football, is that it replicates a “pushing” motion, such as blocking in football.

Now this idea does have some merit, but here is where we fall into some trouble with the lift:

#1) Bench Press drives excessive scapular protraction.

What does that mean? Well it means that the tighter your “pec” muscles get, the more they are going to pull on the front part of your shoulder blade. The more they drive the shoulder blade forward, the more likely you are to have issues with stabilizing your shoulder blade against your ribcage. As discussed in past video’s, you need to be able to stabilize the shoulder blade for producing both power and injury prevention.

2) Bench Press may put your low back up for injury risk.

Now i don’t think that it is likely you will injure your low back while actually benching, but the thing i worry about is after your finished benching. If you watch someone who does a lot of bench, they tend to arch their low backs a lot during the lift. Now if you want to push more weight, and that is your only goal, then this is the way to do it. But, it does bring our backs into excessive extension, and we use that extension for stabilization (sometimes called an extension compression stabilization strategy). The problem is that we are not activating our core “brace”, and instead we are using our joints and bony structures to stabilize our low back. Again, probably won’t lead to injury in the short term, but long term it can put us in a poor pattern that our body may adopt as normal.

The bench can also be hard on the ball and socket joint in the shoulder, due to us not having the free range of motion in the shoulder blade that we normally have.

One variation you can make it engage your core during the lift is getting into a dead bug position (hips and knees 90-90), and holding that position while you bench. This keeps the core engaged and keeps our low back in a neutral position. This does not fix the potential problems in the shoulders, but I really like it because it is great for the low back.

Being that I am a former Minot State University Football player, I know that the bench is still commonly used in many weightrooms. My suggestion is not to completely cut out the movement, but to make it better so athletes can still be powerful while also staying pain and injury free.

Dr. Kirk Mason, Premier Chiropractic, Minot ND