What do you bench? This is the most common question that people ask fellow lifters. Why is that? The bench press in my opinion is the most popular exercise done in the gym today. Especially amongst men. I really don’t know why it is more popular. Shoulder press looks more bad ass, as well as squats and deadlifts. Yet people still default to the bench press as their main focus lift.
The ironic thing is that it’s one of the worst exercises you can do for shoulder health. Every single person I know that has a big bench press has messed up shoulders, including myself at a time in my life.
I used to compete in powerlifting and with powerlifting on of the lifts you compete with is the bench press. Early in my lifting career I became obsessed with the bench press. If my bench press didn’t group 5 pounds in a week I would get slightly depressed and push it even harder the next week. Little did I know I was wrecking my shoulders.
After a couple of years training the bench hard I developed a shoulder issue. I stupidly continue to train not thinking it had to do with my bench press. finally I got smart and thought to myself, what if I stopped bench pressing? I stopped and guess what? I have been pain free for years.
So if I cant bench press what do I do instead? There are a ton of different exercises you can perform in place of the bench press. Here is a list of a couple that I really like
DB Bench Press:
The DB Bench press is an amazing alternative to a fixed barbell. It puts your body in a more natural position. it has been proven to hit your chest a lot more effectively as well.
A lot of times people skip right over bodyweight exercises and go straight to weights when they still have not mastered their own body. If you cannot do 10 full range push ups you really have no business hitting the weights.
DB flys are a great exercise to target your chest. Be careful not to go too far past parallel or you could injure yourself. Go down till you feel a nice stretch and then pop back up. For these I like focusing on the eccentric phase and then going fast during the concentric. This can look like 5 second down and 1 second up. This is definitely an exercise where you go for more of a pump, so keep the weight a bit light and don’t go too heavy.
A variation of the regular fly, with this you use bands which gives you a nice constant tension. Place the bands in a power rack at about shin level. Pull up and together squeezing your chest together.
In conclusion, there are a lot of different exercises that can easily replace the barbell bench press. If you still want to barbell bench every now and then feel free. But I would not over do it and do not make it a focus lift.