When I’m at the gym, I do my own thing. I throw on my IPod, do some foam roller work, may be a couple of static stretches, some mobility & dynamic flexibility work and then get into the lifting portion of my workout. Today, I did the same thing and finished up my workout in about 50 minutes.
So I’m leaving the gym and I get approached by one of the gym’s trainers. Politely, she asks if she can give me a bit of constructive criticism about the way I bench press. The way I bench press? I can not way to hear this. “You know, you really shouldn’t lower the bar all the way to your chest. It’s bad for your shoulders. I used to do the same thing and I hurt my rotator cuff”, she says. What? Not lower the bar to my chest? You mean do a half rep like 50% of the guys do when bench pressing? Not move through a full range of motion? It’d be one thing if I couldn’t control the weight, was bouncing the bar off my chest like a like a Super Ball or arching my back so bad that some one could crawl through. None of those happened. Plus, I feel my shoulders are relatively healthy. I have never had a shoulder injury. I’ve been bench pressing for the last 16 years. I probably do more pulling than pressing work. I do external rotation work. I do scapular stabilization work. Plus I’m not bench pressing all the time. I may be work bench pressing into my training every 2 or 3 months for a 3 or 4 week cycle. So I still shouldn’t bring the bar all the way to my chest? And where is the research on this?
Is bench pressing through a full range of motion right for everyone? No. In fact some people should never get under the bar. Some people shouldn’t do any pressing work at all. But to make a blanket statement that you shouldn’t lower the bar to chest at all is wrong. An individual’s previous training and healthy history must be taken into account before you go make training recommendations. This type of stuff usually comes from the resident meathead, not the Master Trainer.
If anyone ever tells you you should do an exercise this way or that way and it doesn’t seem right to you, ask them about it. Why should you do it their way? The answer must be legit. It can not be because they hurt themselves, so now you’re going to hurt yourself. It can not be because it worked for them, so it’s going to work for you. There has to be some sound reasoning.
I can’t wait until she sees me squat and watches my knees rocket over my toes. That’ll be my next post.