Myths About The Bench Press

Myth 1: The bench press sucks as a chest exercise

I used to believe that the bench press is the worst chest exercise in existence. This was a wrong notion. The bench press is a fine pectoral movement that can be programmed very methodically. We make it inefficient by cheating to lift more weight.

The main reasons why some individuals fail to get chest growth from the bench press are:

a. Bouncing the bar off the chest

We’ve all seen it. A guy breathing heavily prepares to bench. His eyes are taken by emotion suggesting a struggle of the highest order. Then, the guy grabs the bar and crashes it into his sternum. The bar bounces off the chest, and with the help of the stretch reflex at the bottom reaches the mid-point where it slows down tremendously. The lifter starts to push as hard as possible until his hips come off the bench, and the exercise transforms into a decline bench press on a flat bench. I’ve done that too when I was young and unaware.


How do you expect to develop your chest when you are doing your best to avoid the lower portion of the bench, the part of the lift where the chest works the most? It’s better to slow down the negative portion and pause the bar on your chest. Yes, you will lift a lot less weight, but your chest will work harder. Also, the exercise is safer this way.

b. Bench pressing without retracting your shoulders

A proper bench press set-up requires the lifter to pinch his shoulder together and push his chest out. This will pre-stretch the pectoral muscles while protecting the shoulders by making them more stable.

Myth 2: The bench press is the true measure of strength

Strength is relative. Who is stronger? The gymnast who can do planche push-ups or the bodybuilder who can bench press 300lbs? The fact that the bench press is the most popular lift does not make it the only strength exercise there is.

Myth 3: Everybody should bench press to get stronger

Unless you are a powerlifter, the bench press is not mandatory. Weighted dips and push-ups are a good alternative.

Myth 4: The bench press carries over to the overhead press

Regardless of what people think, the bench press has a weak carry over to the overhead press. There are people who can bench press 300lbs and struggle with a 135lbs overhead press. If you want a strong overhead, you have to focus on it.

Myth 5: The bench press is better than push-ups

Every exercise is a tool that can be valuable in a specific situation. ”Better” is determined by the context and the goal. The bench press and the push-up are simply different pushing exercises. Each has its merits.

3 comments

  1. Dominique Locas

    You should have asked this to Frank Spellman (Gold, London 1948) while he was still among us. He lifted as a middleweight (165 lbs) and spent his career doint nothing but the lift itself plus some dumbbell overheads when he trained his clean & press. He could press 290 lbs in his prime!

    There was also Steve Gob, who hardly ever benched, and yet could press 270-280 on a good day (he lifted as a light-heavyweight – 181 lbs). Didn’t bench, but could do see-saw presses with a pair of 100’s (could even push it to 120’s)!

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