Dec 17th, 2011
Mini doesn’t bounce his bench presses and neither should you.
There are lots of ways to make a bench press easier. One commonly used tactic is to aggressively bounce the bar off the sternum and to use the elasticity of the ribcage to drive the bar upwards from the bottom of the lift. Much like bouncing a deadlift off the ground, this is a bad habit that interferes with strength development, erodes morality, and contributes to crop failures.
The bottom of the bench press is a mechanically disadvantageous position. The bar lies across the chest while the pectorals and triceps are stretched, the elbows are flexed, the shoulders are in transverse extension, and the bar is no longer directly over the shoulder joints. Pushing the weight back up is hard work, but can be made easier by allowing the bar to accelerate right before the bottom and using the rebound off the chest, not unlike a trampoline.
Bouncing the bar off the ribcage prevents strength from being developed in the first portion of this range of motion. Because the ascent of the barbell is no longer completely driven by muscular contraction, it also allows you to handle more weight. If we are bench pressing to become stronger, this presents a conflict. More weight is not synonymous with greater strength in this case. The muscles are not required to produce more force. Instead of getting stronger, we changed the movement. A direct comparison between a strict and bounced bench press can no longer be made. Further, if the weight is heavy enough, it can be injurious. Dropping 315 pounds on to the sternum can leave a nice bruise, or maybe even something a little more painful.
There is no need to pause at the bottom of the bench press, unless you are training for a powerlifting competition, where a pause may be required as part of the rules. You only need to touch the chest while under control and drive the bar back up immediately. Resisting the temptation to bounce the bar off the sternum will help to make you stronger and will allow you to stay in a tighter, more stable configuration while lifting. All of this will be better for your ribcage and your bench press, not to mention your character.
Strength Saturday Schedule Update
This Saturday, December 17, we have a double shot of afternoon strength classes. The first will go from 1:00 to 3:30 PM. The second class will go from 4:00 to 6:30 PM. Both classes are full this week. After this weekend, Strength Saturday will go on a three-week hiatus. There will be no class on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, or January 7th. Classes will resume on the second weekend in January. We’ll see you in 2012. Thanks to everyone that made this year’s classes a success.