Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The bench press is not evil

'Tis the off-season for baseball players, which means it's time to get big, strong and fast.

For many of my local players, November, December and January is their only true off-season, leaving little time to focus on improving their athleticism.

While I scramble to rehabilitate lingering injuries, correct movement patterns, improve mobility and flexibility, add mass, increase strength and improve speed and explosiveness, players' priorities are always the same:

They want to bench heavy and often.

Despite the never-ending debate over the bench press' value as a exercise (particularly for overhead athletes), my stance remains the same. All of my baseball players bench, and here's why:

1. They love benching. If I leave it out of their training plan, they stay after or go to a commercial gym and do it anyway. I need them excited to get strong, so the last thing I want to do was wake away their favorite exercise.

2. Sound coaching minimizes injury risk. I spend extra time teaching proper technique (elbows tucked, shoulders braced, lower body positioning, etc.), and spotting to ensure the reps they're performing will benefit their careers.

3. There's a variation for everyone. Everybody performs some king of horizontal press, but some of my players only flat bench with a straight bar for a few weeks every year. Others don't do it at all. If an athlete is injured or dysfunctional we reduce the range of motion by substituting floor press or board presses, adjust the hand placement and degree of shoulder rotation with dumbbells or a swiss bar, reduce elbow irritation with a thicker bar or Fat Gripz, or perform joint-friendly pushup variations.

Ultimately, a committed, excited athlete will always make bigger gains. Consider these tips, harness the power of the bench press and use it for good, not evil.  

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