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As forward thinking as I like to think I am, as much as I embrace Crossfit/Funtional/Kettlebell/Strongman style training, as much as I know that training the whole body is important I still love doing Bench press. The Crossfit boys and girls may diss it as a non-functional and un-realistic exercise, and they do have a point. There is no point in real life where you will be called upon to perform a Bench press style movement. Even in what seem to be similar movements eg; pushing something, throwing a punch, don’t use chest/shoulders/triceps like benching. If you don’t believe me go outside and push your car up and down the street a few times. If you do I will bet diamonds to doughnuts that your legs will have turned to rubber and your pecs will be absolutely fine. Likewise in throwing 20,000,000 punches in a Thai class your shoulders will be on fire, but your pecs? Not a flicker. But, and it’s a whopper of a but, there is no other upper body movement where you can lift anywhere near the amount of weight as bench press. Also some of the jobs of the mighty chesticles are for flexion and rotation of the humerus which is posh speak for picking stuff up and holding it close to the body (stone lifts, sandbag carries, grappling, clinch work) so you can’t tell me that adding 25kg to your bench press isn’t going to benefit you’re other sporting activities.
If you do the bench press properly it becomes a whole body workout anyway. What you need to do is this:

  • eyes level with the bar when it’s on the rack.
  • squeeze your shoulder blades together as hard as possible, really, really squeeze them.
  • plant your feet hard into the ground and push down forcefully
  • squeeze your arse but keep it on the bench
  • arch your lower back, a person kneeling by your side should be able to see daylight from 1 side of your lower back to the other
  • now grab the bar and squeeze it hard, I don’t like going to wide on bench it’s bad for my delicate little shoulders
  • once the bar has been unracked, use a spotter, bring it down to the lower part of the chest (below nipples) and then explode it back up. Keeping your thighs, glutes and upper back super-duper contracted and engaged.
  • the movement the bar describes should not be vertical but arcing back towards the head slightly
  • repeat for all your reps, if it hurts your hamstrings and lats more than your chest you’re doing it right

This holds true for all bench variations which is why floor press is so damn hard, you just can’t use your legs to help.

I’m doing board presses at the moment although I still don’t have any boards (or friends) but I do really like using the foam roller stuffed up my t-shirt. This has resulted in many of the gym customers looking at me in peculiar ways, even more then usual.

The workout:

5 mins cycling

3 sets of snatches

Board press – sets of 3 reps working up to 3 with 140kg which I was pleased with as I still felt as I had a little more left in the tank

Circuit of chest carnage – 5 reps of board press/bench press/push press/plyometric push ups/medicine ball throws. Rest 1 minute between exercises and reduce the weight where applicable. Rest 2-3 mins after the circuit and do it 3-5 times (I did it 3 times)

That was it, which doesn’t seem like much but the chest complex is a bastard.

Ta v. much,


Please don’t misunderstand me, I love Bench press and rate it as the most important upper-body exercise there is, the problem is that to a lot of guys (and lets face it it is mainly guys) base their entire routine around this one movement.

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