Functional Strength Systems FUNCTIONAL STRENGTH SYSTEMS

Often Overlooked Bench Press Training Exercise


Over the years I have had the opportunity to know quite a few lifters who preferred to compete in the bench press (only). Many do not squat or deadlift for whatever reason. Some of them have physical ailments such as lower back or knee problems. A number of them just participate in the bench press because that’s all they want to do. Regardless of reason, I have noticed benchers tend to utilize the same basic training techniques. It seems, for example, most benchers do a combination of the following exercises. (Supine pressing movements, over-head presses, a variety of pulling or rowing movements, shrugs, lockouts and board presses, various shoulder related movements and an array of exercises for arm development, etc). I’m sure everyone is very familiar with the traditional bench press training exercises we are talking about.

When coaching bench only competitors I have noticed many of them are lacking in upper back strength, especially in the trapezius area. The common prescription for this problem would be to do shrugs. Shrugs are a great exercise that all benchers should utilize but I think there is movement that is superior. This exercise is frequently used by “full power” lifters but is scarcely used by bench only competitors. The “high pin” RACK PULL is a tremendous upper back as well as upper body strength builder! With a 2” to 4” range of motion, a huge amount of weight can be utilized in this exercise which places stress on the muscle tissue and nervous system that can’t be duplicated with other exercises. Rack pulls allow you to pull heavy weight from an angle that is rarely employed (other than relatively “light” shrugs) by bench only competitors. The pulling movement combined with its static characteristics (I recommend holding the weight at the top for a few seconds before returning the bar to the pins.) under a heavy load will help build the upper back and core strength that it takes to handle heavy weight in the bench press without flattening out. With increased upper back strength, you will be able to maintain your optimal bench press “setup” throughout the movement. We all know what happens when you get flattened out during a maximum weight bench press attempt.

Add rack pulls to your bench press training regimen and let me know how it works for you.

Keith Payne
Functional Strength Systems

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Functional Strength Systems and the contributors to FSS's website are not engaged in rendering medical advice, and the contents of FSS's website are not intended to take the place of such advice. Please consult a physician or physical therapist before using any of the information, advice or any of the services on our website. This includes all resources on this website.

FSS's website and its contents are made available without warranties or guarantees of any kind. FSS disclaims any liability for injury or damage resulting from the use of the FSS website or any information, advice, services, or other resources that may be mentioned or made accessible through our website or by our instructors, trainers or representatives of FSS. FSS further disclaims any liability for injury or damage personal or otherwise resulting from the actions or advice of the instructors certified by FSS in the performance of their duties. FSS Instructors must carry their own professional liability insurance.