Can't barbell bench press
The most common limitations to the barbell bench press are a lack of strength, mobility, and technique. This article will look into each of these and offer alternatives.
What is your why
Before we go into the limitations of the barbell bench press let me ask you a couple of questions:
- Why do you want to bench press
- Why do you want to get stronger
- Why do you want to build muscle
- What happens when you do
- What happens if you don’t
You might think that these questions are not if big importance. Answering these questions will be crucial to your long term success for fitness. Life will get in the way of your fitness goals. You will have to have good reasons to keep pushing. Especially when you already find it hard to barbell bench press.
Most people go through their life in this fashion:
- What do I want
- How do I get it
- Why do I want it
With this thought pattern, you will become a victim of your own urges. What we want changes hundreds of times a day. It highly depends on what we surround ourselves with, whom we talk to and what happens during the day. If you follow these impulses without an overarching guide my point you will feel like chasing your own tail. This changes when you flip the order of these questions on their head:
- Why do you want something
- How do you get it
- What do you need to do to get it
This will change your actions, thought, and behavior and connect it to a meaningful goal. You will become more productive and find it easier to see things through when it gets tough. If you want to know how this works on a psychological basis read Daniel Kahneman’s thinking fast and slow. If you are still not convinced check out Simon Sinek's TED talk on the golden circle. He makes a very compelling case telling the story of the of the Wright brothers.
What helped me most to get more organized and focus on what is meaningful was the best journal from best self. It is the best planner I have ever used and I highly recommend it.
The barbell bench press
The barbell bench press is one of the most favorite exercises in the gym of all time. It is an iconic movement which you see portrayed in almost any movie montage of someone getting fit.
The barbell bench press involves lying on a bench while the barbell is above you. You lower the weight to your chest and from there press it back up again. This is the basic idea. There are different variations of the bench press. The most common ones are
- Wide grip bench press
- Close grip bench press
- Competition bench press
The wide grip bench press is a variation that gives you less leverage and mainly activated the chest. In this setup, you are losing power from the triceps. This is a good variation for getting bigger chest muscles but is not the best for benching maximum weight.
The close grip bench press is the variation that maximizes the triceps activation but takes the pecs out of the equation. This is a great variation to train your triceps and not ideal for maximum strength.
The competition bench is the variation that most people do naturally. Your grip is somewhere in the middle depending on your size and length of your arms. This variation gives you the most activation of different muscles to develop maximum power. It is not the ideal variation to make your chest muscles or triceps grow.
Limitations to barbell bench pressing
These are the most common limitations to the bench press
A standard barbell weighs 20kg. If you lack the strength to move this weight you will struggle to bench press. This is especially the case if you are very small and light. Most gyms do not stock the 15kg barbell standard which is for women. If you lack the strength to barbell bench press you can use dumbbells or kettlebells instead. These come in denominations from 2kg up to 32kg in most gyms.
If you lack the mobility to do the bench press you most likely have a shoulder issue and should see a doctor. For most people, it is quite unusual to not be able to lower weight to their chest when they are lying down. Get yourself checked if this is not the case.
If you can move the barbell freely but struggle with the movement pattern you lack technique. The most important thing to learn for beginners is building tension. You have to be in control of the barbell. This will erase any wobbles or asymmetries. I often see that not enough attention is laid to building tension and the barbell is all over the place.
Pros of the barbell bench press
The barbell bench press is an iconic movement that will bring you much joy when moving big weights. It will make you strong and train your chest and triceps.
Cons of the barbell bench press
The barbell bench press only trains a few muscles. It is an easy trap to fall into to favor the bench press over other movements and create imbalances in your physique.
Alternatives to the barbell bench press
Alternatives to the barbell bench press are: