Why Baseball Players Shouldn’t Bench Press

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I’ve been keeping this article in my back pocket for a while now because I wasn’t quite sure how I wanted to approach writing it.  Lets be honest:  talking smack about the beloved bench press is the fitness equivalent of talking smack about Princess Diana or worse, kittens.

You just don’t do it!

To save face, though, let me be clear up front:  I LOVE the bench press.  Well, let me back track a little bit.  From a personal standpoint I freaking hate the bench press.

I’m an admittedly horrible bencher (god awful in fact), and if it came down to choosing between bench pressing or tossing my body in front of a mack truck, I’d seriously consider the latter.

Every time I look at my program and see the words “bench press” written down this is pretty much my standard reaction:

Temper tantrums aside, I do recognize that the bench press is an important strength building (and for those more aesthetically minded individuals reading, chest building) exercise.  I think we can all agree that the bench press is a super star and is one of the staple exercises behind any well-rounded program.

But is it for everyone?

One of the more common questions we receive at Cressey Performance when people come in to observe is:  Tony, why do you coach with your shirt off? Tony, how come you don’t allow your baseball guys to bench press?

It’s a loaded question, but one that can be answered relatively easily.

I’m of the mindset that there aren’t many contraindicated exercises (you can generally find a legitimate and appropriate use for any exercise. Yes, even if done on a BOSU ball), as there are contraindicated lifters!

For me bench pressing and baseball don’t mix – for a variety of reasons – and there are plenty of other exercises we can use in lieu of the bench press to elicit a training effect.

In this article I wrote for Stack.com I explain my rationale on both fronts:

Why Baseball Players Shouldn’t Bench Press (<— Click Me, That Tickles)

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  • Chris

    Tony, in your article you state that when benching the shoulders do not move and are fixed. Isn’t the same said for DB benching? What are your thoughts on using a football bar or floor pressing?

    • TonyGentilcore

      I like DB or the football bar since you can externally rotate the humerus more and “open up” that acromion space. I have no issues at all with those options and use them quite a bit. BUT…..I still feel push-up (and their many variations) provide a bit more bite for their training buck.

  • Gimp

    I’d be curious about your thoughts on the military press? My experience is that barbell military presses can be brutal on shoulders and db military presses just a little less so. No, I’m not elite, at least while awake, er I meant not in bed, but I am on way way to the orthopod for chronic shoulder pain. I stopped military presses and lateral raises, but not benching, Maybe I need to give that a rest too. But if I give up much more, I’ll be going to the gym just to watch….

    • TonyGentilcore

      As with anything: it depends. The military press is another one of those exercises we don’t go out of our way to implement into our programming for our baseball guys.

      Even with the general public, overhead pressing is something that had to be earned. Point blank: people move like crap nowadays and there are a plethora of reasons why your shoulder could be hurting: poor t-spine mobility, poor cervical function, poor scapular positioning, upper trap dominance, poor glenohumeral ROM, tissue quality (pecs, levator, etc), poor programming, exercise technique.

      If you’re like most, you have limited shoulder flexion, poor t-spine mobility, poor scapular positioning, etc…….all of which is going to affect how well you’re able to get your arms above your head. My guess is not too well.

      To that end, things like push-ups, lots of rows, and even things like landmine presses would be more “shoulder friendly.” Check out this article I wrote: http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/most_recent/the_truth_about_overhead_pressing

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