At some point or another, every guy in the gym has his level of strength measured by the bench press. You know how it goes, “So dude, you look like you hit the weights, how much do you bench?”. For someone like me, this is incredibly frustrating. Why is the bench the quintessential measure of strength? To be honest, it’s not at all.
Lets take a look at the muscles that are used during a bench press. The major muscle group recruited is the pectoralis major, a.k.a the chest muscles. Then you have the front deltoids, the triceps, and small minor muscle groups to keep your body stabilized. If you look at an anatomical chart of the human body, you will see that is a very small percentage of muscles recruited for a lift. So how can anyone possibly consider this movement the end all be all of strength tests. I’ll tell you why, they don’t know any better. Any experienced weight lifter who practices the art of strength training will tell you that there are other movements that better test a person’s total strength. See, bench isn’t even a practical exercise. When are you ever on your back trying to push something off of you? Anyone familiar with martial arts and wrestling can attest to the fact that if you find yourself in that position, you have messed up. Besides, if you’re on your back, a majority of your power to move something or someone off of you comes from the hips. A more practical exercise is the push up, since after you use your hips to flip something or someone off of you, you need roll over and push your own self up.
How did the bench press become the standard for strength testing? The answer isn’t exactly clear, but when men like arnold schwarzenegger and the bodybuilder’s began blowing their chest up for competition, it became the most notable bodypart besides arms. Therefore, it only makes sense that those who were inspired by these bodybuilder’s exploits would begin training their chest to look like them. So you can imagine that the bench would become the standard and most notorious exercise to achieve this look. The idea has only been further perpetrated by those who get paid to be a personal trainer who try to get their clients looking like them. There is more information about a personal trainer’s salary at therichtrainer.com. It’s a shame really. So if you are looking to show off your strength, forget the bench press, go deadlift and squat to really show how strong you are. These exercises are way more functional and truly show how strong you are. They recruit nearly all your muscles for heavy lifts and allow your body to move more weight. Plus the growth hormone released by your body during these lifts help you grow strong over all. Don’t bench, go squat or deadlift to show yourself off!