4 Reasons the Bench Press is Absolutely ‘Functional’
For years and years in the functional fitness community, and still to this day for many, the bench press is considered a meathead movement not part of the exclusive ‘functional fitness’ family. It’s avoided at many facilities for reasons we won’t ever understand because in reality, it’s one of the most functional movements that we can perform as human beings.
Among many reasons to bench, here are our top four.
Upper Body Strength
Nothing can be more life saving in a pinch that having the requisite upper body strength to get yourself out of trouble, and nothing develops upper body strength like the bench press. The reason for this is simple and in our opinion, indisputable: we’re lying down. The same reason why functional purists avoided it is the same reason why it’s amazing at isolating the pressing muscles of the upper body. We get little assistance from our legs and core, it’s nearly exclusively a chest, arm, and shoulder lift.
Targeted Secondary Muscles
Specifically, the serratus anterior – the rib cage muscle that looks so aesthetically pleasing on shirtless men and women. Aside from being a good sign of someone who is lean and strong, the SA plays a very crucial role in a lot of movements that we perform in the gym. Most notably, anything that we do that goes overhead from push press, to overhead swing, to pull-ups, to snatching. A weak or muted SA will expose the rotator cuff and shoulder girdle to injury. So the irony of a bench press not being functional is quite pronounced. You could actually make the case that it’s imperative to bench if you enjoy functional fitness.
We don’t often think about the bench press as being a grip focused movement since we aren’t hanging, holding, or carrying. But the bench press requires a very firm squeeze on the bar to achieve your maximum expression of force, so whether you are performing a high rep set that fatigues your grip or a low rep set that strengthens it, your overall ability to grip and hold is improved in some fashion.
And of course, we all know how important grip is to fitness.
It’s Scientifically Proven
Rather than regurgitate all of these amazing facts and data points about what the bench press can do for your fitness, we’ll just link it and let you read for yourself.
Especially for our female readers.
The barbell version of the bench press is not a movement that can be performed by absolutely everyone. Show me a barbell lift that isn’t prone to irritate a small sub population and I’ll show you a barbell lift that doesn’t exist. If you have shoulder pain or previous injury, the mobility restrictions of the barbell may aggravate it so you’re better served by modifying to free floating dumbbells where rotation and mobility can be expressed.