Many of the exercises that I’ve discussed this summer here on the San Antonio Rampage Web site have utilized bodyweight in full-body motions. Squats, lunges, pull-ups, push-ups…basic, foundation movements that need to be mastered correctly for several repetitions and sets before you can add load to the exercise through the use of speed or weight. There are specific times where using weight is necessary; to build strength in muscles, tendons and bones they must be loaded beyond what they are accustomed to. This is the entire focus of training: challenging the body with a new stimulus and allowing it to adapt (through proper rest and nutrition) and thus improving.
The bench press is a very common exercise (often too common), but it can be useful in developing upper body push strength with the chest, shoulders and triceps. If progressed correctly and using a stability ball, it can also be a good challenge for torso musculature to stabilize during the exercise. As with any exercise, be sure to check with a qualified trainer and your physician before implementing anything into your exercise program.
Very rarely do I recommend our athletes to use a bar for bench press; I prefer dumbbells for the added challenge of balancing each dumbbell throughout the motion, and it can lead to various progressions like alternating right and left pushing movements. We always start on a bench as it stabilizes the torso and we can focus on the practice of balancing the dumbbells through a smooth, full range of motion. The first time an athlete tries the exercise, this balancing can be a challenge, but after several workouts, they learn the necessary coordination to efficiently move the weight.
Laying flat on a bench, they start with the dumbbells on either side of the torso chest below the chest midline, and slowly, in control, push the weights up toward the ceiling until their arms are fully extended. They then slowly lower the weight to the original starting position before repeating for another repetition.
The use of a spotter is very important for safety. Rather than have the spotter help by lifting on the lifter’s elbows, I prefer to have the spotter have their hands near the wrists of the lifter to offer help if needed.