Last week I talked about the need to eventually incorporate weight-lifting movements into a program to develop strength in muscles, tendons, bones and ligaments. This strength serves as a necessary foundation so the athlete can tolerate more advanced, challenging and intense exercises and workouts regimens further in their development.
The bench press, specifically using dumbbells, was introduced. The use of dumbbells rather than barbell helps develop shoulder stability as they are challenged individually to balance the weight through coordinated movement. Once the athlete can successful perform multiple sets with smooth, coordinated motion, the dumbbell bench press can also be progressed to more difficult variations.
Two variations are the Stability Ball Bench Press and the Alternating Bench Press. Both introduce a variation that requires the body to stabilize itself during the motion, including the shoulder girdle, torso and lower extremity. As with any exercise, be sure to check with a qualified personal trainer and your physician before implementing into your exercise program.
The Stability Ball Bench Press requires a properly inflated stability ball. For athletes who have not performed this exercise, I instruct them to use light dumbbells to get used to the challenge before progressing to heavier weights as they get more comfortable. Holding the dumbbells in their hands and sitting upright on the ball, they “roll” out so the ball is squarely between their shoulder blades, they are looking up at the ceiling, their hips are up, feet are flat and knees bent. The dumbbells are by their chest, similar to the starting position of a regular dumbbell bench press. Keeping their torso flat and stable- a very important component of the movement- they perform the dumbbell bench press motion for the prescribed number of repetitions. When finished with the set, they “roll” back up to the seated position. This exercise challenges the torso and hip stability, so a spotter should be used regularly for safety.
Another progression is the alternating bench press. In this exercise, the dumbbells are pressed and lowered one at a time rather than in unison. Although it should be practiced on a bench, eventually it can be incorporated onto a Stability Ball to add even more challenge to total body stability during the movement. I always instruct athletes to use light weights the first several sessions before moving to more challenging weights, as well as to make sure they have a spotter stand near their head to prevent the ball from rolling sideways should they lose their balance.