Today is National Bench Press Monday*. Across our great nation, Monday seems to be the preferred day for workouts that start with the bench press, or are labeled as “Chest Day”. If you can get away with this, all the power to you, but most of the time we run into problems with this training. To paraphrase Fight Club:
On a long enough time line, the survival rate for everyone’s shoulders drops to zero.
Maybe not today, maybe not this month, but you’ll likely run into shoulder issues due to muscular imbalances, faulty mechanics, and the wear and tear of every day life. To cut your shoulders a break, I’d suggest performing a pulling exercise in between each pushing exercise you complete.
It would be remiss to say, “Oh, benching might cause problems, so don’t do it all.” Instead, balance proper technique and volume with smart planning. In between each set of your benching, perform a set of a row. I have some of my favorite variations listed below, in order from highest bang-for-your-buck, to the “my gym has no room and I just want to get out of here” variations.
My favorite variation to use are a half kneeling cable row, as you can address your upper back and shoulder health while gently stretching the hip musculature in your lower body. Your head, shoulders, and hips should be stacked over your bottom knee. Squeeze your glutes and get tall; your shoulders should drop and your abs should brace. Row away:
If you don’t have the space to move from a bench to a cable station, but have access to a band, you can simply hook the band to something secure and perform a row in the same manner as the half-kneeling variation. In the video below, I’m performing a tripod row, which I find allows you to really pack your shoulders, and helps take the lumbar spine out of the equation. Your sure to feel this one in your mid-back:
If you’re benching in a squat rack, or you have access to a suspension trainer or Smith Machine, you’ll be able to perform one of the most awesome row variations ever, the inverted row. I’ve heard this referred to as a “Pillar Row” or a “Plank Row”, which is a great name, as it reminds you to stay tall while bracing the glutes and the abs. Put those shoulders in your back pocket, and repeat:
Maybe you really don’t have room to do any moving around in your facility; you’re not going to use any of these exercises if you’re going to get stepped on, are you? This last drill is simple, and you can do practically anywhere. (Seriously; I’ve done them in the shower, and on the train.) Find a wall and say hello to your lower traps:
Bench Press Monday isn’t necessarily a bad thing; I’m excited to bench later just like you! However, it’s important to take into account overall balance and training volume when you’re training, so you don’t run into problems further down the line. By implementing any of these exercises between sets, you should mitigate many of the problems that arise from benching, and keep your shoulders healthy in the future.
If you’re bringing a Gym Buddy with you to National Bench Day, follow good etiquette and share this with them. Then, have a kick-ass workout and start your week out on a good note. See you tomorrow!
* I won’t label it International Bench Press Monday, as other countries don’t seem to be as bench-centric as America. International readers, I’d love to hear your thoughts!