Men’s Fitness Expert Says Don’t Do the Bench Press

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bench_press Many people come to me searching for the magic exerdcise they should do.

Optimizng your workout program, however, starts with dropping exercises that are over-rated ( like crunches), ineffective (like kickbacks), worthless (don’t even get me started) or even potentially dangerous – like the barbell bench press.

Yep, I, a former college football player who did 15 – 20 sets a week for years, said don’t do the barbell bench press.

And I’m not the only one.

When I got this message from Jason Ferruggia – best-known for his work with Men’s Fitness Magazine – I immediately asked him if I could publish it here for your benefit.

You see, even if you aren’t doing this particular exercise, you need to step back and examine the exercises you are doing.

Most people – including personal trainers – never think about what they’re doing and why.

It happened again this morning, another victim claimed by the flat bench press.

My buddy called and told me he tore his pec while benching heavy over the weekend. It didn’t shock me at all. This lift has been destroying shoulders and tearing pecs since the beginning.

Back in the golden days of the Iron Game, when the military press was the upper body exercise of choice, nobody ever heard of rotator cuff injuries or pec tears. It was only after the bench press achieved extreme popularity that shoulders and pecs started getting obliterated at record rates.

The bottom position of a heavy bench press puts your shoulders in a very vulnerable and dangerous position. Some people can tolerate this for decades.

For others it will only take a few years. But sooner or later it’s bound to happen. It’s really not a question of if, but when.

The flat bench press will eventually lead to some kind of shoulder problems or pec tear in the majority of lifters who do it heavy enough and long enough.

Like a lot of you, I was obsessed with bench pressing for a long time. And I have always trained athletes who get tested on it. I proudly proclaimed it to be a great size and strength building lift and measure of upper body power. Nothing made me happier than helping one of my guys add 50 pounds to his bench in the off season and watching him go to camp and destroy the competition.

But after 20 years in the game, having been witness to far too many injuries resulting from the flat bench press and getting my own shoulder cut open recently, I have finally had to look myself in the mirror and admit the truth that I have been hesitant to come to grips with for far too long…

Bench pressing sucks!

I have discussed this issue with many of the world’s top shoulder specialists in recent months and they are all in full agreement.

That’s not to say that you can never bench again. I know many of you will refuse to stop and I can relate to that mindset. If you get tested on the bench or compete in powerlifting, of course you have to do it.

For the rest of you, who still love to press big weights and impress your friends and gym members I recommend you do so with extreme caution. Make sure your technique is picture perfect and you bring the bar down to the right spot while properly activating your upper back and lat muscles.

Secondly, don’t use the flat bench for more than 4-6 weeks without switching to a safer version of a barbell press like an incline or floor press. The smartest route, however, is to get rid of this destructive exercise forever.

There are far more effective movements that will build mind blowing strength and size in your chest, shoulders and triceps while saving you years of frustrating and costly injuries.

While the bench press is probably the most dangerous exercise most of you are doing on a regular basis, it is not the only harmful one. Unfortunately many of you are probably doing damage to other body parts without even realizing it.

To discover the most effective and safest exercises that will replace the bench press and many other useless movements, check out the brand new, completely updated version of Muscle Gaining Secrets at today… before it’s too late.

Train smart,
Jason Ferruggia
Strength & Conditioning Specialist
Chief Training Adviser, Men’s Fitness Magazine

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About Stephen Holt

Literally millions of readers of magazines like Shape, Fitness, Men's Fitness and Men's Health have made their exercise programs both more efficient and more effective with the help of Stephen Holt.

For his contributions to the knowledge base in the fitness industry, Stephen was named "Personal Trainer of the Year" by the American Council on Exercise (ACE) in 2003 and "Expert of the Year" by in 1999.


  1. Thanks for this article. It’s information like this that benefits us all trying to achieve maximum fitness without incurring injury. Who would have thought that an old standby like the bench press could be so dangerous?

  2. John White says:

    This is the stupidest article ever written, further proof of how susceptible we are to forming opinions based on personal experience or just plain wayward willpower. Three of my family members have played in the NFL and we have all worked out for years. Not only is the bench-press, as a free-weight press, universally known to be the best chest and triceps strength exercise there is, but it is also one of the safest. Key to safety, as every expert knows, is having a spotter take off the weight for you and help you re-rack it, especially when doing heavy weights. The vast majority of injuries occur during take-off and racking. Again, the bench press is easily one of the safest exercises around, and no other chest exercise approaches it for strength. No one in my family has ever heard of anything Jason is talking about. Give it a rest, dude.

  3. Anon says:

    The bench press is a key exercise. You telling the world that it shouldn’t be done is completely biased. All your article means is lift a realistic amount of weight so you don’t hurt yourself. Duh.

  4. Anon says:

    And crunches and kickbacks are key exercises for one who’s cutting rather than bulking, again, complete bias.

  5. aren says:

    Bah, you do not even need to bench press to increase chest strength push ups and dumbell flyes work just fine. That said, benching can be pretty safe so long as you use proper form and have a spotter, most shoulder injuries occur because of bad form, which football players are notoriouse for using.

    Don’t take anything these guys say to heart, football players are not the strong men and gurus of weight lifting they want to be, ask a personal trainer, ask a bodybuilder, ask a powerlifter, but don’t let a cocky football player misinform you. Crunches and dumbell kickbacks worthless? Please.

  6. Lee Paxton says:

    Good article exposing a very injury prone, and non-functional exercise; not to say, overrated. Stick to Olympic lifts which are functional, explosive, and have a place in sports and everyday life.

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