Catastrophic effects of the traditional supine bench press.
Posted Nov 14 2008 10:48pm
The bench press by far the most popular, but damaging exercise performed in the gym. For many, it represents the metric for ultimate upper body strength, and exhibitionism. Beginning in high school gym class, teenagers are instructed by ignorant PE coach’s to measure their strength and even their manhood with the bench press.
You could be at the local gym, and overhear the infamous question, “How much you bench?” The bench press is a ultimate macho metric of your strength plain and simple.
Unbeknownst to the medically immature, habituation of the bench press movement has a mortar and pestal effect on the glenohumeral joint (shoulder joint) while simultaneously annihilating the weak supportive tissue. If you picture the shoulder joint as a shallow cup that only has a very weak suction effect on the long bone of the arm known as the humerus. Overload it with too much weight, or fall on it suddenly, and the net result is usually a subluxation, soft tissue tear or a wicked bursitis. In comparison the hip joint, which is a similar but much larger joint, has an enormous amount of suction to keep the joint connected and is very difficult to dislocate. It has been graphically described to me, by a orthopedic surgeon,as a joint “so strong that, a surgical crow bar is required to separate the joint, when performing hip resurfacing surgery. Point being, that when God invented the weak shoulder joint, he screwed up. The joint is way too shallow, and there is not enough suctional pressure to hold it in place. Moreover, the supportive musculature known as the rotator cuff muscles are paper thin, and easily tear.
If you are looking to develop the broad thick chest muscle, you must understand the anatomical flow of the muscles fibers, and construct your conditioning with this in mind. The chest muscle, known as the pectoralis is a penneform muscle, meaning feather like in appearance and flow. Therefore the least damaging movement that should be used is a non hyper-extended cable or dumb bell fly. It is important to remember that arm movements should never surpass the horizontal plane. Hyper-extend your arms beyond 180 degrees, and expect a ligament impingement, possible dislocation and pain.
Failure to respect your God given normal range of motion of the shoulder joints, and these are some of the medical anomalies which you can expect!
1. Tendinitis - Is perhaps the most common of shoulder problems. As we move into our 30s and 40s our muscles and tendons begin to undergo a structural weakening because of the aging process. By age 40 or 45, simple tendinitis can degenerate into actual tearing of the muscle tissue. Toss is poorly controlled bench pressure maneuver, and your in a world of hurt. Break out the Motrin.
2. Rotator Cuff Injuries - Breaks in the rotator cuff muscles can result from the progressive inflammation of the tendons, repetitive strain through overuse and hyper-extension of the arms.
3. Bursitis - Similar to tendinitis. Inflamed bursae may become thickened and reduce the “free” space in the joint, thus restricting movement and creating discomfort with most movements.
4. Osteoarthritis - Joint cartilage breaks down, and the joint becomes sticky and rough. Degenerative arthritis is often associated with wear-and-tear in the joints over a long period of time. The AC joint is particularly susceptible because,as we age, it degenerates faster than any other joint in the body. Arthritis in the glenohumeral joint usually appears somewhat later, and may be related to trauma earlier in life or rotator cuff problems. Besides being painful, shoulder injuries can lead to “frozen shoulder,” which is like having a rusted bolt for a shoulder joint. This is very common in over abusers such as bench press jocks, baseball pitchers and long distance swimmers. When you get to this stage, it is very difficult to manage without major surgery.
5. Subluxation - A spontaneous popping in and out of the shoulder joint when under direct pressure. Repetitive subluxations will cause the shoulder to become very arthritic and painful over time.
Symptoms of bench press induced shoulder injuries:
Difficulty with extending arms over head or backwards
Difficulty sleeping on your belly or the shoulder with the arms extended to the sides.
Difficulty turning the steering wheel of a car.
Difficulty with daily activities such as washing your hair removing a shirt, or carrying heavy loads.
If you are experiencing any one of the above listed problems, be sure to consult a qualified physician for prompt evaluation and treatment, if it is not too late. Following your evaluation, obtain a referral to a qualified medical exercise specialist/ certified personal trainer, and learn how to stay healthy and medically safe. Remember ” An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!”