Friday, May 24, 2013

Reverse Bench Press

Here's another example of an exercise I discovered within the pages of Iron Man Magazine that has helped me tremendously. The reason the regular barbell chest press "The Bench Press" destroys so many shoulders (specifically the rotator cuff), is because the more the elbows dip below the body, during the bottom portion of the exercise, the more weight shifts from the chest muscles onto the most sensitive parts of the shoulder joint. The trick is to go only as low as is comfortable for you personally, and Never bounce the bar off your chest. Cracked ribs from that dumb idea is one of the most common bodybuilding related emergency room visits.

When I injured my rotator cuff a few years back, I quit benching, and used machines (facepalm, shame, horror.) What saved me from that awful fate was something rather unexpected. I was getting into yoga at the time, and I ended up aggravating the injury again. A good teacher pointed out, that when I was going from Downward Dog to Upward Dog, I was going too low, sweeping the floor with my chest as my shoulders dipped way below my elbows.

Every body is different, so it's a good idea to work with your body rather than against it. The best exercises are the ones you enjoy and will execute consistently, not necessarily the ones that build the most lean muscle and burn the most fat. (Apologies if you've already heard that speech 81 times.)

The lower pectorals are traditionally built with the flat bench press, while the often neglected upper chest muscles are strengthened and made more amazing with the incline bench press. Some trainees can perform inclines without any shoulder issues, and some lucky lifters can perform both without any shoulder pain, no matter how low they go. As the old saying goes "An athlete should pick their parents carefully."

Symmetry is making a comeback these days, so weightroom residents are starting to have equal lower and upper chest development. A female trainee with a smaller breast size, can enjoy the additional benefit of more cleavage created by upper pectoral work. I'm not being insensitive, and I hope I don't come across that way. I've seen Dana Linn Bailey brag a few times on facebook that she "made her cleavage in the gym. That's the great thing about weights. It's an opportunity to sculpt your body in whatever way makes you happy.

My lower chest was always a little more developed, because when I was in the Army, I was constantly doing push-ups. It was a form of reprimand for my - ahem- less than good behavior. Guess I was kind of a jackass. So when I do work my lower chest, I tend to do dips, and not many, lest I'm mistaken for a clothed and shaved gorilla.

My new fave exercise in my toolbox is the Reverse Bench Press. It targets the upper pecs without much strain on the shoulders. It's beautifully simple. It's just a regular flat bench press with a reversed grip. It's vital that you wrap your thumbs around the bar. Open fisted gripping technique is another potential ER trip. I'd also suggest utilizing a trainer or a spotter, as it's a little tough to get the barbell off the rack initially. Alright, let me proof read this crap, and make sure I used enough big words I never use in everyday conversation. If my secret gets out that I'm just a meathead who'd rather exercise than train clients I'll be finished!

~Happy Heavy Lifting~

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