My Opinions on Bench Press

At the gym or outside of the gym, the biggest fitness-related question most guys get asked is "How much do you bench?" I'm not sure how barbell bench press became the epitome of manliness but in high school and college I would make the most of it. I benched so often and so heavy that now I have permanent tendonitis in my right shoulder. As a method of testing upper body strength, I don't think it is that big of a deal but NCAA and pro scouts will beg to differ. Perhaps down the road, the Bench Press Max test will be phased out or regarded with less significance. 

Most physical therapists will contraindicate any overhead pressing motions such as bench press, incline bench press, and military shoulder presses. While these movements do tend to put stress on the shoulder joint, overhead pressing motions are required for many everyday activities and I think they should be done at least to an extent. If you have major shoulder pain or injury, I would minimize overhead pressing motions, or at least use light weights. Dumbbells and cables are usually preferable over barbells because they allow for more freedom of movement which can minimize joint stress. Using a Smith Machine or Nautilus-type machine for your shoulder exercises is usually the worst option and should be avoided by everyone except for elite bodybuilders. Using dumbbells or cables also prevents your stronger side from overcompensating which is very common with barbells or machines. They also require more stabilizing which involves the smaller muscles of the shoulder to be used and strengthened.

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