Friday, September 15, 2006

Confession is good for the Soul

It has been three years since I have done a bench press. I know, I know. Bench pressing is the very heart of most upper-body training. And when it comes to measuring a guy’s upper-body macho-ness, if not his worth as a human being in general, you know what they always ask: “How much can-ya bench press?”

When I was a young buck and working out with a couple of studly training partners, an Olympic set and a sturdy bench were absolute essentials. Later, when my training buddies moved on, I had no spotters. You need spotters for heavy bench pressing. So I switched to dumbbells and devices like Magnum bench press machines. It was a little different, but they were still bench presses.

Four or five years ago, I started having achy shoulders, off and on. I knew something wasn’t right. What I also knew is that too much bench pressing puts your rotator cuffs through hell. So I decided not to do them for a while. My shoulder pain went away and never returned.

Do I miss bench pressing? At first I did. I had it my head that an iron workout really isn’t a workout at all without some serious grunting under a loaded Olympic bar while flat on my back on a bench. I got over it.

Today, I do standard pushups (sometimes with barbell plates resting on my back), push-ups with my feet elevated on a stability ball, Hindu push-ups, dive bombers, and, of course, overhead presses. Guess what. No shoulder problems. Zero. Nada.

And why is that?

I’m not really sure. It could be that the slightly different angles required in those movements make a significant difference. Or maybe it’s the fact that so many more muscles come into play doing push-up varieties. Maybe they are more natural movements, more in sync with the way our bodies are designed.

Has the good old pectoralis major region been slighted without the almighty bench press? I don’t think so. Nobody’s asked recently how much I can bench. Maybe it’s my age and gray hair. But if they should, I’ll ask how many dive bombers they can knock out. Now there is a challenge!

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