Safety: Benching Weights
The weight bench is one piece of equipment nearly every uses. The exercise most-often associated with it is the bench press. Other exercises include bench flyes, various curling exercises, shoulder presses, triceps extensions, leg extensions, leg curls, and various exercises using various attachments.
We'll look at general safety tips first, then look at some of the exercises people do with the bench.
General safety tips
This is by far the most common exercise done on the bench. And it's one only a small percentage of exercisers do properly. Most people destroy the stability of their shoulder joints, but forego real development of the chest when they bench.
Three reasons exist for this:
Other safety tips apply to bench-pressing, but these will allow you to overcome the most common problems associated with this exercise. Always check pins, collars, and other safety devices. Don't assume they are correctly in place.
Back in the golden age of Nautilus equipment, the "new rule" was to "pre-exhaust" the chest with flyes, then do the bench press. The problem with this approach is you also exhaust the stabilizer muscles and thereby make your bench press unstable. This leads to torn muscles (very painful), ripped cartilage, inflamed tendons, and even dropped weight.
Remember, if you are at the bottom of your bench and can't lift the weight you will need to cheat to save yourself. Pretty hard to do when your delts are already fried.
To do flyes safely:
Various curling exercises
Keep your back straight. Period. Too many people curve their backs so they can hoist more weight. This is counterproductive to the curling and it weakens your back.
The key to developing your curling ability is to do back exercises, not curls. Trust me--I can curl half my body weight with either hand. So, don't weaken your back by cheating on bench curls.
Keep normal back curvature. Not normal as in what most people do, but as in what the back is designed for. If you adopt the sitting posture most people adopt, whether sitting at the computer or trying to lift weights--you are simply setting yourself up for back problems.
Most people would do better to do presses standing up, rather than sitting down. And never press behind your neck. This is not only a useless unnatural motion, but it puts your back into a compromised position. If you have a trainer who tells you to do this, find a different trainer.
Lying on your back and doing triceps extensions on a bench is one way to really hammer your triceps. You can do hanging extensions, where your head hangs over the end of the bench and the weight drops below you. These are relatively safe, provided you use the right weight and don't try to cheat on form. You can also do "widow makers" or "nose breakers." These involve lifting the weight directly over your face. The caution here should be obvious. If it's not, I can't help you.
Don't jerk the weight. This exercise is rather controversial. It works your quads in a manner that is needless if you are doing squats. It's great for physical rehabilitation, but it's not all that useful to the serious weightlifter. Add them for variety.
These are often done with vigor by people who claim "squats are bad for your knees" (they aren't). These are good for variety, though you will work your hamstrings if you do squats correctly. In the movie, "Pumping Iron," Arnold was doing this exercise with only 30 lbs. Think about that. Get the movie. Notice how his hips never leave the bench. Go thou and do likewise.
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Where an article is not bylined with a specific author's name, it was written by Mark Lamendola (see photos on home page and elsewhere on this site). Mark is a 4th degree blackbelt, has not been sick since 1971, and has not missed a workout since 1977. Just an example of how Mark knows what he's talking about: In his early 50s, Mark demonstrated a biceps curl using half his body weight. That's a Jack LaLanne level stunt. Few people can even come close. If you want to know how to build a strong, beautiful body, read the articles here.
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