Not Worth It

Missy —  March 18, 2014 — 7 Comments

Ah, the bench. Not my favorite lift by far and honestly, some of the Miss Fits are quite apathetic about it. We could take it or leave it. We do it because it’s part of our powerlifting meets. Don’t mistake this as a lack of will to try though, we still give it everything we’ve got but you just don’t get the excitement of a squat or deadlift day.

Working hard and not making gains is very frustrating. From my first meet to my second meet, my weight in bench only went up five pounds. Now, I know what you’re thinking…and yes, it is a gain but when you compare it to the gains I made in squat and deadlift it’s just not the same.

Our coach, Jim, understands our frustration but is unwilling to risk our long-term health for a few extra pounds on the bar. You’ve probably noticed that most competitive lifters have a hard arch in their back when benching. That arch gives the lifter more power and decreases the distance from chest to lockout. While this technique is certainly tempting for those of us motivated by PRs, it’s terrible for your back and shoulders. And, for us, it’s just not worth it.

If we didn’t compete, Jim says bench wouldn’t even be part of our training program. There are so many other good options for getting strong:

  • Push ups
  • DB press (double and single arm)
  • Landmine press
  • Bear crawl
  • Floor press
Jim watching my form while doing bench work on the floor.

Jim watching my form while doing bench work on the floor.

But, since we do love competing, we will continue to bench. And, with hard work and a whole lot of patience, we will get better.





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7 responses to Not Worth It

  1. All movements with maximum loads on the body, or involving your flexibility and mobility and pushing it to its furthest extent, are health risks for any joint, ligament, muscle etc. involved.

    This site, and article, keeps this cautious mentality of pushing our bodies to its physical peak without any “risks” in order to stay “healthy”. Further instilling the inferiority of reasoning in women’s sports.

    Look up every competitive record in powerlifting. Tell me if you see their bodies in perfect form and technique. Or no arching in their backs.

    You have to risk your body if you want to succeed competitively, and you decide that BEFORE training for the sport. Whether it’s arching your back, positioning your legs for DL, widening grips, etc., it will be a risk, long term and short term.

    And to say Jim wouldn’t train bench at all if it wasn’t part of the sport is a very poor choice of words from a coach, and speaks volumes about the mentality of this website.

    Even with that aside, there is not much scientific evidence or legitimacy in this article for any of these claims of long term risks with bench or the arch.

    • ^ perfect comment

    • Missy

      Thank you for your comment. Please visit for a response.

    • This comment speaks volumes about your mentality. If you are not a professional powerlifter risking your long term health for the sake of adding a few pounds on your bench press is stupid. Putting your back in hyper extension for an extended amount of time under load is something I would never reccommend. The whole point of arching your lower back is to decrease the distance the bar travels anyways making the movement less effective in a training environment. If you want to destroy your body for your powerlifting total by all means do it. Don’t criticize people who aren’t willing to though.

      • Well stated DC I couldn’t agree more. One of the biggest issues in the fitness industry is training look good feel good clients with the get better at all costs mentality. In my opinion it keep many on the sidelines.


      • Missy

        Thanks for your support DC. We are just every day women trying to grow stronger by doing something we enjoy, and hope to empower other women to do the same.

  2. I’ll post in response to CMW’s first comment:

    The first paragraph is a reasonable argument. I actually agree with the poster.

    The second paragraph is a bit of a stretch. These are women who are really lifting heavy weight, but doing it intelligently. They are not professional power lifters. They are pushing their bodies for a recreational activity with the hopes of improving their long term health at the same time. These are not professional athletes who would lift weights, then spend all day recovering. They are hoping to be stronger in their daily lives, not ache in their joints for weeks afterwards.

    The third paragraph references competitive powerlifters using poor form under maximal loads. I seem to remember watching video of these ladies having fantastic form when lifting some pretty impressive weight. Additionally, Bret Contreras had an article recently that had pictures of some of the best lifters on the planet and the form that was used during maximal lifts. Those guys had pretty good form for the most part. Their eyeballs looked like they were about to pop out of their foreheads, but everything else wasn’t too bad.

    The fourth paragraph details knowledge of risk prior to sport participation. I can’t disagree with this, as my own back is a little sore from deadlifts about an hour ago. However, I know that if I lift a certain way, (i.e. rounded back RDLs, GHR sit-ups, etc) that this places higher risks on me due to stresses on my joints that I may not be able to quickly recover from. Pile on that I may have to lift my children the next day (who also jump on me when I least suspect it) and that my daily work may require me to have to lift someone from an awkward position, I know I need to lift intelligently in a manner that plans for my LIFE, not just a sport / recreational activity.

    Regarding the fifth paragraph and the comments about the bench press: I can say that empirically I have seen many more people injure their shoulders performing a bench press, or have lasting problems later in life during non-benching activities by performing the exercise to a high degree. Again, empirically, I have noticed that by replacing the bench press with the overhead press many of the problems associated with the bench press seem to resolve. I’m sure Jim has seen the same complaints of shoulder pain attributed to the exercise performed in various manners.

    The last paragraph describes a lack of evidence to guide Jim’s reasoning for an arch in the bench press. We are assuming the poster is referring to the practice of evidence based medicine. This practice, popularized by David Sackett out of McMaster University in the late 90’s, emphasizes an equal weighting of current best evidence (background evidence – which is general information, as well as foreground evidence – which is evidence directly related to the person’s situation in front of you), clinician experience, and what the patient desires. Now, these are all equally weighted. Based on my interpretation of the article, Jim is taking into account his experience, the desires of his clients, and background literature that shows of the risk of injury to the shoulder from general power lifting activities (Siewe 2011, Winwood 2014, Hume 2013). If anything, this is exemplifying evidenced based practice as it was designed to be utilized.

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