Modern culture has adopted the bench press as the only indicator of your “strength,” which skews its importance over other lifts.
This has led to a lot of criticism of the movement, and quite a few professionals railing on it’s existence. Claims fly around about it being non-functional, bad for your shoulders, or just outright unnecessary for a lacrosse athlete. And they are right….. to an extent.
Is bench pressing necessary for the lacrosse athlete? NO.
But having a strong upper body is and that is where the bench press can validate itself in the context of a strength and conditioning program. As a lacrosse player, you shouldn’t care as much about how much you are benching, but more so on the how and why you should be benching. Like every movement in your training program, there should be a purpose to performing it.
Developing Upper Body Strength
Bench pressing is a foundational tool for developing general upper body strength. Having a weak upper body only puts you at a disadvantage on the lacrosse field, and takes away from your ability to be as powerful as possible.
Overdoing the bench can absolutely be an issue, and it’s necessary for athletes to understand that there needs to be a balanced approach to their training in the weight room. At the same time, having a weak kinetic link and not being able to perform to their athletic potential is the reason we train in the weight room in the first place.
Your upper body NEEDS to be strong. That doesn’t mean you need to be benching 4 plates for reps, but it does mean that relative to your size your upper body should have the capacity to produce enough force to keep the shoulders in a strong position and allow the force from the lower body to transfer into whatever action you are performing.
Shooting, passing, and checking all finish with the upper body as the last moving piece. Improving the general strength of the upper body allows an athlete to be more powerful in all of those actions. Getting stronger is the first step to being more powerful, and this is what makes the bench press a great tool.
Lifting with Ease
Unlike squatting, deadlifting, or hang cleans, the bench is easy to perform. This makes it a perfect for novice athletes to integrate early and develop strength at relatively quick rate.
Increasing strength allows for other tasks like push-ups or overhead presses to become easier movements to accomplish and improve beyond what was originally possible. Building a good foundation is the start for any novice, and using movements that allow them to practice good positions under load are critical for future performance increases.
Does this mean you can just keep benching day after day? NO.
The classic mistake a novice makes is that if it’s easy, they should just keep doing it. There is a high probability that the ease of bench pressing is also one of its biggest reasons for its negative criticism.
Anyone can do it, there is always a bench available in a gym, and people can easily compare it. This is a recipe for overuse and misapplication which can result in detriments to the body’s natural muscular balance. Unless you’re planning on competing powerlifting, you do not need to specialize in developing superhuman bench pressing prowess.
Building off the Bench
For a lacrosse player, your bench number shouldn’t be the only thing you care about, and you certainly shouldn’t live on the bench press. But that doesn’t mean you should never bench.
The argument that it isn’t functional doesn’t work in my book. General strength development always has a place in being functional for athletes and really just individuals in general. The bench challenges a large group of primary movers of the upper body, and increasing their strength can allow you to improve the strength of MORE functional movements faster than if you didn’t bench to begin with.
Moving from bench press to overhead press or push press allows you to take that newly developed foundation, and apply it to movements that initially may have felt too hard or awkward.[mks_separator style=”solid” height=”2″]
With all things worth doing, there has to be balance and purpose. Don’t just bench for the sake of bench pressing. Use it as a method of improving or testing general upper body strength. Make that strength mean something by applying it on the field.