Sunday, October 7, 2007
How to escape from a bench press gone bad
I usually train alone. Sometimes I have a roommate with me to help out, but I'm usually by myself for at least 2 of my 4 workouts every week. Recently, someone emailed Mehdi at stronglifts.com asking about bench pressing when alone -- he trained alone and didn't feel comfortable using free weights for the bench press without a spotter.
I used to be in the same boat. I would stop sets of bench press early if I felt tired or if the reps started feeling hard. This kept me from being stranded under the bar with nobody to help, but also prevented me from working as hard as I should at the exercise. So, I figured out a way to escape from a failed bench press.
If I'm bench pressing and can't complete a rep, I return the bar to my chest, push it down to my hips, and sit up. I then move the bar onto my thighs, stand up holding the bar, and place it on the bench. With the bar safely on the bench, I can easily remove some weight and/or return it to the rack.
This technique won't work if you're going for a single rep max, but I can do it easily with the weight I use for my workouts. It also isn't a replacement for a spotter -- if you have somebody who can spot for you, let them do so! But if you have to train alone, you can use this technique to get out from under the bar if you can't complete a rep.
If for some reason you're in a situation where you can't complete the rep and you also can't move the bar to your waist, you have one last-ditch option: dump the weight.
First, you'll need to make sure NOT to use clips on the barbell. To dump the weight, return the bar to your chest and slowly lean to one side until the weights on that side of the barbell slide off. You'll then be jerked back the other way by the weight on the other end of the bar, and those will slide off, as well. It's not a pleasant experience, and I wouldn't recommend it unless you're really in a bind, but it's better than lying there with 200 lbs on your chest until somebody happens to stroll by.
Again, neither of these techniques can replace a good spotter. If you have the option, always have someone spot for you. But if you're in a situation where you have no spotter and you need to get out from under a bench press gone bad, these techniques will do the job.
Just to be sure nobody will sue me: You are solely responsible for your actions. Use your head -- don't do anything just because some dude on the internet said it was ok. It's definitely possible that using these techniques could increase your chance of injury. Personally, if I was looking for a way to feel safe while benching alone, I'd use a light weight to practice rolling the bar down to my waist and sitting up until I felt confident I could handle it, and then I'd go for that extra rep when I didn't have a spotter around. But don't do anything you're uncomfortable with just because I say I'd do it; I'm just some dude on the internet.