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Incline Bench Press VS Barbell Strict Press for Football Players

When I first began working out, it was a way for me to gain a competitive advantage in football. I wasn’t quite in high school yet and most of my friends hadn’t ever thought about touching a weight. My dad showed me some of the basic bodybuilding style dumbbell exercises and, of course, the bench press. I quickly realized that the bench press was awesome. Being very enthusiastic about my new passion, I tried to talk to anyone that would listen about working out. I read and watched everything I could get my hands on about lifting weights. It seemed to me very early on that the bench press was the king of all exercises. Working out with the varsity football team only furthered my feelings of the bench press. The bench press took priority over everything. Looking back on it now, being trained by old-school minded football coaches that were relying on their own experiences growing up this comes as no surprise.

As my passion for training grew into my profession, I have learned that yes, the bench press is indeed still awesome. However, it is not necessarily the king of all exercises, especially for football. It is easy to see why people fall in love with the bench press. Pressing a bunch of weight off of your chest looks awesome and everyone can learn how to do it relatively easy compared to say a squat or deadlift. It is also an easy comparison to football players and specifically lineman given that they physically over power another player by pressing with their upper body.

Let’s take this a step further and change the angle of the bench press to an incline bench press. I have heard from multiple football coaches that they believe the incline bench press is the most important upper body lift for lineman given that the angle at which they are pressing is very close to the angle at which they play at. Again, I can see how this is an easy comparison given that yes, the angles are closely related. However, if you take into consideration how the body actually distributes force via the kinetic chain, I make the argument that there is another exercise that translates to the football field even more than the incline bench press. The barbell strict press.

I am not writing this article to argue against the incline bench press but rather argue for the barbell strict press. When you take into consideration the very definition of the kinetic chain you can begin to see my argument take form. One definition of the kinetic chain reads “Human movement is accomplished through the integration of the nervous, skeletal, and muscular systems. The nerves, muscles, and joints must work together in a chain to produce motion (kinetic). These three systems are also referred to as the kinetic chain.” I like to simplify this definition for my athletes and instead explain to them that the human body is a big computer that has a lot of different parts that must work together to achieve the things they do on the field and in the weight room.

By referring to how our kinetic chain works to produce motion, it is clear to me why the barbell strict press is superior to the incline bench press when discussing “sport specific” training for football players. In my opinion, sort specific training in general is bogus but that is an topic for another day. Also, I need to mention that this article is pertaining to training football players but I believe the barbell strict press is an advantageous exercise for athletes of all sports given the benefits of training the kinetic chain in the way it is meant to be trained.

The argument for the incline bench press given the similar angles is a valid one, until you consider that the athlete is also not lying on their back pressing from a stable surface during competition. Sure, the angle is similar but the function of the kinetic chain is nowhere near the same. The barbell strict press on the other hand trains the kinetic chain in a much more similar way as lineman blocking on the field. Force is transferred literally from the feet all the way through the body and out the arms in both the strict press and football field. The coordination between joints and muscular groups not to mention the balance involved in the strict press is second to none in pressing exercises.

Again, I am not arguing against using the incline bench press. I use it with my athletes and there is something to be said for benching heavy weight. It is obliviously important to gain raw strength and the bench press is one of the best exercises for this. I just think it is important to understand what you are gaining when prescribing exercises to your athletes and if the barbell strict press is missing from your program you may want to reevaluate its effectiveness.

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Strict Press Video


Can’t play video? Click here: Barbell Strict Press

Bill Marnich

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