The bench press is a popular exercise among bodybuilders, power lifters, and fitness enthusiasts. For most guys growing up, at least in one time in their life… Someone ask them, “how much you bench?”
However, for martial artists and MMA fighters, the bench press can be a controversial exercise. Some believe that the bench press can improve strength, power, and overall performance in MMA. Others argue the bench press is not a functional exercise for MMA athletes and that it can detract from other training that is needed. Short, there are so many hours in the day and the week for training. Is this the best use of your time? In this discussion, we will examine the arguments for and against doing the bench press exercise for martial artists and MMA fighters.
Arguments for Doing the Bench Press Exercise
Improving Strength and Power: The bench press is an excellent exercise for building upper body strength and power. It targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps, which are all important muscle groups for martial arts and MMA fighters. Increasing the strength and power in these muscles can help improve punching power, grappling ability, and overall physical strength. It’s one of the “primary strength exercises” which includes the squat, deadlift, pull-up and dip.
Improving Muscular Endurance: besides strength and power, the bench press can also improve muscular endurance. This is especially important for martial artists and MMA fighters who need to maintain a high level of physical performance throughout a fight. A stronger and more enduring upper body can help fighters maintain their guard, defend against attacks, and execute powerful strikes.
Cross-training Benefits: While the bench press is not a “functional exercise for martial arts”, it can provide cross-training benefits. Cross-training can help fighters break through plateaus in their training, prevent injuries, and improve overall fitness. The bench press can help fighters develop upper body strength and power that can be applied to other exercises and techniques.
Arguments Against Doing the Bench Press Exercise for MMA
Lack of Functional Movement: One of the principal arguments against doing the bench press exercise for martial artists and MMA fighters is that it is not a functional movement. In martial arts and MMA, fighters use a wide range of movements, including punching, kicking, grappling, and throwing. The bench press does not mimic any of these movements and may not provide any significant benefits to a fighter’s performance.
Time Detracted from other Training: MMA athletes have limited time to train, and every minute is precious. Some argue that time spent on the bench press is time that could be better spent on other training, such as sparring, grappling, and technique drills. These activities provide more direct benefits to a fighter’s performance and are more essential to their training.
Risk of Injury: The bench press is a demanding exercise that requires proper form and technique to perform safely. If performed incorrectly, the bench press can lead to a range of injuries, including shoulder, elbow, and wrist injuries. For martial artists and MMA fighters, who rely on their bodies to perform at the highest level, the risk of injury may not be worth the potential benefits of the bench press. You will learn world-class technique as part of your curriculum as a Certified MMA Conditioning Coach.
No Rotational Movement: Punching power largely depends on rotational movement, and the bench press does not involve any rotation. As a result, some argue that the bench press cannot help improve punching power or overall striking ability. Instead, fighters should focus on exercises that involve rotational movements, such as medicine ball throws, core exercises, and twisting exercises.
Which Form of Martial Arts Could the Bench Press Help Most?
The bench press can be beneficial for some forms of martial arts more than others. For example, traditional martial arts that focus heavily on striking, such as boxing and Muay Thai, may benefit more from the bench press than martial arts that emphasize grappling, such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and wrestling. However, even for striking-based martial arts, the benefits of the bench press may be limited compared to other exercises that focus on functional movements and specific techniques. In short, grappling tends to be slower than striking. So, a slower strength movement would have more benefit than something that requires more snap and explosive speed. This is a generalization.
While it can provide benefits such as improved strength, power, and endurance, and cross-training benefits, it also has its drawbacks, such as the lack of functional movement, time detracted from other training, risk of injury, and no rotational movement. The decision to include the bench press in a wide range of combat competitor’s training regimen ultimately depends on their goals, individual needs, and preferences.
If an MMA fighter does the bench press, it is important to prioritize safety and proper technique to prevent injury. They should incorporate other exercises that focus on functional movements and specific techniques that are more applicable to their sport. Rotation is key to many movements related to fighting.
Overall, the bench press can be a useful exercise for improving upper body strength and power, but it should not be the primary focus of a martial artist’s training routine. Other exercises and techniques that are more directly applicable to their sport should take priority to ensure that they are well-rounded and able to perform at the highest level.
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