Many sports require the total body movement of pushing while standing. Football linemen are excellent examples of this. Wrestlers and Mixed Martial Arts athletes also clearly demonstrate the need to exert pressing force while standing.
This same pressing movement is also important in daily activities for the general population. Many functional activities, such as lpushing heavy furniture or helping push a car off the road, are done while standing and pressing.
The ability to exert push force while standing is important for sports and daily life. Traditionally personal trainers, strength coaches and recreational weightlifters have gravitated to the bench press as the primary way to increase pressing power and build upper body muscles. And for good reason, the bench press is great way to increase the demand of the pecs, shoulders and triceps under heavy loads.
This is great for muscle building and revving up your metabolism for increase fat burning. However, because the bench press is performed laying down the question arises: Does the strength developed in the bench press transfer over into daily activities that are done while standing?
One of the more popular studies in the strength and conditioning community examined the relationship between max bench press strength and maximum pushing force while standing.
The study by JC Santana and others, including Dr. Stuart McGill, one of the leading lower back experts, compared the bench press and the standing cable press. Fourteen recreational weight lifters performed a maximum bench press test and a standing cable press with the electrical activity produced by muscles being examined.
The researchers thought that the standing cable press would be limited to the core musculature.
The results of this study showed that the best way to overload the chest, shoulders and triceps is by doing heavy bench presses. The subjects were able to push about 95 percent of their body weight during the bench press.
While standing and performing the cable press, they were only able to do an average of 40 percent of their body weight. Generally, the best way to increase lean body mass and strength is through heavy loads. However, what they found was that core muscle activation was much higher during the cable press and was actually the limiting factor.
The authors stated that, "data seem to indicate that chest strength may not be the most important factor when pressing from standing positions." Despite having strong chest, shoulders and arms, if your core is weak, the strength won't transfer over into the field or help with more heavy stuff.
Basically, power and strength is being lost in the core. Some coaches have adopted a "player position" philosophy, trying to incorporate standing or athletic positions while exercising to help strengthen the core.
The bench press is a great exercise to increase lean muscle mass and for those with healthy shoulders a viable option. Although often neglected in weight training programs, for athletic performance and daily function, core strength and specifically core strength while standing, may be more important. So while bench presses and crunches are good, challenging the upper body and core while standing should to be addressed in your weight training program.
-Kyler Crouse, BS, CSCS is a personal fitness coach at Sierra Athletic Club and in the homes of clients in the greater Lake Tahoe area. He graduated with a bachelor of science in exercise physiology / minor in nutrition and earned the most prestigious certification in the industry, the NSCA certified strength and conditioning specialist. For more information visit www.KCstrength.com.