Why Are You Bench Pressing?

How often do you stop and think about how you want to perform an exercise and if that is conducive to your goals?  Our physical therapy patients here in Bethesda often have the goal of learning to train without pain or discomfort. Training clients, most concerned with sports performance may have goals that include becoming stronger, faster, or building muscle mass.

There is not always a “correct” way to perform every exercise.⁣ Let’s take the bench press as an example.

Depending on your goals and capabilities, you may want to play around with the angle of your arms when bench pressing.⁣

Is your goal to build big pecs? Perform the lift with the arms closer to 90 degrees and do not allow the arms to drift past the body as you can see in the video here.

Do you want to lift more weight while keeping your shoulders and lower back healthy? If so, perform this lift with the arms closer to 45 degrees to take the stress off the front of the shoulders. Check out this bench press variation here.⁣

This is just one of many exercises that can be altered to change the focus.

The key is being clear on the outcome that you have in mind!⁣

Image Source

Bench Press” by A. Blight is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Why Rest Often Makes Back Pain Worse

I’m sure you’ve heard it before…“Weight training is back for your back! Be careful.”

Although this mindset is common, after years of treating sports physical therapy patients in Bethesda and Chevy Chase, we’ve actually found the opposite to be true. According to Michael Mash, DPT, back pain from time to time is actually normal and usually resolves itself without treatment or the need for expensive medical attention.

In fact, research shows that sedentary activity, like sitting on the couch watching Netflix, can actually make back pain worse. Oftentimes, after a small “tweak” or “flare-up” from lifting weights, many athletes can self-manage by simply avoiding painful movements while focusing on exercises that still feel comfortable.

All in all, weight training is not the single source of low back pain. There are several contributing factors — including lifestyle, diet, and exercise form. The body is incredibly resilient, and with a little education and practice, you can enjoy an active lifestyle while staying healthy and pain-free!