Remember the days when the incline bench was deemed, “sports specific” or when using dumbbells instead of a barbell was considered more “functional” or lastly, and my personal favorite, when the bench was taken away all together and coaches began prescribing push-ups on basketballs – don’t piss on my foot and tell me its raining. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I am a proponent of the bench press for today’s basketball player, and here’s why:
Eric Cressey once said, “If your program is not making you stronger, you need to reevaluate your coach and program. If you do not wish to get stronger, you need to have your head examined.” Don’t get me wrong, I am all for the slow-cook of long-term athletic development and am a believer in “taking the stairs” by starting at Ch. 1 with body position, control, breathing etc. As coaches, we can make a ridiculous amount of progress with push-up, band and dumbbell press variations that are only limited by your imagination. Having said that, this little thing called “overload” is somewhat important for an athlete to continue to adapt (or seek to) and make progress. Overload is “the gradual increase of stress placed on the human body during training.” With said exercises, overload will cease to exist sooner or later, and our hooper will have adapted fully and no longer make gains.
Enter the bench press, a compound lift. Compound lifts are just that – compound! They serve a myriad of purposes, address many muscles simultaneously, and we can further increase overload in our athletes to extract further and more pronounced adaptation. Is this movement “basketball specific”? Of course not, guilty as charged! Newsflash: nothing we do in the weight room is, we are building qualities of general athletic development.
In regards to spurring new and greater adaptation, the body literally needs to believe that we are trying to kill it, otherwise it will merely take the path of least resistance towards homeostasis. When the human body fears for its life due to external load and stress, a drastic hormonal response will follow, bringing on exactly what we as coaches want – new and greater heights for our hooper. Now, you tell me, which do you believe will cause a greater hormonal response: push-ups or bench press? I rest my case.
Lastly, something to consider here: getting strong somewhere increases strength everywhere. The bench press (as mentioned earlier) is a compound movement, and a full-body exercise when executed properly as it is a closed-chain exercise. An athlete who achieves new feats of strength and power in the bench press will see progress in other areas as well, both general and specific.
In conclusion, the bench press is nothing more than a tool to further increase an athlete’s growth and development generally so he can display those qualities specifically on the court. Why would you not use it? I scratch my head when I hear coaches say the bench press is “dumb”, what the hell does that even mean? If the bench press is dumb, than every other tool at a coach’s disposal is “dumb”. There are no “dumb” exercises or tools, but there is most definitely “dumb” application. A hammer is a tool, should we deem it “dumb” as well? Of course not, a hammer is “dumb” when washing windows. I prefer my hoopers to be big, strong, powerful athletes who have the ability to display their strength violently and quickly. A good way to accomplish this is through general means, any idea if the bench press could help with that? If you wish to continue to substitute the bench press with basketballs in the weight room, don’t let me stop you, just don’t complain when our guys smash you on the court.