Here’s an “out of the box” guest post from intern, Devin Hayes on how we integrate the Trap Bar Bench Press into a workout.
Using the Trap Bar for a bench press sounds dumb, but there’s a few reasons why we may use it instead of the traditional straight-bar bench press. Yes, one of the reasons has to do with not having access to a multi-grip bar! So what, who cares, wanna fight about it?!
The Bench Press
Although it has been researched that the straight-bar bench press is a great chest strengthening exercises, with the pecs playing a major role in throwing velocity, there have been many articles written on why baseball players shouldn’t bench press.
Most of the anti-bench discussion is based on the idea that the straight-bar bench forces the shoulders into internal rotation as the bar moves towards the chest, potentially creating an anterior glide of the humeral head. This then places the shoulder joint at risk for injury.
Check out this article that Eric Cressey wrote back in 2010 and another follow up article in 2017 on why they don’t straight bar bench press their athletes. We agree with a lot of what Eric is saying and try to find other ways to create upper body strength while protecting the shoulder joint.
So, if you’re an athlete that has a nagging shoulder injury or lack internal rotation, you may not be able to properly perform the straight bar bench press without feeling some type of discomfort. It may help to perform Push-Up Variations & DB Pressing first, before progressing to the Trap Bar Bench!
Enter the DB Bench Press…
The DB Bench Press is a great exercise for baseball players as it allows the scaps to move freely along the ribcage throughout the entire exercise. Athletes are able to move throughout their own individual range of motion without having to lock into a bar and force shoulder internal rotation. Athletes can also use a neutral grip or a 45º angle position to help minimize humeral head anterior gliding.
We do like the Floor DB Press (shown below) as the floor creates a guideline for how far down the athlete needs to descend, before pressing back up. It’s really a great starting point to get the athlete comfortable before progressing to the DB press on a bench.
However, there is one issue with the DB Press. It’s the inability to significantly load the exercise (most gyms don’t have DB’s greater than 100s), so it may not allow you (stronger athletes) to recruit the necessary motor units required for larger strength gains.
If the gym you train at has access to a multi-grip or swiss bar then you won’t have to worry about alternatives…or even this article. If not, you can either keep pressing dumbbells, and keep on reading, or you can use the straight bar bench press, powering through that nagging pain you may have.
Enter the Trap Bar Bench Press…
We really like the way the handles are set up on the trap bar so athletes are able to maintain a neutral grip, minimizing the risk of excessive shoulder internal rotation during the initial descent of the movement. Check it out below!
Although we have seen some great results, and some athletes like this variation, we have noted some inefficiencies with the Trap Bar Bench Press that may hinder some athletes from using it.
Below are few limitations/restrictions that we found using the Trap Bar Bench Press…
- The distance between handles puts younger athletes in an inefficient and unsafe position. Focus on Push-up variations, DB Press, Landmine Press.
- It is recommended that the Trap Bar Bench be used primarily by bigger broader athletes to promote shoulder positioning and safety.
- This exercise requires 2 spotters on each side of the bar to maintain proper balance when assisting.
Let’s break down the pros and cons of the Trap Bar Bench Press…
- Neutral grip for safer movement
- More weight on bar = more motor unit recruitment
- You can use the same bar to safely deadlift and bench press
- Attach Velocity-Based Training Devices like FORM, Push, GymAware, OpenBarbell
- Meant for taller athletes with a broader shoulders
- Two spotters to help lifter because of weight distribution and bar shape
Athletes must first show that they can properly press before moving to a Trap Bar Bench. This means performing Push-Up Variations and DB Pressing Variations with significant load. Although the Trap Bar may not be seen as a tool for bench press quite it’s worth experimenting with to try and maximize your training!
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