Over the years, the bench press has become a controversial go-to fitness barometer for gauging strength and stamina among a wide range of athletes. At the NFL Combine, prospective players are tasked with lifting 225 pounds for as many reps as possible and NBA draftees are tested on their 1-rep max.
The old-school thinking is that players who can bench more will be stronger and faster in their respective sport. But is that true? At the 2007 NBA Combine, Kevin Durant failed to bench press 185 even once, but he’s had a pretty good career despite that— he’s a two-time NBA champion, two-time NBA finals MVP, one-time regular season MVP, and 10-time NBA All Star.
Former Eastern Kentucky defensive tackle Justin Ernest holds the NFL Combine bench record at 51 reps, and yet he went undrafted and played only one season in the NFL. All that benching for nothing.
Durant and John Cena have called for the bench press to be eliminated from both the NBA and NFL combines due to the simple fact that, while great at blowing up your chest, it’s not a great way to determine how good of an athlete someone will be. Because most of us have different athletic interests and strength goals, there’s a variety of alternatives that may be better suited for certain athletes.
Here are five pressing alternatives to use in place of the standard bench press and when, where, and why they would be more appropriate than your traditional bench press.
Jon-Erik Kawamoto, MSc, CSCS, CEP is a strength coach, fitness writer and co-owner of JKConditioning, a personal training gym in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. Find out more at JKConditioning.com.