If you work out alone, you’re placing yourself at an increased risk of injury.
Some exercises like the bench press favor a spotter. Knowing you’ve got someone there who can assist you if you can’t complete your last rep puts your mind at ease.
Having said that, I work out alone. I’ve also never had a problem with the bench press or any other exercise for that matter.
Here’s some tips to help you bench press alone without putting yourself in harm’s way:
(1) Get to know your own body. This is the most important point; you should always know when you’re on your last rep. This comes with experience – train long enough and you’ll always know when you’re about to reach positive failure. You should never be attempting ‘the impossible rep’ when you know better.
(2) Use safety pins. I use a rack which comes with 2 sets of pins. One set for resting the bar on between sets, and another for setting at about chest height in case you get stuck. If you don’t have a full rack, a Multi Press Rack or a Sumo Rack will do nicely.
(3) Grab the bar where it feels most comfortable to you. Feeling comfortable means feeling strong. This means you’ll be less likely to get that weak feeling at the bottom of a rep.
(4) Wrap your thumbs around the bar. This makes it more likely that the bar will stay in your hands and not come crashing down on your chest. Some people use what’s called the ‘suicide grip’, which entails NOT wrapping your thumbs around the bar but keeping them underneath it throughout the movement. It’s called ‘suicide grip’ for a reason (see video below).
(5) Use gloves if necessary. If gloves feel good and give you a better grip, use them. This is a ‘personal preference’ issue, if you don’t like gloves, don’t use them.
(6) Lower the bar to the correct point. When flat benching, it is best to lower to a point just below the nipples. You’ll notice that you feel stronger here and again, less likely to get stuck a the bottom of the rep.
(7) Use smooth, fluid movements. Using jerky movements can cause a sharp pain to develop, especially around the elbows. If this happens on the pushing part of the rep, you can expect to lose strength faster than a speeding bullet. You might end up smashing some ribs instead of smashing your PR.
(8) If all else fails, do the ‘Roll of Shame.’ The roll of shame is when you admit a rep isn’t going to happen, lower the bar to your chest and roll it to your waist. Then you sit up, lift the bar and set it on the floor. It can be painful and it’s definitely embarrassing in a crowded gym, but it can also stop you doing yourself serious damage. (see second video)
example of what can happen with a suicide grip – warning, graphic content!
example of the ‘Roll of Shame’ (2nd attempt)
If you have any more tips, please share them with others below.
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