Don’t go like this: the thumbless bench press

March 18th, 2009  |  Published in Stumpblog  |  8 Comments

I’ve never figured out why anyone would do the lift this way, but apparently some folks think it’s a good idea to rest a heavily loaded bar on tiny rounded platforms hovering over their heads without at least some minor gesture towards preventing its escape (i.e. their thumbs). Behold, Why You Should Not Use a Thumbless Grip On The Bench Press.


  1. Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach says:

    March 18th, 2009at 6:44 am(#)

    My trachea quivers.


  2. Lieke says:

    March 18th, 2009at 7:18 am(#)

    Hot Damn! I used to do this as I was told that putting the thumb underneath would give me extra strength. Never again!

  3. Kat says:

    March 18th, 2009at 7:48 am(#)

    I can actually offer some insight on why people would use this obviously foolish and bad grip. If you don’t know (instinctively or through proper instruction) to grip the bar as hard as you can with your hands, the weight of the bar against your unresisting thumb joint will make your thumb feel like it is going to pop out of its socket, especially if you have fairly loose ligaments to begin with. (Note that some insights are born from painful and near-dislocatory experience :D)

    Apparently people react differently to the experience of pain — some people do a bit of research to figure out what they’re doing wrong, and some people experiment on their own and find a less-painful alternate grip, with the predictably horrific result.

  4. Chris says:

    March 18th, 2009at 10:10 am(#)

    Once, long ago, whae I was young and dumb(er) I dropped the bar on my chest from just out of the rack and I was even using my thumbs. Luckily my spotters caught it on the bounce off my chest and I wasn’t harmed. I put it down to tiny, sweaty hands and not squeezing the bar hard.

    That video made me throw up in my mouth a little. Bleh.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    March 18th, 2009at 10:29 am(#)

    Holy shit, is that guy still alive? And able to eat without a tube?

  6. Zxyrthe says:

    March 18th, 2009at 2:39 pm(#)

    A buddy of mine did that in competition with 500+lbs. and he did have his thumbs around the bar. Apparently his wrists rolled forward during the press and it was too much for his thumbs to hold.

    The good news: he walked away unscathed and even finished the meet. (Let’s hear it for intra-abdominal pressure).

    The bench press is the most dangerous lift in a gym. Where I train, we not only have spotter rails, we use the spotter rails.

    Safety first!

  7. LynneA says:

    March 18th, 2009at 3:09 pm(#)

    As a newbie bench presser, that video made me a little sicky in my stomach.

    The second video (bench tutorial)on that page is very good. I like how he explains the slight elbow adjustment. Pardon my explanation here but, I always thought that when you come down with the bar you put your arms into the “L” position, like you are pushing the bar straight up with it being over your chest the whole time. The way he explains it in the video with the elbow adjustement, you push it up in an upside down “J”, much like how Krista explains it in her dork to diva tutorial, with the bar at it’s highest point being slightly over your head and at it’s lowest point being over your chest.

    I’m going to try my next bench with the elbow adjustment, to see how it feels. How do you all bench press? Straight up and down or with an upside down “J”?

  8. Chris says:

    March 19th, 2009at 7:52 am(#)

    Tucking in the elbows a bit for the BP can help save your shoulders some stress as well as allow you to control heavier weights on the descent as you can activate your lats to help lower the weights.

    I learned the elbows out style and it took a persistant shoulder injury to convince me to retrain the movement. My suggestion would be to do it the way MK suggests from the start.

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