The bench press is not dangerous for baseball players. It’s not dangerous for pitchers, either. If your goal is to add strength, power and athletic function, the move is highly valuable and should not be pushed to the side by ballplayers (or anyone) brainwashed by dogmatic, antiquated thinking.
I can remember a major league trainer telling me that I shouldn’t do traditional bench presses because they were “bad for my shoulders,” or would make me “tight through my chest.” These misguided narratives seemed to be especially (and egregiously) spread by pitchers who, to this day, roll their eyes at the sight of a teammate doing any aggressive pushing exercise like the bench or overhead press. Here’s one example of the unreasonable fear mongering out there:
Your hands are free to move during the Bench Press, but your shoulder blades are glued down against the bench by possibly hundreds of pounds of weight.
But your shoulder blade must move when you throw, especially when your arm is overhead. To see what I mean, take your shirt off, stand with your back to a mirror and raise your arm straight overhead. You can clearly see how much your shoulder blade moves.
If you develop your upper body with your shoulder blades locked down, as in the Bench, you will reduce mobility and shoulder range of motion. Not exactly an ideal scenario for an athlete who relies on the ability to get his arms overhead and throw a baseball.
First, your shoulder blades are not “locked down” when we bench, particularly if we are benching explosively. They may not be flying all over the place, but they are not immobile. Unless you’re uber-focused on it, there will be plenty of contorting going on back there. Plenty of machine exercises lock the body into one plane of motion, but using a bar isn’t going to cement your shoulder blades to the bench.
Second, reduction of mobility isn’t a result of what we do as much as what we don’t do. So sure, if all we ever did was bench press, we would create a lack of balance and potentially limit our flexibility. This is true whether we’re discussing bench presses, squats, or any other singular exercise. This isn’t a real world scenario though. Humans, and baseball players in specific, do many other activities. It may be balancing our weight training with yoga, pull-ups or explosive running, or with more sport-specific endeavors like throwing and swinging. The bench press is but a single exercise in our vast group of options, and it’s a particularly powerful one.
for the goals of improved strength, increased muscle size, improved athletic function, and improved general fitness, the bench press is the best exercise for the upper body.
Specifically, the bench press has direct impact on bat speed:
The relationships between bat swing speed and upper-body strength values were examined. Additionally, the t-test was used to reveal the mean differences between 14 home run hitters (group A) and 16 mediocre hitters (group B) for each measurement value. The bat swing speed showed significant and middle correlations with the 1RM BP (r = 0.59), bench power (0.41), and isokinetic chest press (0.48-0.55). Group A had significantly higher values in bench power and isokinetic chest press (high-speed) per kilogram of body weight than did group B.
and throwing velocity:
The results indicate that throwing velocity of elite team-handball players is related to maximal dynamic strength, peak power, and peak bar velocity. Thus, a training regimen designed to improve ball-throwing velocity in elite male team-handball players should include exercises that are aimed at increasing both strength and power in the upper body.
Many baseball strength coaches have removed their benches and their straight bars in favor of bosu balls and dumbbells or balance boards. While unbalanced and isolated training is undoubtedly valuable, it’s not a substitute for the compound lifts. The bench, the squat, the deadlift and the row still reign supreme over isolation exercises when it comes to power production. For athletes, power rules.