Ask ten baseball strength and conditioning coaches if baseball players should barbell bench press and you might get ten different answers. Some say no never. Some say only during the offseason. Some say it's okay as long as they don't go all the way down to their chest.
So what do I say? I say no, baseball players should not be barbell bench pressing. The easy answer that most of the anti-bench strength coaches out there will give is that it's "bad for the shoulders." While this is true, its very vague and you didn't even get to use any fancy science words ;)
Reasons I do not like baseball players barbell bench pressing by the joint:
Glenohumeral Joint (GH Joint, True Shoulder Joint-Ball & Socket)
When we look at individuals who bench press we often see anterior shoulder capsule laxity from the head of the humerus riding forward in the socket on the downward (eccentric) phase of the bench press motion. This is problematic for baseball players as most already have very lax anterior capsules from the powerful external rotation in the throwing motion. By bench pressing we are magnifying the problem, not helping it.
Scapulothoracic Joint (ST Joint, Shoulder Blade on Rib Cage)
Conventional barbell bench press form says to retract, or squeeze together, the shoulder blades (scaps) throughout the movement. Meaning that we are locking the scaps in place while the arms move. As a baseball strength and conditioning coach this is extremely counterproductive. One of the main goals of any arm care program should be to establish proper Scapulohumeral Rhythm. The scaps are supposed to be moving along with the shoulders, usually a 2:1 GH Joint to ST Joint ratio. In order to throw a baseball properly, with the lowest risk of injury possible, the scaps have to be able to elevate and upwardly rotate. In a bench pressing population we often see depressed, retracted, and relatively immobile shoulder blades.
The last area that I will address in this post is the lumbar spine, the lower back. Taking a look at the bench press form again, we often see individuals arch their lower back. For any athlete, not just baseball players, we want to have proper spine alignment. Lumbar extension is already extremely prevalent throughout the athletic population, so why make the problem worse?
The barbell bench press can be a great exercise, I am not here to say that no one should ever bench. With that said, for the reasons above, I do not include the barbell bench press in my programming for baseball athletes.
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