Have you ever asked yourself this? You’re not alone. It’s commonly asked, especially with ‘normal’ gyms full of people Bench Pressing.
So what is the answer?
Generally speaking, for a MetCon (metabolic conditioning) workout, it’s generally not conducive for using a bench for ‘Pressing’. The high intensity and speed of the ‘WOD’ lend itself better to say Push Press, or Handstand Push Up if a pressed-base movement is to be used. Bench Press is, however, an extremely useful strength-building exercise. So you will find the bench is used sometimes in a CrossFit strength set, before the MetCon.
So CrossFit does use the Bench Press, not as pronounced as some might call into question.
However, there are other movements and exercises that align in very similar territory to Bench, that train the same muscle groups, as we’ll see.
The WOD in CrossFit
The MetCon (metabolic conditioning) is commonly known as the WOD. This is the work out after a strength or skill section of any conventional class.
The MetCon is generally split into two types as below.
Aerobic Conditioning is the optimising of our heart muscle, training it to effectively deliver oxygen to our muscles.
Training is normally carried out with endurance-based workouts.
Usually, the exercise is light to moderate in intensity and carried out over a protracted period of time.
Anaerobic Conditioning breaks down the glucose stored in the body, without (ana) the use of oxygen.
The exercises are shorter than that in aerobics, but higher in intensity.
For more information on the differences in MetCons, check out this article here.
Bench Pressing generally fits in better with the strength section before the metabolic conditioning.
The bench does get used in CrossFit
The topic title is slightly misleading as there is still bench pressing in CrossFit.
There is even a benchmark girl workout named Linda, which incorporates the Bench Press.
- 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 Reps For Time
- Deadlift (1.5 bodyweight)
- Bench Press (bodyweight)
- Clean (0.75x bodyweight)
To discover the best 10 free WOD sites online, make sure to check out this Best Gym Hacks article here.
A great tool is to use WODWell, and filter workouts with Bench Press in it.
This link will take you to the CrossFit Bench Press WODs – enjoy!
Types of Bench Press
There are generally four types of Bench Press exercises:
- Traditional (used in CrossFit strength sets)
- Close grip (sometimes used in CrossFit strength sets)
- Incline (articulated benches not often found in CrossFit gyms)
- Decline (articulated benches not often found in CrossFit gyms)
The traditional Bench Press aims to build upper body strength, by working arms, chest and pecs.
The floor press is often used instead of bench. It’s often done in partners and using spare bumpers to elevate off the ground, or squat rack hangers are you slow down on the rig.
You lie flat on the floor, arms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and carry out the lift in the same way you would bench press.
Driving your shoulders into the floor helps create resistance, to force the bar up. (Thanks Einstein).
There is a risk of injury to elbow upon the bar descent.
Careful regulation of bar speed ensures the bar will not come down on the elbows.
As with Bench, it is better to have a spotter, especially when going heavy, when carrying out a floor press.
The below pictures are examples of the Floor Press with spotters.
Because CrossFit gyms are more sparse and selective in it’s stock equipment, there are often not a lot of benches.
There is a stronger emphasis on ‘free weights’ (barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells etc) which means that other press-type movements are used in lieu of Bench Pressing.
Some examples include:
- Strict Press,
- Military Press,
- Push Press
- Kettlebell Press
- ‘Z’ Press
- Zots Press
Other exercises utilising the same muscle groups, but instead with bodyweight, include things such as:
- Press ups
- Handstand push ups
- Strict handstand push-up
What does the Bench Press do?
The Bench Press increases upper body strength, targeting the chest, arms and pectoral muscles.
Other muscles are being engaged during the lift, but the Bench Press predominantly improves strength in these.
The below depiction helps you understand where in the anatomy this exercise targets.
How much can the average person Bench Press?
Men and women have a different set of averages, with men able to lift more. This goes for all lifts too.
Both men and women are known to be stronger in their twenties and thirties.
As we get older, there is a natural decline in strength in our muscles:
With age, bones tend to shrink in size and density, weakening them and making them more susceptible to fracture. You might even become a bit shorter. Muscles generally lose strength, endurance and flexibility — factors that can affect your coordination, stability and balance. – Mayo Clinic.
Here is a guideline as to how much on average male CrossFitters should be able to Bench Press in KG. (Multiple by 2.2 for lbs). Females are approximately on a ratio of 20-33% less.
|Bodyweight||Beginner||Intermediate||Elite / Professional|
As you can see, a heavier person has a natural and inherent propensity to be able to lift more.
In simple terms, a heavier person is often stronger.
This Best Gym Hacks article explains more on that.
Crossover benefits within CrossFit from doing the Bench Press
Becoming stronger in the Bench Press means that a logical outcome would be your Strict Press (AKA Overhead Press), Push Press, and Handstand-related exercises will improve as a by-product.
With an improved upper body strength, other exercises are likely to see benefits, too:
- Strict Pull-Ups
- Farmers Carry
- Overhead Squat
- Turkish Get Up
Functional fitness improvements and Bench Press
A key selling point of CrossFit is that you will see improvements in life as a benefit of becoming stronger.
Lifting your kids will be easier; holding that sheet plank of timber when working in the garden; or even just carrying your weekly shopping to the car.
Overall, CrossFit does use the Bench Press (and many variations of it in its programming), but maybe not the bench itself so prominently.
You don’t need a bench just to get stronger
Just because the bench itself is not used as much, does not mean you won’t be getting stronger in the chest, pecs and arm areas, because the other lifts – plus the myriad of other upper body exercises utilised – means you will certainly be making upper body strength gains.
And don’t forget, there are a number of other exercises we do in CrossFit which works similar muscle groups.