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Bench Press vs. Push Ups for Distance Runners | Boddicker Performance

Filed under: Program Design, strength training

Bench Press vs. Push Ups for Distance Runners

by on Mar 8th, 2010

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Our Head Track Coach wants all runners to be in the weight room lifting this Track Season. Two of the mandatory lifts are Bench Press and Towel Bench Press.

Can you give me a reason that this would be better than just having the distance runners doing Push Ups outside of the weight room?

I think you can make a compelling argument for both push ups and for bench pressing variations for the distance runner.

If the debate is straight bar bench press/board press versus push ups I tend for the most part to favor push ups (done right) for a few reasons:

1. They provide a great tool for teaching kinetic linking of upper extremity and lower extremity via requiring stiffness through the pillar. There is a powerful stimulus on the anterior chain of the body (the “core”) that bench press does not necessarily provide. This way, we can train in pelvic stability reflexively, which we know to be invaluable in preventing lower extremity overuse injury.

2. They allow the scapula to move freely, unlike traditional bench press, so you provide a stimulus for training motor control.

3. The closed chain nature is easier on the shoulder, and can also provide a mobilizing effect on thoracic spine into extension, which is something that many distance runners do poorly.

However, if we are talking about bench press in very general terms, there is some benefit to runners with bench press variations.

Dumbbell presses allow for much freer rotation of the humerus, giving us better range of motion and forces the athlete to control the wieghts, which is beneficial. Additionally, single arm and alternating dumbbell presses provide a significant challenge to rotational stability that can help us couple force between upper and lower extremities and aid in the prevention of lower extremity injuries.

Barbell pressing is not necessarily a great idea, and I’d be inclined to even select towel/board pressing over straight barbell if I had to pick one as most runners, due to awful respiratory patterns and poor posture, simply don’t have the ability to position the t-spine and scapulae well enough to really be shoulder safe.

In my mind, you can and should use both exercises and variants for complete development of your athletes’ capacity.

Best regards,
Carson Boddicker

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