Back in the 80s the question, “how much can you bench?” flooded gyms all over the world. These days you tend to not hear it as much as fitness trainers and gym goers have found that it is a poor test of strength. Although this may be the case the bench press is a poor measure of strength it is still a good exercise for Judokas.
The bench press targets the chest, front deltoids, triceps and activates a lot of the core muscles (especially when lifting heavy).
When we compete and train we are constantly looking for a reaction from our opponent. It is this reaction we use to attack with to either upset or throw them. We get a reaction in a number of ways. We can attack with a combination, break grips, use mat control and footwork in order to create reactions.
We can also push and pull our opponents. We must feel how they react and adjust accordingly. In my personal experience the more I push the bigger a reaction I get to work with. If I have a weak push then my opponent won’t give me a strong enough push back to work with.
I know that when I push my opponent I am not using the muscles that I use when I bench but I am also using my wrists as well as mat positioning and footwork.
What sort of bench should I do?
A Wide grip requires the trainer to have a wider than shoulder width grip. This targets a lot more of the chest muscles opposed to the front deltoids and triceps. although, due to the wide grip you may be susceptible to shoulder injuries.
A Close grip requires the trainer to have a very close grip on the bar, closer than a shoulder width grip. The Close grip bench press targets the front deltoids and triceps and decreases the amount of chest being utilized. This is a good form of bench press for Judo but due to such a close grip the elbow joints are placed under a lot of pressure which could result in an overuse injury such as tendinitis.
A Shoulder width grip, in my opinion, is the best form of bench press for Judokas. This is because a shoulder width grip is not only the same width as your opponent but also divides the amount of work throughout all three muscle groups. Therefore the Chest, triceps and shoulders are working at the same intensity, meaning you will avoid a muscular imbalance.
In conclusion I believe the best variation to perform is the shoulder width grip bench press. Judokas should not neglect this fundamental lift and should include it in most strength programs. This is due to the fact that it not only develops a lot of upper body strength and power but also assists in getting a stronger reaction from your opponent. The stronger the reaction you can get from your opponent the more chance you have of throwing them for Ippon.