Arnold, Lou and Franco all made this gym movement famous back in the golden age of bodybuilding (60’s / 70’s). During this time they were talking about breaking the 500 pound bench press mark and that bench press was the ultimate chest movement for overall mass. So to this day any male gym goer will ask each other how much you can bench and will mark this as ultimate strength in the gym (deadlift and squat are and should be the mark of ultimate strength).
So why the heading “is it dead?” well since the 60’s many studies have been done on lifting weights and diet and what is good and bad (like the lat pulldown behind the neck is the worst thing you can do. Refer to previous post for the dangers of bench press). From EMG studies (showing how much activation of muscle fibre this was the following:) The following is a EMG study which was conducted by Tudor O. Bompa, PhD & Lorenzo J. Cornacchia. Both men and women were used in the study and all subjects had at least two years experience with resistance training. Here are the results of the best workout exercises study::
(100% would signify maximum muscle fiber stimulation)
Pectoralis Major (Chest) Decline dumbbell bench press —————-93%
Decline bench press, Olympic bar(OB)———89
Push-ups between benches ——————–88
Flat dumbbell bench press ——————-87
Flat bench press (OB) ———————–85
Flat dumbbell flyes ————————–84
Pectoralis Minor (Chest)
Incline dumbbell bench press —————-91%
Incline bench press (OB) ——————–85
Incline dumbbell flyes ———————–83
Incline bench press (smith machine) ———81
So from the numbers you can see that flat is probably one of the most inefficient exercises. Why? Well dumbbells have a larger range of motion so causing more activation of the chest. Also with a flat bench press there is a lot of anterior deltoid being used as well as tricep so using a decline and incline will neutralise this. There have been other studies and opinions that a reverse bench press (hands in a reverse grip) activate more upper chest but after doing this a few times I found it hurt and put pressure on the wrists and elbows.
So is it dead? Yes and No. From the studies for more chest activation it is but with any form of exercise you have to vary the movement. So like anything if you are just stuck in the flat bench press trap have a look at some other movements and you will be on the way to a bigger chest.