Bill Starr on what bench pressing can do for athletes in any sport—even Olympic weightlifting.
The bench press has always been a part of the routines for bodybuilders and strength athletes. It’s an easy exercise to learn and do and takes a minimum of equipment.
When I first embarked on my guest for greater size and strength, I wanted to include bench presses in my routine. Later, I became interested in the three Olympic lifts: press, snatch, and clean and jerk. I believed the benches would help me improve my overhead lifts, and they did almost right away.
While I put much more emphasis on the press and jerk than I did on the bench, the exercise continued to be a part of my routine all through my Olympic-lifting career. I was in a minority in terms of benching; most Olympic lifters in the ’60s shunned benches. There was the general opinion that the bench press tended to tighten up the shoulders, making them less flexible, and flexibility is crucial to success in the Olympic lifts.
The standard of strength from the time I first got interested in physical culture up until the early ’70s was the overhead press.
“How much can you press?” was the question you were asked when someone wanted to know how strong you were.