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Press vs. Bench

I’m not training for competition purposes or anything, just to be stronger and in better shape than I was yesterday. I’m not training to make a certain body part bigger or more defined… I’m training for my ENTIRE body to be better.

I have found Squats, deadlifts and chins to be absolute musts for training for a better self for obvious reasons of working so many muscles and challenging the body better than any other movements.

When it comes to upper body, I’m finding the strict standing overhead press to be the most beneficial upper body movement. It challenges so much more than the shoulders… My lats, traps, core, lower back and triceps are all worked to the max, whereas when I bench I’m just really sore in my shoulder girdle.

Because I am not competitive and not training for anything but a stronger self, I find the press to be so much better than bench because of the real-world strength purposes (standing and throwing a bar overhead) versus getting to lay down and bench.

Is it a bad idea to just press and not bench in my situation? And if not, are pushups and dips a good substitute for the bench if I’m only pressing?

Open to conversation on this topic.

Not Jim, but the Standing Overhead Press is a core lift in 5/3/1 and should be treated as important as Squats, Deadlifts and Bench Press. If you don’t like doing Flat Barbell Bench Press then don’t do it. Olympic lifters never Bench Press because it doesn’t really do anything to improve their Snatch or Clean & Jerk. I Bench Press but it is definitely my least favorite of the movements but I still give it my full attention. If a Bench Press doesn’t help you reach your goals then I wouldn’t hesitate at all to scrap it.

You said you wanted to train to better your whole body, yes? Well taking out a core lift will definitely not get you that. Yes, the OH Press is a great exercise however it does neglect the chest. One can argue that you could just do flies to keep the chest up with your other muscles, I’m not one of those people. You don’t technically need the bench press for a better body, but good luck getting stronger overall without it.

My opinion, yes.

These are great ASSISTANCE exercises. You could load them for strength too. But not a good substitute. The strongest people on Earth bench, so should you.

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I do not see any specific movement a MUST for being awesome. There are some main movements which should be in your program (for. ex. some kind of barbell press and barbell squat), but other than that it does not really matter in the long run.

BUT I think OP should keep the bench with him. This is because:

  • It is one of the core lifts in the 5/3/1. If you don’t have valid reason, you should keep the bench with you for the balance. if you’re still beginner/intermediate you’ll be sorry later if you don’t build good strength base with all 4 movements. Be vary not to drop movement just because you suck at it (which you probably do since you don’t like to bench)

  • There are strong lifters who rarely back squat, rarely bench etc… But they’re STRONG. Ie. what I mean that they are strong and balanced enough to use the movements they need the most. Or they can be limited because of some injury. But all of them have probably done years of the basic big 3 (or big 2 as a WL) before embarking to some other approach.

I’m not a fan of the bench either, but I’m keeping it along. You can run it easier/with less volume and intensity, but keep it with you for a couple years more. Earn the right to drop a main movement.

This is how I think. It may not be the right answer. But it is my answer.

Keep it. Until you have built an amazing base of strength, then cut it out if you want.

I’ve been training a long time and there are probably a dozen people that love training more than me. It consumes me. Like it or not, that is the reality. Ask anyone I’m good friends with and that’s what is on my mind, 24 hours a day for last 30 years.

My left shoulder is torn pretty bad. I rehabbed it myself and can do most anything, albeit not well. But I can’t bench press. One hard set of bench press sets me back 3-4 months. I never really loved the bench but I did it.

I wish like hell I could bench press again.

The bottom line is do what you can now, enjoy it, embrace it and have some fun. Because it can all be taken away.


Each to there own but personally i love the bench press but i also love to press, squat, pull aswel. I would just leave it in even if you dont compete you need balance.

If you are going to do 5/3/1, have bench press there. If you are going to run another program, you can easily just ditch bench as a main upper body pressing movement and train your chest in other ways. If I didn’t compete, I probably wouldn’t do flat barbell bench at all.

The bench press is by far my least favorite of the main lifts. I still do it. I figure it helps my overhead press.

I’m wondering what your form looks like with bench press. Have you tried experimenting with grip width and the amount of elbow tuck?

Keep benching. Find what setup and grip work best for you. It won’t hurt your press, and may even help it.


Have you cut out all bench pressing in your training as a result of your injury? I too have a similar issue with my shoulder. One hard set and I find myself getting set back. I’ve been following your programs for several years now and have kept the lift because it is part of the program. I never seem to make any real gains in the bench and when I do, it’s just a matter of time before I get set back from pushing myself. Therefore, I lift lighter than what I am capable of and limit reps to avoid the problem and to continue to make gains elsewhere.The older I get (mid forties) the longer it takes to get back to where I was at as a result of getting stupid with the bench press.