Do Grapplers Need Bench Press?

Do Grapplers Need Bench Press?

Written by Matt D’Aquino, a multiple Australian and Oceania Champion and a 2008 Beijing Judo Olympian. He has been studying Judo for over 23 years. He is a 4th Degree Black belt and a black belt in BJJ. 

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 the bench press may be a bad measure of strength it is still a good exercise for grapplers.

The bench press targets the chest, front deltoids, triceps and activates a lot of the core muscles (especially when lifting heavy or when lifitng with one hand at a time).

When we compete and train we are constantly looking for a reaction from our opponent. We then use our opponents reaction to enter with our attacking technique. You can achieve a reaction in a number of ways. You can attack with a combination, break a grip, control the mat space as well as use footwork in order to create reactions.

You can also push and pull your opponent as well as be really ‘snappy’ with your wrists on their gi. You must feel how your opponent reacts 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 only using the ‘bench pressing muscles’ but I am also using my wrists as well as mat positioning and footwork.

The infamous benchpress escape is a popular move (you can’t really call it a technique) among beginners but it is also sometimes used by advanced BJJ players.




What sort of bench press should I do?

A Wide grip targets a lot more of the chest muscles opposed to the front deltoids and triceps. Although the wide grip puts an unnecessary amount of pressure on the shoulder capsule.

A 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 grapplers 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 grappling. 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.

Essential Movements all Grapplers Should be Doing:
Bench Press
Power Cleans
Sumo Deadlift High Pulls
Chin ups
Military Press
Single arm bench Press
Javelin Press
Rope climbs

Rolling Strong combines scientific exercises and routines specifically geared towards grappling.

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