When Do We Bench?

This question came from Rob H - AKA "Sofa" in the comments.  Love this kind of thing.  Thanks Rob!
"Neil, today I got asked by one of the newer members how often we do chest focused work outs. I told him that we really didn't do them. It was more of a combination of push ups, burpees, etc. He asked is a bench really not necessary? I did not know how to respond. Just looking for your opinion on it."

We don't do a lot of specific chest development because you don't really use your chest muscles all that much in nature. When you do use them, the movements they perform are directly tied to support from your core and legs.  As in mowing your lawn.  While you are pushing your lawn mower, the only work the pec muscles can do are tied to your legs through your core.  I prefer to exercise your pecs at the same time as your core and legs, as nature intended.  So we do burpees, pushups and other multi-joint exercises for our main mode of pec development.  


Now, I'm not opposed to isolating a muscle group and doing specific exercises to develop and tone for aesthetic purposes.  I think this is a very healthy thing to do- in moderation.  This is one of the things that specifically differentiates us from other programs.  We are not afraid to use isolation techniques for effect, as you'll see on Friday. But I have found that we pretty much have the pecs covered.  We do lots of exercise for pec development throughout a week of programming at GPP.  We hit your pecs from every angle during a normal week.  And it shows. Bigger, more developed pecs are one of the first things you'll see changing on new guys (especially guys) who stay with it for a couple of months.  I get compliments from their wives all the time.

Plus, look at some of the guys walking around our place. You are a pretty intimidating looking group.  By your appearance alone, I wouldn't want to mess with any of you that have been with us for a year or more.  

That being said, I realize that guys have an affinity for even more chest work.  At some point in our lifetime most of us have had a coach who taught us that a man who couldn't rep 225 was akin to a 98 lb weakling.  And even though bench pressing is only comparable to bench pressing, and even though bench pressing has almost no other functional merit (seriously, it's a very poor predictor of a person's strength and/or athleticism, going overhead is a much better indicator), and even though the development you might get from benching and other specific chest work wouldn't lead to any more pec development than what we are already doing down at GPP- I get it.  It is important.  Hell, I even do it from time to time.  That is one of the reasons I've brought in a bench press.  

If you choose to do additional chest (and other muscle group) work, keep in mind that with our type of training, it is easy to overdo.  Overdoing it will eventually add up to injury. It may also take away from gains on both the GPP side as well as the shaping side. 

Keep extra credit stuff to 1x per week per muscle group.  Do the same exercise for up to 6 weeks at a time and aim for no more than 40-50 heavy reps per session (not including the warm-up).  That should keep you safe and injury free.  It will probably even increase your muscularity somewhat.  If you are really serious about increasing muscle size, take a month or two and focus on it.  Come a little early (20 min or so) for a session (as long as you don't interrupt the class- ask the trainer to be sure) and pound out your reps before the GPP daily workout.  During this period you will also benefit from dropping your GPP workout volume (not intensity) by 30%.  

But, be CAREFUL!

Although you'll see marked improvement in muscular development, you will lose a little fitness along the way if you keep at it for too long.  This will make coming back to full Rx status quite painful- as you already know.