Monday is a unique day in every gym in America. As the esteemed first day of the work week, it is the day that you'll see the tourists in the gym- slobs who decide every week that THIS is the week that they'll get their fatass in shape. You'll never see them in the gym between Wednesday and Sunday, and chances are pretty fucking good that you'll never see them again 90 days from their first visit.
The other phenomenon, and certainly the more sickening of the two, is that you will see the majority of the regulars battling over two areas of the gym on any given Monday. the first area of contention will be any horizontal, padded apparatus on which someone might exercise their pectorals, and the other is the area typically reserved for power and Olympic lifting. That area is typically empty, so every sad sack of shit in the gym seems to think that this is the place to conduct innumerable sets of biceps, bullshit involving a Swiss ball, and myriad other exercises no useful human being would do as anything other than a goof. This, my friends, is the environment into which we must lower ourselves in gyms around America every Monday. This is our proving ground, both physically and mentally, where we forge our bodies and hone and deepen our hatred for our fellow man.
But why, you might ask, is this phenomenon so pervasive? To truly understand the problem at hand, one must first understand its history. The following is a brief history of the exercise at issue.
The bench press is one of only a couple of free weight exercises invented in the 20th century. The bench press has its roots, however, in the pullover and press, which was conducted by laying on the ground with the barbell just overhead. The lifter then conducted a pullover to get the bar to his chest, and then pressed the barbell to arms length, making it, in essence, a combination of a heavy pullover and the push press. An alternate version of this exercise was conducted by using a violent arching of the lower back to belly press the weight aloft. This method, popular in England, rapidly fell out of favor as Bob Hoffman and other Americans moved to standardize the lift. The final straw occurred when a lifter named Bill Lilly hit the scene- a guy so insanely flexible that he was able to arch the weight to full extension, without actually pressing it at all. At that point, the AAU took a shit on the deal and stopped allowing any arch of the body at all, so lifters started benching atop boxes and benches to practice the prone lift. Thus, the bench press was born. Bodybuilders then adopted it as their premier upper body lift, as it gave them a different look than the guys of previous generations, who had far more shoulder and correspondingly less pectoral development.
Bill Lilly liked doing weird shit.
This does not explain, however, why the exercise remains so popular. We know, for a fact, that it's not because having a large chest makes a guy look jacked. As we explored in a previous blog, guys are considered "jacked' in today's society when they have heavily developed traps and shoulders, and are fairly lean. This is the look that actors achieve in order to appear "buff" in films, and that's because these are the areas that need to be developed in order to relay an air of power in the upper body. Jason Statham is a prime example of this phenomenon, as he possesses wildnly overdeveloped traps and shoulders, and is aggressively lean, in spite of the fact that he's 5'9" and around 170 lbs.
The only actor who had heavily overdeveloped pecs, though, is perhaps the very man we have to blame for the modern ludicrous preoccupation with pectoral development- Arnold Schwarzenegger. Overdeveloped to the point where his pecs hung like tits, Arnold's pecs have captivated men and women alike for decades, leading guys to think that hanging tits are the best way to go if one wants to look like a brick shithouse. This, over course, is fucking idiotic. Guys considered to be both jacked and iconic, like Steve Reeves, Reg Park (Arnold's mentor), and John Grimek, lacked the ridiculous hanging pecs of Arnold, yet they were admired and emulated by legions of men thereafter.
Thus, we can conclude that the preoccupation with pectoral development, while partially the fault of Arnold Schwarzennegger, actually can be blamed on one other factor- sloth. Modern Americans are without question the laziest group of people, en masse, in the history of mankind. We're rapidly turning into the recliner-bound gelatinous blobs depicted in the 2009 animated eco-friendly shit show, Wall-E. What better exercise, then, for the slightly less lazy motherfuckers to conduct upon entering a fitness club than one that requires that he or she lie the fuck down on a comfy pad like they were preparing to go to sleep, and then engage in repetitions that, no matter how intense, fail to engage enough large muscle groups to cause the lifter to break a fucking sweat? Thus, building a program around the bench press is a program built upon sloth. It's a manifestation of laziness on a scale that's hard to conceive, and should never, ever be considered.
Learn from Coach McGuirk's mistake. Don't be a lazy fucking pussy. Don't build your program around the bench press.