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Imagine you are a strength coach at a junior college. You closely watch many of the young men in your preseason conditioning program because they have had little serious weight training in their high schools, and others may be pushing themselves too hard to meet team strength standards to qualify for competition. Suppose you see a player performing the bench press using

Concentric Phase Benching
Figure 11.4. The concentric phase of a bench press from an athlete struggling to make a weight goal.

the technique illustrated in Figure 11.4. What are the strengths and weaknesses of performance? How would you diagnosis this performance and what intervention would you use?

The biomechanical principles relevant to the bench press are Balance, Coordination Continuum, Force-Time, and Range of Motion. When training for strength, resistance is high, the athlete must have good control of the weight (Balance), and coordination during the lift will be simultaneous. The force-time profile of strength training attempts to maintain large forces applied to the bar through as much of the range of motion as possible. The SSC nature of the movement should be minimized. This keeps the movement slow and force output near the weight of the bar. High initial forces applied to the ball results in lower forces applied to the bar later in the range of motion (Elliott et al., 1989). The principle of Range of Motion in strength training tends toward one of two extremes. First, minimize the range of motion of joints that do not contribute to the movement and of those that allow other muscles to contribute to the movement. Second, the range of motion for joint movements or muscles that are targeted by the exercise should be maximized.

The two principles most strongly related to exercise safety in the bench press are Balance and Range of Motion. Athletes must control the weight of the bar at all times, and a lack of control will affect the range of motion used in the exercise. The athlete in Figure 11.3 shows weaknesses in both balance and range of motion. Since the athlete is struggling to "make weight," the difference in strength between the sides of the body manifests as uneven motion of the bar and poor balance. The athlete also hy-perextended his lumbar spine in straining to lift the weight.

Several aspects of this performance may have a strength coach thinking about a risk of immediate and future injury: lateral strength imbalance, poor control of bar motion, and hyperextension of the lumbar spine. Since the athlete is "maxing-out," some of these weaknesses can be expected, but safety is the greatest concern. Spotters can assist lifters with poor bar control, or who can complete the lift with only one side of their body. Hyperextension of the spine, however, is an immediate risk to the athlete's low-back health. Hyperextension of the lumbar spine under loading is dangerous because of uneven pressures on the intervertebral disks and greater load bearing on the facet joints. The best intervention here is to terminate the lift with assistance from a spotter and return to lifting only when the athlete maintains a neutral and supported spinal posture on the bench. Here the immediate risk of injury is more important than balance, skill in the exercise, or passing a screening test.

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