Of all the main barbell lifts, the bench press is the most dangerous. In fact, it can kill you.
If the bar slips from your hands during the lift, the loaded barbell can fall on your face, throat, or chest, ending your life relatively quickly.
Or let’s say you don’t drop the bar but can’t lift it up after it touches your chest. A barbell on your chest can roll down on your neck and strangle you. Or it can roll down your belly, mashing your soft internal organs and possibly tearing an artery, resulting in you bleeding out.
Because the bench press can potentially kill you, it’s highly recommended that you perform this lift with a spotter. If you fail a lift, they can quickly assist in getting the barbell off your body.
But what do you do if there isn’t a spotter around? Perhaps you work out by yourself in your home gym, where the only potential spotter is your seven-year-old daughter. Do you just forgo benching?
I say unto you, nay. Thou canst still bench.
You just need to follow some precautionary rules so you can perform the lift safely and avoid death by barbell.
Rule #1: Never Put Collars on Your Barbell When You Bench
Collars prevent the weight plates from sliding off the barbell while performing various lifts. They keep you and those around you safe while you do so. No one wants to be around a lifter who has four 45-lb plates slide off the barbell sleeve during the middle of their shoulder press or squat. Also, by preventing the plates from sliding around, collars help make your lifts more efficient. Things get harder when the equilibrium of the weight shifts towards the ends of the bar and it becomes unbalanced.
So always put collars on your barbell . . . except when you’re bench pressing.
Here’s why: If you find yourself unable to lift the bar off your chest, you can tilt your body to either side and let the weights slide off the ends. Disaster averted.
I even bench press without collars when I do have a spotter. If the spotter can’t help you lift the bar off your chest because it’s too heavy, they’ll at least be able to help you tilt the barbell to one side so the weights can slide off the sleeves.
Rule #2: Always Take a Thumbs-Around Grip on the Barbell
Lots of dudes like to take a thumbless grip around the barbell when benching. It admittedly feels a bit