Bench press risk - wife as spotter, no safeties? Bench press risk - wife as spotter, no safeties?

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Thread: Bench press risk - wife as spotter, no safeties?

  1. #1
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    Default Bench press risk - wife as spotter, no safeties?

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    I'm 35 and weigh 210 lbs. My lifting goals are general physical fitness and long-term quality of life. This morning I benched three sets of five at 190 lbs. My same-aged, 135 lb wife spots me in our garage gym. I don't have any kind of safety apparatus. Lately on the bench, I've been going up 2.5lbs/workout on the work sets (initially started out going up 5 lbs/workout). Typically, if I need a spot, it's only on the last rep of my last set. I believe my form is good given my participation in the Milwaukee SS Seminar last year.

    My friend believes that the risk I'm taking on far outweighs the benefits of doing the exercise. His rationale: there is a high likelihood that I will experience some particular failure such that I will put so little force on the bar that my wife will not be able to pull it off me.

    I think everyone agrees benching without a spotter and no safety apparatus is dangerous (and in fact, for a long time I didn't bench because my wife wasn't available to spot me). Best obviously is one (or more) strong spotter(s) and safety pins.

    But what about the middle ground? Without safety pins, no matter how strong and experienced the spotter, there is always a risk of suddenly dropping the bar (spotter can't react in time). How prevalent is that? (I suspect not very.)

    My friend's basis comes from his college experience, where during a bench press workout, at the bottom of his second rep, he felt a "popping" in his shoulder, and basically lost all strength. Another friend had to pull effectively all the weight off him. Presumably he sustained a minor muscle tear, but it was over 10 years ago and details are foggy at best. If that were to happen to me, he argues, my wife wouldn't be able to pull the weight off me. I probably wouldn't die, but would likely sustain serious injury.

    My argument is that the risks presented to me in ordinary daily life are greater than that of a freak accident under the bar while benching. He disagrees, arguing that I'm taking an outsize risk, compounded by the fact I have two young children and am the sole provider for our family.

    Are there any stats on this?

    A couple related threads from using the search function:
    - Bench fail -> Death ( Warning, disturbing content )
    - On Spotting Bench Press

  2. #2
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    He is correct in that the possibility of a catastrophic failure under the bar is non-zero, albeit a very small number. What equipment are you squatting with?

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe View Post
    He is correct in that the possibility of a catastrophic failure under the bar is non-zero, albeit a very small number.
    I certainly agree with that; I was hoping to get a better idea what that very small number actually is, or at least, how it compares to ordinary "life risk" like getting hit by a car while walking to the train, or suffering an aneurysm while watching TV, being struck by lightning, etc.


    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe View Post
    What equipment are you squatting with?
    Did you mean squatting or benching? At any rate, the answer is the same: Rogue SPX squat stands (I don't believe they make them any more; they don't accept the Safety Spotter Arms Rogue now sells) and matching bench. Bar is the "Rogue bar" (not sure if they still sell it, bought before the B&R was available). Weights 10lbs and up are rubber bumper plates (Rogue/Hi-Temp), cheap steel plates for 5/2.5/1.25 lbs. Shoes are Rogue Do-Win.

  4. #4
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    I appreciate the question is an academic one and you need to right and perhaps prove your friend wrong. However, seeing as we really aren't going to be able to predict with any reliable accuracy whether this will happen to you, or not, why not at least buy or make something as simple as a pair of saw horses to stand beside your bench? prove your pal wrong by never needing them, and if one day you need them, you'll still be alive to tell him "Bob, to this day I've still never needed those safeties..."

  5. #5
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    Buy a power rack. Really.

  6. #6
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    I've seen people build a "spotter box", that is high enough to catch the plates. Not perfect, but should work up to a certain point.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe View Post
    Buy a power rack. Really.
    This first and foremost.

    Also - from my experience. During my first meet - I was nearly at complete lock out of 280lbs. It was a grinder but I was nearly there. The bitch of it? At the top of my lockout I rolled my wrists forward and despite having 3 spotters all 280 lbs crashed down onto my chest from nearly full extension. It cracked a few ribs, bruising , soreness etc, etc.... my point is this: that while a catastrophic injury may not be the cause of a dump, you can screw yourself (thats what she said). Not to mention that there is absolutely no way your wife is going to prevent anything - -quite the contrary -- my wife was on stage taking photos when I dumped mine onto my chest. She still has nightmares about it. Imagine the position you are putting your beloved in should you drop the bar and perform some involuntary bridgework or rhinoplasty?

    Buy the Rack . .. .

  8. #8
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    If you don't collar the bar, you can always do the sideways dump maneuver. How effective this would be with a torn pec, I cannot say, having not experienced it myself, but it's better than your wife pulling weight off you without your help. Of course, as Mark says, a rack or safeties would be better.

  9. #9
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    When I trained at a public gym, I would often bench with no spotter or safety catches, other than the hooks that the bar rests on. There were a couple of pretty damned hairy close calls. I now have my own power rack and can't imagine using anything less. They don't need to be expensive, especially since whatever junk metal rack you get will likely be better than what you currently have in terms of minimizing crushage and decapitation-type injuries. Obviously get a good one if you can, but cost shouldn't really be prohibitive. "You can't put a price on safety", blah blah, etc. etc.

  10. #10
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    I bench at a commercial gym, with no safety equipment, and generally without spotters, since every time I've asked a random stranger for a spot, they usually mess it up (not letting go of the bar, or letting go and then grabbing it way too early, or....)

    But I'm not completely clear what you're worried about. Rip gives rule 5 -- if you're benching heavy by yourself, always bench inside a power rack (and I understand that you're essentially by yourself in a worst case scenario), but he gives you the "out" of rule 6 -- if you're not following rule 5, at least have enough sense to NOT COLLAR THE BAR. So I fail to understand why, even in a worst case scenario, your wife would have to pull the entire weight of the bar off of you?

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