Originally written on Waiting For Next Year  |  Last updated 6/27/12

Tony Grossi of ESPN Cleveland caught up with Phil Taylor yesterday at the NFL Play 60 youth clinic being held at the Cleveland Browns training facility. The headline is that Taylor hopes to play in 2012, but won’t rush his return to the field. What stuck out to me, though, was Taylor’s detail about how he hurt himself.

Taylor said he was bench-pressing “300-something” pounds when he felt something, but “it didn’t hurt. I didn’t know what it was.” An MRI the next day revealed the muscle was torn. Surgery was performed on May 16.

I’m not a doctor and I’m not even an amateur weight trainer, but bench-pressing 300-something pounds is substantial for anyone. I am unaware of what Phil Taylor’s full training regimen includes, but I was reminded of something I read recently from a PhD named Robert Libertine Starr from the International Sports Science Association. He was calling into question the benefits of athletes, specifically football players, benching.

It is a proven fact that the real benefits in weight training come from squatting and pulling movements. Pushing movements are important; however, pushing movements done in the vertical position far outweigh the benefits of pushing movements done in the horizontal position. Some coaches feel that a big BP (bench-press) equates to the football lineman having superior prowess on the line of scrimmage. Nonsense!

Players in the trenches on the line of scrimmage must first start with a strong and stable three point stance. This must then transfer to a solid free-standing position as they face their opponents across from them on the field. And the only way that a big BP could equate directly to such a position’s strength is if there was a vertical and stationary pole or wall on the field so that the player could brace his back against it while pushing out away from his body…

So, if you want to equate that foundation of strong legs and back, then squatting and power cleans would be the best barbell movements to train on, not the bench press.

Obviously this isn’t to criticize Phil Taylor for lifting and working out. I do find it interesting from the perspective of the evolution of training and exercise. At some point, this is the kind of science that could present a substantial competitive advantage for a football team, and it is something we often don’t talk about at all. We’re too busy calling out 7-yard pass plays on 3rd and 8, but maybe the battle could have really been won in the weight room by working smarter and keeping guys off of the training and operating tables.

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