Fitness fan found dead under crushing bench press weights

I’m not sure how a person can be a “fan” of fitness (who is on the team? who do they play against?), but this guy is dead from bench pressing. You may remember that USC Trojan running back Stafon Johnson had a bar fall on his throat while benching; he required surgery to repair the crushing damage on his throat and larynx.

The bench press is the most dangerous lift you can perform. The bar is moving over the sensitive throat and face area, and, as you can see in the article above, people die from doing it. Here are things to keep in mind when doing it:

1. Never use a false grip
A false grip is one in which the thumbs are not wrapped around the bar; Stafon Johnson undoubtedly was using a false grip. . It’s easy for the bar to slip over the edge of the heel of the palm when the thumb isn’t wrapped. Always wrap your thumb around the bar for every pressing movement.

This is the false grip. It is stupid as hell unless you have safety guards on your bench stand.

People use the false grip because it puts their wrist in a close-compacted position and feels better, but they do so because they don’t know how to do it right with their thumb wrapped. I’ll do a post on this in the near future. If you’re using a correct grip and there are other people available…

2. Have a good spotter
A spotter is there to prevent the bar from falling on your face and throat. Note that if a false grip is used, and the bar actually drops on you (as it did Stafon), there is nothing that a spotter can do. What they can do is prevent damage on the sternum or abdominal organs if the bar is pinned on the lifter (or obviously prevent the lifter from getting pinned in the first place). If you don’t trust your spotter, then get several to stand on each end of the bar. If you don’t have spotters, then…

3. When lifting alone, never use collars
The idiotic globo gyms don’t understand that if you’re benching alone, and the bar is pinned on you, it’s not easy to get it off. This is where internal organ injuries occur (there have been cases of people not knowing they injured something until the middle of the night when their internal bleeding became problematic). If the plates are un-collared, then it’s easy to slide the weight off of one side and then the other to get un-pinned from the bar. The guy in the article above probably was pinned under the weight with collars on.

But he was also drunk, so it’s probably not a good idea to train or lift when you’ve been drinking. Unless you’re Chris Riley, who at one point drank a six pack and then PR’d on snatch. That is neither here nor there.

Packers backup QB Graham Harrell comes in stronger

Graham Harrell is the backup quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. This off-season he trained at Accelerate Performance Enhancement Center (APEC) to put on 14 pounds of muscle in 18 weeks. The training mostly consisted of active mobility work, rotational power, and strengthening the shoulder girdle.

“The first thing we did was try to break those (mobility) barriers,” Stroupe said. “And then we tried to strengthen his body through rotation. We strengthened the rotator cuff and scapula region. A lot of the same things you’d do with a pitcher, but we did a lot of it in motion because he’s always moving when he’s throwing as opposed to a pitcher.”

He did weight training three times a week and speed training twice a week. Each session started with about 45 minutes of “lunging, stretching, and functional movement”. This is what I’m summing up as “active mobility” work. His weight training had a shoulder emphasis, and it included him using rowing machines and high pulls — even rowing “six plates”.

Whatever they had him do, it made him noticeably bigger to his teammates and coaches, increased the velocity on his passes, improved his foot work, and helped him gain 14 pounds of lean mass. This is important for a professional athlete, especially a quarterback. It’s easy for us as lifters to look at a program and pick it apart because it doesn’t have squats, presses, or power cleans. But high level performers need to be specifically trained to improve their ability at performing at a high level. Furthermore, various sport positions need to be trained differently than other positions. We don’t have Harrell’s program sitting in front of us, but we already know it worked.

There’s a lot of stupid shit out there, and there might even be parts of various programs that we think could be different or better, but let’s not ignore when something has a lot of success. I admire Harrell’s work ethic because some NFL players won’t significantly improve their physical capability year-to-year. When a quarterback is labeled as having a weak arm, the media acts like it’s something he can’t ever improve. I hope Harrell proves them wrong this year.

22 thoughts on “News

  1. the backup QB’s trainer was named “stroupe” which is the old spelling my family used when they still lived in belgium. My great grandpa dropped the “e” on the end when he moved to NC because of weird pronunciations.

    That is all I have to offer to this discussion.

  2. Go Graham Harrell, former Red Raider, and from the same town as Doug Young – Brownwood, TX. And don’t bench press alone, drunk, and with collars kids.

  3. Some snot nosed 150lb personal trainer yelled at me for deadlifting too loud yesterday. I’ve heard stories of this happening, but it’s one of those things you just never think will happen to you. He said I was making excessive noise and needed to lower the bar under control. I told him that any powerlifting federation would consider what I’m doing under control and there is simply no way 500lbs is not going to make noise when it contacts earth. To which he responded “this is not a powerlifting gym.” I politely ended the conversation by recommending he shove his meaningless 80$ personal training certification up his ass… I’m not sure if I’m kicked out yet though.

  4. ” We don’t have Harrell’s program sitting in front of us, but we already know it worked.”

    Almost anything tends to work on the genetically elite.

  5. What about using the suicide grip in the overhead press? I feel like if the bar slips that I can guide it forward to make it fall on the ground/rack.

  6. My dad and I were benching a few years back and he was going for a 1RM. Somewhere in the 300lb+ range. He decided that he’d feel more comfortable with a male spotting him due to the heavy load. I was a bit put off as you can imagine. But I mean its his life we are dealing with right;-).

    We are in a globo gym and he asks this muscley looking kid to spot.

    He gets under the bar, the kid helps with a lift off and while doing so my dad (and I) realizes this kid is mentally challenged.

    Now I lift at a lot of meets with mentally challenged kids, they are strong as fuck, but we did not know this kids background.

    Long story longer, he made the bench, says thanks to the kid and comes over to me and says “I was so fucken scared he was gonna push down on the bar as I pushed up.” Hahaha, a little fear sometimes helps with the lift.

    Moral: Use a spotter, know your spotter, trust your daughter:-)

  7. Also a former Red Raider who is happy to see Harrell is getting work done. I am glad to see he is busting his ass to get better, and hope to see him playing a little this season (perhaps this preseason) At any rate, positive publicity.

    The sad story is sad. I try to teach younger kids at the gym the proper grip method for bench if i ever see them using a false grip, and also preach about not using collars…

    Where is Brent?

  8. I’ve seen a guy drop the weight due to false gripping the bar. Fortunately for him it landed on his chest. Unfortunately for him he cried and everyone saw it.

    I would rather 1/4 squat with my knees going far forward and my head staring at the ceiling than bench thumbless. Then again I would also rather lose a foot than a hand.

    Bodhi–my gym outlawed heavy deadlifting recently too, which is funny since it’s a Gold’s Gym and their logo is a guy deadlifting so heavy that the bar bends. The manager said he’s hoping to get a platform “sometime next spring or summer.” So now I have to drive to another location once a week if I want to deadlift. This is why I need to move in to a house asap and then never go to a gym again.

  9. Can’t believe I got beat to the deadlifting joke. Ugh I had a killer one. Thanks reidj.

    @bohdi this happened at the gym I go to a few months ago. The owner was the one that came over to a buddy of mine deadlifting. My buddy just started laughing. Then the owner finished his workout wearing his “INSANITY” t-shirt.

  10. Following this discussion, I was approached by the owner of my gym last week and told to lower deadlifts slower (I only had 225 on, and it was well under control). However, he didn’t give a shit about weight, his reasoning was that the barbells are absolute shit, and that in the past the sleeve separated from the bar and made it unusable. I still think its bullshit, especially since people slam the bars into the squat rack/bench with more force than I’m lowering a deadlift. He then proceeded to do 1handed snatches with the metal plates…..Yes, much lower chance of that hitting the ground hard.

  11. “Never use a false grip for any pressing…”

    I think that needs editing. Axle pressing is a must to be false grip. I also tend to like false grip on strict overhead, as it puts me in a more comfortable position…

  12. You beat me to it, Evan. I think probably what it comes down to it experience of the lifter and the spotter(s), and how much everyone is focused on the task at hand. If you can make the false grip work for you safely, then have at it. If your wrists or some other body part happens to go out on a heavy bench, I don’t think a full grip would end up saving you anyway.

  13. You know, unless your lifting is putting food on your table, it’s a hobby, and should be treated as such. I’m sure you can rationalize any amount of potentially sketchy technique, but it’s still a risk that you don’t need to be taking.

  14. @cassio598 – I totally disagree with the first part of your statement.

    No lifters in America at what is considered “pro” level are putting food on their table with it. the strength sports (maybe excluding super high level strongmen) in America provide no money. You do it because you love to or not at all.

    This aint no fucking hobby.

  15. 300lb Atlas Stone over a 54″ bar twice for a PR. I leveled up.

    Also – I rarely bench, but have found that a false grip is money on an axle (overhead) or when doing farmer’s walks – two things that have never killed anyone to my knowledge.

  16. If I am benching near my max, I use the power rack with spotter bars. I have lost control of a bar in there before, and it fell right at my face, to be stopped by the pins. It scared
    me pretty good, and I realized few spotters would have been fast enough to stop it.

  17. I have to disagree with the statement “Stafon Johnson undoubtedly was using a false grip. . ”
    He may have been, but a false grip does not automatically equal hitting throat. False grip has 5 fingers between the bar & throat. Zero fingers between the bar and chest. IMHO, the moral of this tragedy (at least for me) is to lock out before trying to re-rack.

  18. Pingback: CrossFit Intrepid » Bench Press Safety Tips

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