“HOW much can you bench?” is a common question in athletics because this exercise has become the standard measurement of upper body strength and power. Although the bench is a great exercise endorsed by strength coaches everywhere, for boxers a better exercise is the incline bench press. The type of incline press I prefer is with a straight bar and the bench set at a 45-degree angle. I prefer pressing from this angle because the movement pattern is closer to the movements that occur in punching, and I prefer a straight bar because it enables the athlete to use the most weight in the exercise. Using more weight increases the intensity of the exercise, which in turn recruits the most powerful muscle fibers.
During the preparation phase I would use a variety of implements, such as the football bar (which offers several types of hand positions) and thick-handled barbells. The incline press can also be performed with dumbbells during the preparation phase, but the stability required reduces the amount of weight you could otherwise use, thus reducing the strength-building effect.
Although many trainers recommend bringing the dumbbells together at the top, I don’t like that option for two reasons. First, it’s easier to lose control of the weights, and second, it’s possible that with poorer-quality steel dumbbells the plates can chip at the top and cause metal shavings to get in your eyes.