Weightlifters rejoice! In this review, we take a look at The Backbone, a non-slip bench press mat developed by One Strong Herd.
The bench press is known by many but understood by few. It’s not exactly clear when the bench press became the most popular of the basic barbell lifts, however, a quick peek into any gym and you are far more likely to see a barbell setup for bench rather than a rack for squats and pressing.
When it comes to aesthetics, we train what we see in the mirror and the chest almost always ranks first. For those just stepping into a gym for the first time, it could be considered the easiest place to start, just lay down and push the bar up and down right?
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While the bench press is less (mechanically) complicated than other barbell lifts, the reality is that poor form can lead to lifelong shoulder injuries. They may occur immediately or develop over several years.
Knowing the difference between discomfort and pain is critical. I can speak first-hand about injury as I developed bicep tendonitis in 2012. A cortisone shot and $1500 doctor bill later was all I needed to start taking my training more seriously.
This is where a product like The Backbone comes in. Benches come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
The Backbone Review
While on the road for Thanksgiving, I was able to give The Backbone a new experience at the local LA Fitness where the bench was more narrow and softer than the one I am used to back in Washington, DC.
The Backbone is like a mini-yoga mat but with far more authority. To the untrained eye, it just looks like a piece of fabric that lays on top of a bench with a Velcro strap. No matter how slick or beat up the bench is, this thing keeps your shoulders buried into it with zero sliding. Why does that matter?
Proper form will minimize shoulder movement during the lift. To do this, it is important that you retract your scapulas and try to pinch the center of your back, all the while depressing those scapulas downwards too.
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This will keep the upper back locked in while you lower the bar with your elbows tucked in nicely at the sides. If the back isn’t locked out, the elbows will flare and there is a higher chance for shoulder impingement.
The Backbone allow allows you to push your toes into the ground and drive your shoulders into the mat better. This will help you keep a solid arch in your back and reduce ‘moment’, or inefficiency of the bar path.
The bench press is the only basic barbell movement in which the bar does not move along a vertical path driven by gravity.
It cannot be stressed enough that you only get one set of shoulders in this life and nobody cares how much you bench press. Form should always be the focus of any lift performed in the gym.
One of the things I like about The Backbone is the consistency it provides. When barbell training and striving for higher numbers, it is imperative to try and reduce the number of moving variables that may impact performance.
Sleeping and eating would rank at the top but as you progress in each lift, the little nuances in the form will only become more important as the weight goes up.
This consistency is what the owner Forrest Schaffer has been trying to provide his customers for the last three years.
The Backbone was born with a discussion from other powerlifters and athletes in the room. The Backbone is manufactured 100% in the USA being cut, sewn, and made ready-to-ship by a small manufacturer in Kingston, NY.
As the world moves to athleisure wear, fitness shirts will continue to be made out of a blend between polyester and some sort of tech fabric that stretches. While comfortable, those shirts create about as much friction as a hockey puck on the ice and serve more for fashion rather than function in the gym.
The Backbone allows you to continue wearing your favorite shirts to the gym without complaint. It rolls up nicely and the Velcro if far superior in grip to anything I have seen in the marketplace.
For the price point, I don’t think there’s a more cost-effective way to make every bench feel the same while saving your shoulders in the process.
While The Modest Man does not receive anything of value for supporting this brand, Forrest is gracious enough to offer a discount for TMM readers. Just use code “modest10” to receive 10% off. In addition, One Strong Herd also offers free shipping for all products here in the USA!
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