So, you want to know what would happen if you dropped the bench press on your chest.
You know as well as me, it’s unlikely to be good news.
Plus, I know that this is a fear that many of you may have, especially if you’re lifting heavy weights, while benching on your own.
In this article I’d like to reveal the main things that would happen if you dropped a loaded bar on yourself during bench press.
And be prepared for some very sad news too.
Dropped Bench Press on Chest
Clearly, a dropped bench press on your chest can cause an extremely serious injury. That being said, some lifters have dropped the bar, but been very lucky. Apart from some bruising and a little pain, things were back to normal within a few days. Nevertheless, there have been numerous cases of a cracked sternum and broken ribs from a dropped bench press. Plus, if the bar happens to roll down to your stomach, this could actually crush your internal organs. The worst case scenario is death, which sadly is what happened to Australian teenager Ben Shaw.
1. Cracked Sternum and Ribs From Dropped Bench Press
Okay, I think it’s safe to say that we ALL know that dropping a loaded bar on your chest isn’t exactly going to be good for you.
However, the seriousness of injury can dramatically vary.
In fact, I’ve read up on this topic on various Question & Answer websites, and exercise-related forums.
I was actually surprised to see just how many people had actually dropped a bench press on their chest.
Now, funnily enough, many of the people I read about got away with this very lightly.
There are even stories of those who were in pain at the time, but were able to return to the gym the following day and crank out a fantastic workout.
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So, clearly a dropped bench press isn’t going to cause serious injury every time, although it’s not something that you really want to find out for yourself.
That being said, the most obvious thing that would happen if you dropped bench press on your chest would be cracked or broken bones.
More specifically, this would generally be a cracked sternum or cracked ribs.
The most common injury from actually dropping the bar is a cracked sternum, which tends to be the part of the breastbone that sticks out slightly, known as the xiphoid process.
This can actually occur by simply forcefully touching the bar to your chest during bench press.
Obviously, if you have dropped the bar and you’re in pain, I would suggest that you contact your Doctor immediately.
However, whether you’ve cracked a bone or not, you should definitely rest when you’re in pain.
In fact, the only way to really recover from fractured bones is through rest and painkillers.
You also need to be wary of where the barbell ends up if it’s dropped from a failed bench press.
If the bar rolls over your stomach there is the chance that this may crush your internal organs.
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Then again, if the bar rolls back over your throat, well, it doesn’t bear thinking about.
And unfortunately, there have been cases of people dying from a dropped bench press.
2. Death By Dropped Bench Press on Chest
I’m sure you’re aware that a bench press dropped on your chest can have tragic consequences.
And unfortunately, this was the case for 15-year old Australian rugby player Ben Shaw.
I’ll be covering how to avoid the dreaded dropped bench press in a moment, but obviously one way to do this is to have a spotter.
That being said, this won’t always help, as it depends on whether the spotter is able to actually lift the weight off you, as well as how quickly they see that you’re in trouble.
However, in Ben’s case he unfortunately didn’t have a spotter.
In truth, no-one is entirely sure what happened, although someone did eventually remove the bar from Ben’s body.
Authorities investigating Ben’s death stated that he could have been trapped underneath the bar for up to 30 minutes.
The man who actually removed the bar, came into the gym and noticed that no-one seemed to be around.
It was only when he looked over to the bench press area that he saw the barbell right across Ben’s neck.
The man removed the bar and shouted for help, as two employees quickly arrived and started to perform CPR.
But, alas, it was to no avail, Ben had passed away.
3. How to Avoid Dropping Bench Press on Your Chest
Okay, clearly no-one ever wants to drop bench press on their chest.
So, it obviously makes sense to have certain preventative measures in place.
For me, it’s just about keeping things simple.
So, initially you should start out light with a few warm up sets, basically get yourself primed to bench press.
I cannot tell you the number of times I have seen someone walk into the gym, head straight over to the bench press area, place two 45lbs plates on the bar, and then immediately start benching.
As I say, you need to prime your muscles for what they’re about to face, and this should also involve mobility and flexibility work too.
So, always make sure you are properly warmed up before you start benching.
Plus, there’s no shame in benching an empty bar for a few sets, to stimulate the target muscles and work on that mobility.
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Next, I would advise that you always bench press in the power rack, and this is especially true if you are lifting near-maximal loads.
This obviously gives you the opportunity to escape from under a failed bench press.
I would also say it’s always a good idea to have a spotter, even if this involves asking a stranger.
Admittedly, and as I’ve mentioned, a spotter may not always be capable of helping you, depending on their own size and strength.
However, there’s something very reassuring about having a spotter there, and many of us manage to lift more weight than usual, even without help from our spotter.
I guess it’s a psychological thing, but still, I would always advocate benching with a spotter.
Finally, you must ensure that you don’t bang the bar into your chest.
As I’ve said, this can cause a cracked breastbone, and this is even more likely as you reach fatigue or muscle failure.
Personally, I like to stop the bar just above my chest and then pause for a second before pushing back out of the hole.
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This “pause” is not only great for isometric contraction of the working muscles, which is obviously fantastic for hypertrophy, but it also stops me banging the bar into my chest.
Always remember that proper form and your own safety should be your main concern in the gym.
Major Bench Press Accident
So, as I’m sure you already knew, a dropped bench press on your chest is never a good thing.
If you’re lucky, you may get away with some light bruising, a little pain, but you’re ready to start exercising again the next day or the day after.
Then again, a loaded bar can obviously cause a lot of damage, and one of the most common injuries from dropping the bench press is a cracked sternum or cracked ribs.
Plus, the fact that the barbell can still roll over your neck or your stomach can cause further very serious injuries.
In fact, there have been a number of cases over the years of people dying from a dropped bench press.
So, when you bench press in the gym, always be aware of your own safety first.
This should involve warming up correctly, using the power rack, using a spotter, and not banging the barbell into your chest.
Hi, I’m Partha, the founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I’m someone who’s been passionate about exercise and nutrition for more years than I care to remember. I’ve studied, researched, and honed my skills for a number of decades now. So, I’ve created this website to hopefully share my knowledge with you. Whether your goal is to lose weight, burn fat, get fitter, or build muscle and strength, I’ve got you covered.