It’s a question I see asked all the time, “Should You Bench Without Collars?”
In fact, there is much debate around this subject in the fitness industry.
For all the people who say it isn’t necessary, there are just as many who say that you should always bench with collars.
So, who’s right and what should you be doing?
Allow me to reveal all.
Should You Bench Without Collars?
Whether you should bench without collars is a matter of personal opinion. But, I feel that you should always use collars on a barbell for every single lift. Tilting the barbell to the side or using the “roll of shame” are typical solutions for getting out from under a failed rep. However, both present real dangers to both you and others and should be avoided for that reason.
1. Benching Without a Spotter
The main reason that you would consider benching without collars is if you don’t have a spotter available.
Basically, you want to hit some heavy bench presses and would like to add an element of safety.
With that being said, even having a spotter while you bench doesn’t always offer a suitable alternative.
You could get to the stage where a spotter simply can’t help you lift the barbell away from your chest because it’s too heavy.
This is why I believe that you should always bench in the power rack, whether you have a spotter or not.
Plus, you should always use collars when you bench press.
In order to set yourself up in the rack you’ll initially want to lie down, retract your shoulder blades, arch your back, and push your chest out.
You can then set the power rack pins about an inch below your “inflated” chest level.
Now, the reason that you want an arch in your back, and also to push your chest out, is that it provides extra room for a failed rep.
What I mean by this is when you return to lying flat on the bench the pins should be ever so slightly above chest level.
This allows you to lower the barbell to the pins without touching your body.
You can then remove yourself safely from the power rack.
2. Avoid the Tilt & the Roll of Shame
Now, you’ll often hear that you should have collars on the barbell for every single exercise, except for the bench press.
In fact, I have seen this advice given over-and-over again, and even from highly-respected people in the fitness industry.
However, as I’ve mentioned, benching with collars is a matter of personal opinion, but I must say that I wholeheartedly disagree with those who say they’re not required.
Admittedly, of all the big barbell exercises the bench press is the most dangerous.
There’s the issue of a heavy weight falling on top of you and potentially crushing you.
In fact, there is evidence that several people die every single year from asphyxiation by being trapped under a barbell while benching.
This is exactly why many trainers recommend benching without collars, so that you can tilt the bar to one side and allow the weights to fall off during a failed rep.
Now, this all sounds well-and-good, but it presents plenty of dangers itself.
Firstly, there’s a chance that the weight plates could fall onto another person’s feet, or even another part of their body, depending on what they’re doing.
Just imagine someone performing push ups, in what they believe is a safe distance from you, only to be struck in the face by a rogue weight plate.
Additionally, something that I don’t think the pro “no collars for benching” consider is the way that a barbell will violently flick and literally catapult when there is plenty of weight on one side and none on the other.
Don’t believe me, place three 45lb plates on one side of a racked barbell, make sure no-one is in the way, and then run like hell (please do NOT try this at home).
Basically, as much as you may think benching without collars is providing you an escape route for a failed rep, it’s extremely dangerous.
You will endanger both yourself and others around you, so don’t do it.
The Roll of Shame
The second way to get out of a failed rep is to do the “roll of shame”.
This simply means that if you’re unable to press the weight up, then you allow the barbell to rest on your torso and then roll it down over your body to your upper thighs.
At this stage you can sit up and then remove the barbell from your legs.
This all sounds great in theory, and it is a regular practice in gyms all over the world, but it still presents its own dangers.
I would say that employing the roll of shame after a failed rep has its limits.
This is fine if you’re benching a moderately heavy weight, but can become extremely dangerous at heavier weights.
I for one would not like to roll a 300lbs + barbell across my ribs and stomach.
You could easily crush yourself and cause yourself serious injury.
So, while tilting and the roll of shame are viewed as legitimate ways to get out of a failed bench press, I’m definitely not a fan.
3. You’re Benching Too Heavy
Pure and simple, if you’re having to employ the tilt or the roll of shame then you’re benching too heavy.
I’ve already mentioned that even a spotter could “fail” when trying to help you with a weight that is too much for either of you to handle.
Okay, I understand that you want to bench as heavy as possible, perhaps even hit a one-rep max or a new PB.
Then again, I also understand that you may be performing bench for reps and that fatigue kicks in towards the end of your set.
However, your own safety and that of others around you should always be your main priority.
The whole point in lifting weights is to produce a strong, muscular, and healthy body, and not to irreversibly damage yourself.
I will also say that most advanced lifters are aware of their limits, and therefore they know how much they can bench safely, with or without a spotter.
Additionally, I generally think most people use a spotter incorrectly.
In fact, I’ve often seen a spotter work harder trying to upright row a heavy barbell than the person underneath the bar trying to bench it.
Don’t be that person.
Know your limits, and bench press safely.
Furthermore, I see nothing wrong with going extremely heavy with dumbbells.
You’ll certainly activate your pecs to a greater degree, and there’s little chance of crushing your chest or ribs with a failed rep.
Basically, just be sensible when it comes to hitting the weights in the gym.
Bench Press Fail Compilation
So, as you can see, whether you should bench without collars is very much a personal opinion.
With that being said, my personal opinion is that you should always bench with the collars on.
There’s plenty of advice about using the tilt or the roll of shame when it comes to getting yourself out of a failed bench press rep.
However, both methods still present plenty of dangers.
So, I would suggest that you always bench press in a power rack.
Plus, be aware of your limitations and don’t try to bench excessively heavy weights.
If you’re looking to take your bench press to the next level then you’ll want to check out Lee Hayward’s bench press specialization workout program. Lee claims he can help you to increase your bench by 51lbs in just 3 weeks. You can see what I thought of Lee’s program in my Blast Your Bench Review.
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.