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Safer Bench Press

Elevator drop detection on a bench press
  (+6, -2)
(+6, -2)
  [vote for,

There is nothing that compares to weightlifting with a standard benchpress bar with standard weights on it.

That being said, whenever I go to use one without a spotter, I can't help but contemplate how unpleasant it would be if I were to drop the weight on my xiphoid or larynx. Broken ribs, crushed neck, pierced liver, it all seems so unpleasant. It is a wonder that gyms provide such unsafe equipment.

This idea is for a bench press bar in a traditional fashion except there are cables that hook on to the thin part of the bar (the part you grab) at the furthest extremities. Each side has two cables going to it, four cables total.

These cables go angularly upwards into a mechanism that is mounted to bars welded to the bench itself. The cables split off each end and mount to reels that force the cables into a triangular shape (the bar being a point of the triangle). This mechanism is able to be moved along the axis of the bench by way of crank, such that the point of rest of the bar can be centered above a wide range of the bench itself.

The mechanism is similar to an elevator's drop lock, in that when it senses a rapid fall, it will latch and brake the bar. Instead of a physical drop detector like most (older?) elevators, this mechanism has an electronic sensor that checks speed and acceleration based on optical encoding on the reels that hold the cables. A microprocessor determines when a dangerous speed or acceleration has been attained.

The maximum unreeled length of the cable is settable to a range of heights from mere inches off of the bench itself up to 20" off the bench (or more). The setting is done by a positionable latch and can be adjusted in minute increments.*

Emergency-retract switches are plentiful and placed in strategic locations. They will electrically wind up the cable when pressed. This is for when the user lacks the strength to lift the bar, but hasn't dropped it. The retract will be slow but powerful, similar to a truck winch. It will be capable of lifting at least 500 lbs at a reasonable rate of speed.

To use this product, the user will enter in chest thickness (with the unreeling latch mechanism) and the desired centerpoint of the bar by way of the crank. The dual cables on each end of the bar ensure that if the bar is dropped, it will not swing far, it will, instead stay at the center of the triangle.

This mechanism will allow for safer use of bench press equipment without changing its feel. This will significantly increase the safety of such devices. The deluxe version will trigger the winch a few seconds after detecting a fall condition.

I've attempted to use a smith machine or separate small dumbells, neither of which feel the same - also, smith machines won't save the user from a rapid drop unless you set the spring stops to the proper height, which is impossible given many peoples' and benches' size.

*To those guys who bounce the bar off their ribcages on the way down- stop doing it. It isn't making you better at lifting things, it isn't making you stronger. It is just stupid.

ericscottf, Apr 11 2008

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       I must be missing something here. Wouldn't an overhead beam with hanging cables fastened onto the bar be simpler? You could also use it as a trapeze and a battering ram. Alternatively, don't benchpress.
james_what, Apr 11 2008

       //There is nothing that compares to weightlifting with a standard benchpress bar with standard weights on it.// Can I just put in my vote for cigarettes, charcoal-grilled steak, sunrise, Saturn's rings, orgasm and Sancerre?
MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 11 2008

       That's an awful lot to lift, Max. I think the standard weights would be less hassle.
lostdog, Apr 11 2008

       james_what - what? How does that prevent the weights from dropping suddenly?   

       Or does your idea prevent weights from falling past a certain distance, forgetting the problem of allowing weights to fall for some time before arresting them?
ericscottf, Apr 11 2008

       the bench press at my gym has two thick, height adjustable arms which protrude from the weight rack. So that if you drop the weight the bar is caught by the arms and you are able to squirm your way out from underneath the barbell.
jaksplat, Apr 11 2008

       [ericscottf] Speaking from ancient memory rather than recent experience, I suspect that a simple rope or cable on each end of the bar could stop it nicely short of the vitals.   

       A sturdy yet pliable 2m long steel cable from the ceiling will be able to stop say 100kgs falling 50cm or so without breaking sweat I fancy.   

       Steel cable will stretch under load, reducing the M.deltaV of the weights and the thickness of cable required to bring them to a halt. Try not to get chest hairs anywhere near the cable though.
james_what, Apr 11 2008

       I've never dropped the bar on myself while benchpressing.   

       I have had to roll the stupid thing across my chest, stomach, and thighs when I couldn't lift the stupid thing anymore and found myself without a spotter.
Zimmy, Apr 11 2008

       Why has nobody yet proposed the obvious custard-based solution?
MaxwellBuchanan, Apr 11 2008

       As regards protection, perhaps you could use a cuirass.   

       I will resist any further elaboration.
bungston, Apr 11 2008

       I'm with Zimmy on this, I've never dropped a bar on my chest either. The problem isn't really a sudden drop from the top, it's heaving it up from the bottom and only getting partway. I usually just push to the safety pegs and set it there if I can't, ahem, get it up.   

       Still though, your idea would probably work and might be useful more in the power rack for squats or overhead-type lifts. [+]
Noexit, Apr 14 2008

       Just legislate that 'Caution: weights may be heavy' be emblazoned on the offending equipment.   

       Seriously though, I think that 'dropping the bench press bar' is just a cliché used to explain the effects of prison fights - I can't see how it would actually happen in real life.   

       As stated by many, not being able to complete that last rep is the bigger problem, and rolling the bar off one's stomach and thighs can be fairly uncomfortable. Especially if you're such a colossus that the weight is up in the triple figures (kg's of course).
Texticle, Apr 15 2008

       I was thinking about this, funny the things that run through your mind as you're tryign to get to sleep. This could actually be good on the bench press.   

       My own experience, and watching others, is that when the last rep fails there is often a short, quick drop. This idea could arrest that and make it easier and safer to get the bar to a safety position. I thought of it as an "Auto-Spotter".   

       I'm changing my + for possible use in the power rack (still think that's good) to + for the original idea.
Noexit, Apr 15 2008

       //I've never dropped the bar on myself while benchpressing//   

       People have died from just this situation.   

       This is brilliant; and, I'm not amazed that it was virtually completely castigated by the "core" half-bakers. Fat or scrawny (but smart!), is the mantra here.   

       By the way, [ericscottf], the once 'strongest man in the world' - Paul Anderson - to avoid asphyxiation while free-weight bench pressing in his home, put two large, thick circular plywood cut-outs on both sides of the bar; so that if he could no longer lift it, they would touch the floor, first, before death... [+]
Wily Peyote, Feb 08 2009

       In one gym I saw a barbell machine much like you describe. It has two steel cables to support the bar if the support is engaged, and a touch-sensitive strip running along the bar, which must be held with both hands to release the weight. If you just lift the fingers on either hand, the machine catches the bar. It works quite well actually.
sninctown, Feb 08 2009

       Benchpress accidents are Darwin's way of saying you're too dumb to work out. Go do pushups.
Custardguts, Feb 08 2009

       //Benchpress accidents are Darwin's way of saying you're too dumb to work out. Go do pushups//   

       How many pushups, [Custardguts]? 1,000/day? 2,000? At a certain point, 'added resistance' becomes optimum. Some of the smartest people I know are 'Muscle Heads'.   

       (I trust, [Custartguts], that you couldn't pick up an barbell as far as you could throw it...)   

       [sninctown], would you post a link? This whole conversation may be moot...
Wily Peyote, Feb 08 2009

       What I meant was, that in all the years I've been in and out of gyms, (I now have all my own equipment, it's easier given the odd hours I work) - that I've never dropped a bar. Doing sets to failure has its uses, but for christ's sake, have a spotter or don't use freeweights.   

       If you know your limits so badly that you end up dropping a bar, or even worse, if you don't keep track of your fatigue so you're going to start a rep (alone) with a chance of failing to extend, you shouldn't be in a gym without adequate supervision. Hence the suggestion to go do pushups.   

       One of the best benefits of true freeweights that I enjoy is the added stability you develop from stabilising a truly "free" weight. The last thing I want is cables or extra barwork, ratchets, pulleys etc.   

       //(I trust, [Custartguts], that you couldn't pick up an barbell as far as you could throw it...) //   

Custardguts, Feb 08 2009

       I agree with all of that.
Texticle, Feb 08 2009


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