The best way to progress in the weight room is to always push your limits and add weight to the bar. What they don’t tell you, however, is that sometimes the weight is just too much and you fail a rep.
There’s nothing wrong with failing a rep, it’s a normal part or training to failure. What is dangerous though is when you fail certain lifts without a spotter, one of these lifts being the bench press.
A failed bench press – especially with heavy weight – will put a lifter in a very precarious and weak position which ultimately ends up being a serious cause for concern. When you don’t have a spotter and fail the bench press, the safest precaution you can take is to use the bench press roll of shame.
Sounds like a funny name but read on, we’ll explain why the bench press roll of shame is the safest way to bail out of a failed bench press, how to do it properly, and also why it should only be used as a last resort…
What Is the Bench Press Roll of Shame?
As you’re lifting a barbell to complete a certain number of reps, you may notice that the weight seems a lot more intense when you’re getting towards your final rep. If you have decided to increase the weight or the number of reps, it may get to a point where you are not able to manage the weight. In this situation, you will need to do the roll of shame.
The bench press roll of shame is an emergency technique used to escape a failed bench press when you don’t have a spotter. This is used to keep the barbell away from your head and neck and involves lowering the weight to your lower chest, rolling the barbell down your abdomen, and sitting upright.
The roll of shame is when you allow the bar to fall to your chest and then you roll it down your torso. You will roll the bar down far enough until you are able to sit up. This is one of the easiest ways to keep yourself safe when lifting so you can avoid bench press failure and an injury.
While it’s always recommended to have a spotter with you when lifting weights, there may be times when that’s not possible. The roll of shame is how you can save yourself when you are self-spotting and ultimately fail a rep.
Knowing how to do the bench press roll of shame can be the difference between safely or unsafely failing a rep.
How to Do the Bench Press Roll of Shame
If the weight of the bar is too much for you, a safe option is to perform a roll of shame. This is the quickest way to get out from underneath a bar that has become too heavy to lift. One mistake a lot of athletes make is trying to raise the bar when they don’t have the energy to continue and then dropping it.
This can cause an injury and is one of the main reasons why you shouldn’t attempt to lift a bar when you feel that it’s getting too heavy and you’ll be unable to complete the rep. The roll of shame can be done in a few easy steps to get you out from under the bar.
You won’t have to attempt lifting the weight and hurting yourself.
What you need to do is roll the bar down your torso away for high-risk areas like your neck. Before you begin, always make sure your feet are planted on the floor. Start by rolling the bar down the middle of your chest towards your abdominals.
Keep rolling the bar down until it reaches your hips. At this point, you will be able to sit up and get out. It will also be easier for you to put the bar on the ground. When the bar is at your hips, it could still be difficult to remove the bar from your body if you’ve used a heavyweight.
While it will feel awkward trying to maneuver the barbell from your hip/thighs, ultimately it’s much safer than being in a weak position where the barbell is still close to your neck and head.
To see the barbell roll of shame demonstrated clearly, check out the video below:
Is the Roll of Shame Dangerous?
The roll of shame can help you avoid a very dangerous situation when lifting a weighted bar, but the move itself has its fair share of problems. It is recommended that the roll of shame is not your first choice method when the weight becomes too much for you. The roll of shame is only to be used when someone is spotting themselves and is about to fail a rep.
You should not get yourself used to doing the bench press roll of shame often, as it should only be used in an emergency situation. While it can help you out when you are desperate, it can also cause problems for your stomach. To begin with, the roll of shame does hurt. There is no way to roll that kind of weight along your stomach without it hurting.
Many people are worried that the roll of shame may lead to an injury. This is a valid concern because there have been cases where the weight rolling across the stomach has led to abdominal bleeding and other issues.
These are rare instances of course but if you are pushing any sort of 1 rep max system or are training to failure, you should not do this without a spotter or spotting system in place. As mentioned, the roll of shame can prevent serious injury when failing a bench press set but it’s a last resort method and carries its own risk.
How Do You Avoid Having to Do the Roll of Shame?
The easiest way to avoid having to do the roll of shame is by having a spotter when you lift. However, we understand this isn’t possible for everyone. Not having a spotter doesn’t mean you can’t lift. A good way to stay safe while lifting alone is to invest in power racks for support.
Power racks have spotter arms that can be positioned to rest the barbell safely when you fail a rep.
Another way to still be able to lift without a spotter is by not using the clips on the barbell. If the weight becomes too much for you, this method allows you to take some of the weight off so you’ll be able to lift the bar up.
This in itself is a dangerous strategy though and not one we’d recommend. It’s why we state that barbell collars are necessary when lifting to prevent the weight plates from coming off.
Our best tip to avoid this is to use dumbbells when bench pressing without a spotter. These won’t carry all the benefits of a barbell bench press but dumbbells do have many benefits in their own right, especially for pectoral activation during a chest press.
The key benefit of a dumbbell is that you can drop it to one side if you fail a rep. There are few other safety fallbacks that are as effective, especially when training solo.
Is the Roll of Shame Safe?
The roll of shame does present some danger because it involves rolling a heavy weight across your organs. However, if this method is only used in emergency situations, once in a while, and not done every time you work out then it can be done safely.
If you rely on this method often, that is when you put your abdominals at risk – especially when training with heavier weights in excess of 225lbs (yes, we know this isn’t heavy for some people but it is when you’re in a compromised position).
What to Do if a Bench Press Fails on You?
Ok, you know what the bench press roll of shame is and how to do it, but what do you do if a bench press fails on you?
Firstly, you’ll need to stay calm! If you panic while lowering the barbell then you are placing yourself at a greater risk of injury. Just because you can’t physically lift the weight, it doesn’t mean that you can’t control it on the way down.
On average, research shows we are twice as strong during the eccentric phase (lowering) of a lift as we are in the concentrator phase (lifting). Therefore, if you know you won’t be able to get another rep but it’s too late, don’t panic and lower the bar to your lower chest.
If you are in a gym, you can call for the help of a spotter – don’t feel embarrassed by this either, it happens to all of us at some point and is usually a sign of training hard and pushing limits for a more experienced lifter.
If no spotter is around or you are training alone, this is when you’d need to implement the roll of shame.
Scared to Bench Press Alone?
After reading this, you likely already had some anxiety about bench pressing alone and are maybe even scared to bench press alone. I’ve seen this case quite often and it’s mainly due to people watching gym fail compilations where people ego lift, fail the lift, and end up injured as a result.
The fact that you are reading this means that your ego is slightly reduced because you are actively looking at ways to train safely rather than just looking at how you can lift the most weight possible.
If, however, you follow some basic safety precautions when bench pressing then you shouldn’t feel nervous, apprehensive, or scared as there are a number of safety measures you can put in place when you bench press alone. These include:
- Use spotter arms
- On;y training within 60%-80% of your 1 rep max and don’t go to failure
- Practice the bench press roll of shame with an empty bar
- Use dumbbells instead
Pushing limits when training is natural. From time to time, people will fail a rep when training with intensity, however, the difference is that some people fail intentionally whereas some people fail when not planning to do so and find themselves in a panicked situation.
When this happens, the best strategy you can adopt is to keep calm and implement the bench press roll of shame. By rolling the barbell down your torso (towards your hips) and away from your neck and head, you help minimize the risk of injury due to a failed rep.
The bench press roll of shame should only be used as a last resort in an emergency situation, but if you do find yourself stuck under the bar when benching with no one to help, it’s definitely something that can get you out of a dangerous situation!
If you’ve found this useful, you might also want to check out another important safety fall back which is our quick guide on how to properly bail out of a squat.