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Arching in the Bench Press: Please STFU

Bench

Arching in the Bench Press: Please STFU

Shout out to all my strong powerlifting women who have the incredible patience to post bench press videos and deal with the inevitable dozens of comments you’ll receive about “OMG You’re Gonna Break Your Back” which are all of course being written by guys who are expert coaches, physical therapists and successful competitors.

I’m sorry that apparently every guy on social media thinks it is his duty to correct a female’s lifting technique, even if his credentials are “lifting for a year, recently read an article” and that you’ve been training for 20 years and ya know, actually understand what the hell you’re doing. On their behalf, I apologize and guys, trust me, none of these women are thinking “wow that guy seems so knowledgeable, I think I wanna go on a date with him cause he corrected my bench arch.”

Dr. Mike Israetel, PhD in Sport Physiology has some points he wants to weigh in on too:

Arching in the Bench Press: Is arching your lower back in the bench press an unsafe practice?

1.) Arching your lower back to an extreme can in fact produce some stress on the Sacroiliac joint. However, this stress is not inherently deleterious and is well managed by making sure arched bench pressing does not occur at a higher weekly volume and frequency (total time under the bar) than the lifter can tolerate.

2.) The lumber and thoracic vertebrae and inter-vertebral discs are actually their safest in a lordodic (arched) position. The primary reason for the safety of the lordodic position is that discs tend to herniate posteriorly due to the presence of the incredibly robust anterior longitudinal ligament in front of the spine. Additionally, even if the disc somehow managed to herniate anteriorly, the resultant herniation would likely be asymptomatic as the spinal nerves are behind the inter-vertebral discs, not in front of them.

3.) Arching the lower and mid back does not push the limit-range of motion of the cervical spine in the neck, so there is not much concern for neck injury probability with arched benching.

4.) Arched benching (especially with a retraction of the scapulae) allow a greater use of the lower fibers of the pectoralis major (chest) muscles. Not only is this pushing angle likely safer for the glenohumeral joint of the shoulder, it’s also conducive to the great use of the larger mass of lower fibers (vs. upper fibers) of the pectoralis, which creates a more forceful lift without sacrificing as much safety as a flat pressing position might.

5.) The forces produced through the spine during leg drive are much lower than those produced even during lighter squats. If you wanted to push on the floor hard enough with your legs to slide back on the bench during your setup, could you? Of course, it would be easy. Some folks over-do their leg drive and get called on sliding down the bench even in competition! Compare this level of controlled force production (enough force to help with the lift, not enough to slide down the bench with only the friction of the bench and not gravity in opposition) with that of the squat. In the squat, the lifter is literally caught between the ground and a heavy barbell. The spine is in a similar position (actually, usually less lordodic and possibly at even greater risk) and is not required to push against gravity. If the bench arch is too high of force for safety, then squatting should be completely ruled out. And overhead shoulder pressing? Forget about it.

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  • RICHARD

    Arching in the back in the benchpress is a damn JOKE AND ITS CHEATING WHETHER RECOGNIZED AS SUCH OR NOT………IF YOU CANT BENCH AND COMPLETE THE LIFT FROM A FLAT BACK POSITION.YOU ARE NOT PERFORMING THE SAME LIFT…ITS AN ABBREVIATED DISTANCE AND THEREFORE CHEATING IN A REAL WORLD SENSE.WHEN I BRIEFLY COMPETED I NEITHER TOOK A LIFT OFF NOR DID I ARCH…I PERFORMED IT CORRECTLY.

    • Ben

      Richard…see above…don’t want you to miss it 🙂

      • Kelly Wilson

        This troll has no fucking clue.

        @disqus_2TIZ4n9U11:disqus

        • VQ

          Richard, perhaps you’ve had success in the past benching without an arch in your back. If that’s the case, great, however, there are people like myself with long arms, who need to arch, to get the necessary tightness and posture to perform the lift, safely and efficiently. It’s a legal technique in all meets.

    • Kelly Wilson

      OMG. Pure ignorance. You clearly are not a powerlifter and probably shouldn’t comment until you learn what powerlifting is about.

  • RICHARD

    LEG DRIVE SHOULD NEVER EVEN FACTOR INTO A BENCH PRESS OTHERWEISE ITS NOT AN UPPER BODY LIFT.

    • Kelly Wilson

      That’s ignorance. You clearly know nothing about powerlifting so you probably shouldn’t comment. Leg drive has a LOT do to with bench press in powerlifting.

  • Ben

    Richard…It’s not cheating…it is a different way to do the exercise. If you really did powerlift (even briefly) you should know this. When you competed, did you do close grip bench press with your hands touching? If you didn’t, you cheated (by your logic)…moving your hands out from the middle of the bar decreases the distance that it has to travel (abbreviated distance as you so eloquently put it).

  • Hassek

    I have to admit that when I see this absurdly extreme arching in bench press I do rage a bit haha but I also train with my wife and every damn day I go with her in a bench day, there is an unnecessary comment from someone for her and not for me (of course, her arch is 10 times better than mine though).

    About @disqus_2TIZ4n9U11:disqus, good trolling brah xD

  • RICHARD

    aRCHING IS A JOKE AND FOR YOUR INFORMATION bEN,AS I SAID WHEN I COMPETED I DIDNTASK FOR A LIFT OFF HELP AND I DID NOT ARCH AT ALL…….AS FOR YOUR LOGIC THAT YOUR HANDS SHOULD BE TOUCHING THAT WOULD BE FINE WITH ME,THEN I WOULDNT HAVE TO COMPETE AGAINST CHEATERS,HOWEVER…..TO HAVE HANDS TOUCHING THAT BECOMES MORE A TRICEPS STRENGTH LIFT IF YOU EVER LIFTED WHEREAS A WIDTH THAT IS NEITHER WIDE NOR EXCESSIVELY AND ABSURDLY CLOSE AS YOU ADVOCATE WOULD CALL ON ALL UPPER BODY MUSCLES AND NOT PUT EXESSIVE STRESS ON SUCH A MINISCULE MUSCLE AS THE TRICEPS ….

    • Ben

      I was just asking if you shortened your range of motion by moving your hands away from each other…apparently you did and are by your logic (not mine) you are also a cheater. Sorry buddy. And for your info, I’ve lifted and competed plenty (all raw).
      And what’s with the all caps? Computer broken? Rage monster coming out? Keep it up, it’s entertaining!

      • Kelly Wilson

        BOOM!!!! @disqus_s0nQicnpxY:disqus thanks for helping to battle this ignorance. I’m a raw powerlifter too.

    • Hailey Radina Humbird

      Than you did not get the most out of your lift. Which is probably why you aren’t a well known Powerlifting. Whatever floats your boat, man.

    • Hailey Radina Humbird

      This Richard guy, can do whatever and think whatever he wants. But it doesn’t mean he is right. So you guys keep arching your backs and get the benefit of not hurting your shoulder and getting the most out of your lifts. While Richard can keep doing what he’s doing and potentially hurt his shoulders. (Doesnt mean it will or won’t , just means it might.)

  • RICHARD

    HASSECK YOUR RIGHT…THE ONLY REASON TO ARCH IS FOR SOMEONE WHO WANTS TO MINIMIZE THE DISTANCE THEY HAVE TO MOVE THE BAR.

    • Kelly Wilson

      @Rich @disqus_2TIZ4n9U11:disqus which is partly what powerlifting is about. it’s about competing…not building a pecs. Did you even watch the video above????? It explains ALL OF IT and it’s targeted at people like you who say dumb crap like you’ve been saying when you don’t even know what you’re talking about!!!! Watch the video!!!

    • Jenny

      So women who are big breasted and wear a bra that doesn’t flatten them out, are technically decreasing the distance we have to bench press ?

  • Dave Murphy

    Can never have a discussion about bench without at least one person piping in. The all caps really drives the point home. I’m totally convinced now. I’ll give my state record back too, because I cheated with a slightly pronounced arch.

    • Kelly Wilson

      Ha!!! Dave this guy has me heated!

  • James Darden

    You guys realize this Richard clown is just trying to ruffle your feathers with all his protesting right? For him to compare himself to a competitor with a resume that includes 20+ years of experience and competition titles is ludicrous. If he feels it’s cheating, it only means he’s been spanked repeatedly by someone who arches. That’s assuming he truly competed at all in more than some testosterone induced “bro session” before heading out to some bar on Fri or Sat night. All he has has to do is compete in a federation that doesn’t allow it if it bothers him so much. Using his logic, ball players who dunk shouldn’t be allowed to do it because it gives them an advantage over those who can’t and ensures their chances of scoring.

    • Kelly Wilson

      He’s such a clueless idiot! I feel sorry for him. He probably can’t even squat either.

  • RICHARD

    Kelly,you and James are the joke…..for the bench press to be a a pure lift ,you should not arch,not use your legs but only use your upper body……..James the only spanking is what you would get if you were not able to arch,or use your legs.And in my short time competing i dont wear gear,i dont take drugs and i dont do ANYTHING to make the lift easier or more abbreviated….IM using my chest, back and shoulders and triceps and i managed to place in every event and would gladly be tested,and i dont compete because its generally not tested.

    • Kelly Wilson

      Why am I joke? I COMPETE and NO ONE should EVER call themselves a powerlifter UNLESS they compete. Watch the video and educate yourself, please.

      • Sticker Jim

        Now you’re getting as dopey-preachy as Richard. People can powerlift without competing, just like WANTING to compete doesn’t somehow disqualify you from using the heady term of powerlifter. Obviously, it’s likely high time for both of you to put down the weights for a little while and sort out your other issues.

  • RICHARD

    The goal of weightlifting in general should be to be the best YOU can be,for there are always those with physical characteristics via genetics that will supercede pure hard work and effort in many instances such as larger bone structure thus the ability to handle more weight,but i surely wouldnt respect anyone who competes using drugs unless its their career and livelihood and even then its then a contest of who has the best drug program,possibly better gear……you can call your bench press a bench press by all your arching and leg drive yet its then not truly a contest of upper body strength now then ,is it?

    • Eric Stone

      The goal of powerlifting is to lift the most weight possible under the given conditions. There are not extra points given for having no arch or lifts. It is very objective–whomever has the highest total wins, period.

      • Kelly Wilson

        Three white lights for Eric!!!

      • asdfasdfasdf

        But even many of the best powerlifters are recreational powerlifters and don’t want to compromise their health/form for trophies. It is called personal integrity.

    • Kelly Wilson

      We are not “weightlifters” we are competitive powerlifters. HUGE difference. Thus, the arch and leg drive.

    • Sticker Jim

      You’re confusing weightlifting with powerlifting. They are not the same. What she is doing is POWERLIFTING. Weightlifters don’t bench like that unless they are stupid or have zero understanding of technique or they are doing cross fit, where just about every exercise has lousy technique because they are focusing on reps and not quality (or safety)

  • RICHARD

    ps…Kelly, Powerlifting has NOTHING TO DO WITH COMPETING UNLESS ITS A COMPETITION TO BE THE BEST YOU AS AN INDIVIDUAL CAN BE…….

    • Eric Stone

      Huh? The whole point of powerlifting as a sport is to compete. Otherwise if you are just training to “best the best you can be” why not just lift in your basement and keep track of your PRs?

    • Kelly Wilson

      Richard you are wrong. I am a competitive powerlifter and I’m on a powerlifting TEAM at a gym that is ranked 4th in the NATION. GET A CLUE.

    • Rome Isback

      Wtf are you talking about???!!! So you mean to tell me you lift heavy ass weight to be the best you can be? You obviously have self esteem issues… You seem to have never picked up a weight in your life … Lifting your dick doesn’t count bro… Do us all a favor and go away… Put on some old rocky movies and enjoy the time you have left

  • RICHARD

    Ps James and Kelly,You keep thinking all you want,im no superstar yet i bench upwards of 365 and deadlift and squat over 500 pounds each at 58 years of age with 2 broken fingers in my right hand,tendinitis in both elbows and alot more problems after lifting for the last 38 years.

    • Lafayette Wonderer

      Lets see some video of you benching, squatting, and deadlifting.

      • RICHARD

        Simply show up in the evenings or weekends in the fitness factory in Buffalo,im not wasting my time having a video sent to you…..how old are you anyway.You think a 58 year old doctor has time to send you a video……If you cant bench over 365,squat and deadlift over 500,work on it,im dealing with two broken fingers .

  • Eric Stone

    Richard–Did you even watch the video?

  • Kanoosh

    can someone ban richard please, he has unnessacary contribution to this article and his ignorance is bothering the rest of us from having a meaningful discussion.. Please get rid of this idiot, he just made a disqus account specifically for trolling obviously.

  • RICHARD

    Kanoosh,Your the ignorant one,and your labeling is immature, if you think a bench of several inches equates to someone who asks for no help on a liftoff and who benches the full extent from bench to chest with no arch and then back to the bench….big difference in distance of lift,and a man with a big chest,its alot shorter movement of weight…….its my opinion and its a fact….having said that ,i respect anyone who endeavors to go thru pain and sacrifice to be the best THEY can be in weightlifting….its hardly a couch potato sport….As far as “Eric”,your wrong as well,the point of powerlifting is to “powerlift” and its NOT to compete ,as competing is a personal choice.One can be a great golfer and have the skills to be a pro ,yet opts to remain an amateur and not compete,yet still plays regularly and trys to be the best THEY can be……Iv read what people have said and il say no more,i offered my opinion and i didnt realize some neanderthals want to ARGUE over a proveable fact that arching reduces the distance a bar needs to travel thus reducing the effort to one who neither arches and also lifts off by themself the weight.The site is an outstanding site,and those than manage it have done a fine job,i simply dont use gear ,get no assistance,dont use training partners and i dont prefer to know every biomechanical advantage to make something i enjoy alot more of a technical skill than just raw a strength effort…Maybe this is a reson powerlifting is not in the olympics, are they going to judge the best arch.

  • RICHARD

    j
    JENNY HAVE A NICE DAY….ITS A FACT THAT AN ARCH AND THE LARGER THE CHEST….GENETICS PLAY A ROLE IN A DECREASED DISTANCE THE BAR TRAVELS….ENJOY YOUR WEIGHT LIFTING AND DONT GO INTO A SEIZURE OVER THIS.

  • D

    There is always going be some sort of arch. weather you like someone elses form or not. If competition allows for it then train how you are going to compete.

  • Madison Eckhart

    I’m a young woman powerlifter and this article really hit home for me. I’m constantly working to improve my technique but I’m caught among the different opinions regarding the arch.
    I have a question though that this article didn’t cover…the heals. I’ve been practicing recently with lifted heals (still a strong core and anchored glutes) but I worry that this could be to my detriment. Any opinions?

    • Sticker Jim

      What’s more stable, standing flat on your feet or on your toes? The answer is the same.

  • Jeff

    Arching your back does two noteworthy things:

    1. Instead of the weight load being even across your back amd chest you are now concentrating it on your upper back & shoulders & chest. This is a problem in point 2.

    2. By concentrating the weight on your upper back & shoulder blades you are LEVERAGING (yes like a lever) the weight on your shoulder blades which REDUCES the overall weight your chest is lifting. You might feel all strong but trust me you arent. Minus 40lbs and do it the right way jeez.

    Dont believe me? Try lifting the bench with your back flat against the bench & feet on the floor (at least that woman got the feet right). Its heavier right? Plus your pectoral fly muscles are used less when you are flat and its more chest.

    Arching is a reaction to having too much weight. Just like how back muscles are often abused & overworked with poor form

  • Doc

    As a surgeon specializing in orthopedics and neuro-surgical techniques, I will tell you that I have fused countless athletes who made the mistake of lifting like this…

    You can certainly drive through your feet safely without placing your back in extreme lordosis. Please dont make this mistake based on one woman’s misinformed use to get an extra 15 lbs up. I hope I do not see any of you in the outpatient center any time soon.

    Shoulders back, scapula squeezed, back flat, drive through the feet. A small back arch is natural and will occur. Do not push it to the extreme and place such an undistributed load on your spinal column. It will ultimately result in spondyloysis and spondylolisthesis with extreme arthosis of the facet and si joints.

    Good luck to you all

  • Sondre Strøm Linde

    Arching your back makes you look like a dumbass no matter what gender you are, though.

  • Dan

    @disqus_2TIZ4n9U11:disqus Obviously you can bench more with an arch. It’s within the rules of powerlifting. Would you rather be able to bench 350 flat or 450 with an arch? I’d take the latter hands down. I think there’s a place for both though. A lot of powerlifters will train with feet up on the bench to take leg drive out of it and the arch as well. For comp, you obviously want to maximize the total so you lift with an arch.

  • Pascal Landshoeft

    I personally bench press and love it with a 150kg bench.
    As with every sport you are at higher risk to injury, this is something you buy into when you do extreme things.

    That being said I find that an arch gives you more control at higher loads.
    Therefore I would recommend an arch, if you want bench press big.
    Because having less control at high weights by using less arch is an even higher risk of injury in my book.

    If you want to learn how to push through bench press plateaus, here is how i did to get from 140kg to 150kg:
    http://www.marathon-crossfit.com/blog/smolov-jr-review

    All the best
    Pascal

  • Rick Thiel

    Well if we are going to cut out the arch and go back to old school benches, then we need to cut the sumo as well and go old school only with conv. DL

  • John A. Casler

    Have to laugh. After your well stated STFU about the “arch” some clown below felt it nessessary to pipe up about biomechanics and purpose where he has NO CLUE.

    Gotta wonder how people make it through the day.

  • Barrington Dailey

    Sorry I think it’s lame. Just saw a woman “bench” 2 inches. I think it only works on account of the weights being lighter.