So, this is a post for those who go into the weights room, and want to take their technique to the next level! Have you ever seen people doing a bench press with a really arched back and thought
1. What the hell? And…
2. Does it hurt?
Well, I’m here to answer your questions and explain why people bench press on a flat bench with an arched back.
Firstly, you don't have to go as crazy as a powerlifter and become a human pretzel, a slight arch will do, as long as you can create your 3 points of stability. The main reason for the arch is stability - imagine when you are laying flat on your back, your body is more like a long log that can roll side to side, with no true fixed (and I mean really stuck to the bench) points of contact. With an arched back you have 3 very stable points of contact, your shoulders and glutes on the bench, and your feet on the floor. This means you have more control of the weight coming down towards your body and back up, like a sturdy table. Another advantage of an arched back bench press is that it restricts your movement, particularly through your shoulders. When we get weak, or lose power to use the correct muscles, our body goes searching for different muscles to use when lifting weights to compensate with, which will make you look like a worm squiggling about when you're trying to press, and we definitely don’t want this! Provided your elbows are coming down at the correct angle, the arch in your back should help prevent hyperextension of your rotator cuff in your shoulder (back when I was new to bench press, and just had a flat back and non-refined technique, I had this happen. It was no fun and took a while to heal).
The arch does not hurt one bit. The load is from the barbell, and this drives directly down through your arms, and then your chest, and only puts weight through your pecs, rather than also running down your back and into other muscle groups that we're not trying to train.
How do you do this technique? Here are some easy steps for you to follow.
1. Lay on bench (on your back) with your hands on the bar, usually you try and line your eyes up under the bar, but this time line the bar up to the centre of your chest
2. Place feet shoulder-width apart, with a 90 degree bend in your knees.
3. Lift your chest up to the bar, and without putting your body down, move your body towards your feet until your eyes are directly underneath the bar, but do this without letting your feet move from the spot they were just in! Your knees should be at a tighter angle now.
*TIP* Before you put your back down on the bench, squeeze your shoulder blades together, and keep them like that. This way you get more stability through your shoulder joint and rotator cuff and minimise your chance of a shoulder injury.
This technique is best used for those who want to gain strength and lift heavier amounts of weight and who are doing a lower number of reps.
Give it a try next session!