The bench press

Considered the best upper body exercise to showcase strength. It’s certainly a superb power generating exercise that has great sports conditioning and general body shaping properties.

But it is an exercise that must be performed properly.


Of course this is true of all exercise disciplines but particularly so of the bench press as it invariably involves a considerable weight and forces placed on key areas of the body.

The bench press is great for increasing strength and size depending on how its programmed.

The lower back

Susceptible to injury more frequently these days. Over 80% of Americans experience some form of low back pain in their lives.

Stress, poor posture, weak muscles, inactivity and over-activity are all things to be wary of when talking about the low back.

Why do people arch their backs?

During the bench press, a common technique to increase stability is to arch the back. It’s pretty self explanatory as to why people do this… The arch has been known for thousands of years to be an incredibly strong structure.

In powerlifting, athletes tend to use an excessive arch for two main reasons:

1. It pushes the chest and torso vertically so there is less distance for the bar to travel, allowing you to lift more.

2. It creates a strong structure in the core that helps transfer your leg drive through the torso, and to the upper body which needs all the strength and stability it can use.

bench press arch_2 But is it safe?

Looking at the back, a hyper extended lower back puts the spine in a scary and dangerous position. If you don’t have a strong enough core, you’re at risk of injury. Mind you, that’s really only likely if you’re pushing maximal weights.

If you suffer from a low back injury and you’re not a power lifter, I’d stay away from an excessive arch.

However, the natural curve of your spine is totally acceptable if there is no pain while performing the movement.

The bench press arch

An advantage to having a less extreme arch is that it allows the bar to travel a longer distance which will help if your goal is to build muscle.

Conversely, if you’re goal is max strength and you have a strong core, with no low back injury and no warning signs like ‘anterior pelvic tilt’, you’ll probably be fine and the excessive arch will help in competition.

The non-powerlifting athlete in mind wouldn’t need to take such a risk.

Be wary of your back

Max strength is important in many sports, but potentially injuring yourself, to get a few extra pounds isn’t worth it.

If you do that, you won’t be training at all for a while and that is entirely self-defeating! Stick to a normal back arch and even a closer hand grip.

At the end of the day it is up to you, weigh the pros and the cons.

If your goal is max strength and you have no injuries, go for it. If not, there’s no need, you can still see great results with a normal spine curve as long as you still focus on all the right cues.

Connect with Expert Chris Diamantakos.

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