Bench press arch for strength

BJJ Shawn

Level 2 Valued Member
Hello all,

I have seen people talk about arching in bench press on multiple platforms, and there are haters for sure, but there are valid reasons for using an arch as a powerlifter. Even without being a powerlifter, some arch changes the angles in a way to make it safer and/or easier to bench press. My question is, does it actually help with general strength when it comes to transferring to other activities?

For instance, if you can add more weight to the bar, that should help you get stronger. But if in doing so you cut your ROM down to 3-4 inches instead of 12-16 inches, is it really going to help you get stronger for other activities? I've see some small people bench with a HUGE arch and wide hands, and they can meet the rules of a powerlifting event without bending their elbows. Great, they found a way to win, but if someone is not interested in competing, that seems to me like it would do a disservice in pursuit of strength.

What do you think? If you're not a powerlifter, do you get more upper body strength by keeping a small arch, or is it still better to work on mobility and try to get a bigger arch?
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
What do you think? If you're not a powerlifter, do you get more upper body strength by keeping a small arch, or is it still better to work on mobility and try to get a bigger arch?
For me it was sort of a moot question... It takes a lot of effort (and it took a while) for me to develop an arch of even a couple of inches off the bench. I found it was helpful to try -- gets the shoulders in a better/safer position, helps develop the upper back muscles, helpful for posture, facilitates good tension and leg drive, etc...
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Fair point. I guess my question is, if you were going to teach someone to bench press for general strength, not to compete, would you want them to spend time learning to arch?

I would, yes. Just as a function of getting tight -- creating effective tension for the lift, plus getting the shoulders in a safer position by actively moving the chest up. But I wouldn't have them try to bring the feet way up towards the head or anything like that.
 

Chrisdavisjr

Level 7 Valued Member
What do you think? If you're not a powerlifter, do you get more upper body strength by keeping a small arch, or is it still better to work on mobility and try to get a bigger arch?
Everyone's built differently so if your shoulders are mechanically sound with a shallower arch and your goal isn't to compete in powerlifting and bench as much weight as you possibly can then I would just focus on nailing the basics and keeping your shoulders healthy.

Once you start trying to ape the technique of competitive powerlifters (ie the massive arch), you're getting into the technical side of the lifts and not so much the transferable strength aspect.

Edit: What @Anna C said.
 

North Coast Miller

Level 7 Valued Member
Fair point. I guess my question is, if you were going to teach someone to bench press for general strength, not to compete, would you want them to spend time learning to arch?
I would say no. The added technique is very specific to weight sports and unlikely to generate any better development or carry-over than any other approach.
Honestly for general health and strength I'd get them going on dumbbell press or loaded pushups instead of barbell - something where the wrists aren't locked in.
 

Chrisdavisjr

Level 7 Valued Member
Honestly for general health and strength I'd get them going on dumbbell press or loaded pushups instead of barbell - something where the wrists aren't locked in.
Good point! Dumbbell bench press is less popular because, typically, people can't load it as heavily as the barbell and 'ego in the gym' is a big deal, but the freedom of movement, ease on the shoulder joint and additionally stabiliity training makes it a winner: It's a much more 'biomechanically-friendly' lift. Also really good for identifying and correcting significant imbalances between both arms.
 

Rick213

Level 6 Valued Member
For me, being tight is key. I use CAT, effectively speed training, for bb bench. I will work at 80% for triples for however many sets. Staying right is key.
My arch is probably 4", ROM probably around 8-12". Max bench weight was 240# @ 155# bodyweight.
 

william bad butt

Level 6 Valued Member
There are 2 ways:

- Wide base (legs out, not tucked). Better balance, more leg drive, more of a whole body lift
- Tucked (legs back). Bigger arch. More comfortable for those with tight hips.

Regards,

Eric
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
There are 2 ways:

- Wide base (legs out, not tucked). Better balance, more leg drive, more of a whole body lift
- Tucked (legs back). Bigger arch. More comfortable for those with tight hips.

Regards,

Eric

I would describe a general strength training bench press as the first of these two, but you can certainly arch the back with this setup.
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Staff member
Senior Certified Instructor
Elite Certified Instructor
There are a lot more choices to make besides arch or don't arch. We've had discussions about whether or not the kettlebell military press is "better" if you carve an outward arc or press straight up. For BP, we could discuss whether feet flat on the ground or not, keeping your head on the bench for the duration of the lift or not.

-S-
 

william bad butt

Level 6 Valued Member
I would describe a general strength training bench press as the first of these two, but you can certainly arch the back with this setup.

Yes you right. But when I refer to the Wide Base I mean little arch. Probably similar to what you mean by "general strength training bench press". Brian Carroll, for example, teaches the Wide Base method.
 

william bad butt

Level 6 Valued Member
I like arching cause I can get the tightest doing this. Tight is good, when it comes to Grinds. I usually train without a big arch though, because I find arching uncomfortable. However, I have a pretty big arch. It comes natural to me. I'm pretty flexible. Ultra tight and ultra uncomfortable. I use it when the weights get real heavy.

Experiment. Start out without an arch and add it if you can do it. Not everybody is flexible enough.

Either way, I think it Carrie's over to the real world. If you add weight to the bar over time, you are getting stronger.

Eric
 
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