Bench Press Technique: variation for individual build

kennycro@@aol.com

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
Maybe we should come back to the original topic and because of that I'll just leave a last example:

Take two people, A and B...
A benches more than B.
B kicks As butt in a fight.
A has a bigger back squat than B.
Bs deadlift is higher than As.
A can push a car 100m faster than B.
B can shop down a tree faster than A.
These are all things or events we associate with the term "strength", but between the two who is stronger?
Many would say both are equally strong. Powerlifters might say A, because out of the three powerlifts A is stronger in two or they decide based on the total of all three lifts. Fighters might say B. Average people also might say B, because he won the fight (especially kids decide who is the "strongest" by looking at who's the one who can beat up all the others).
In my opinion you can't say that one is stronger and you can't say they are equally strong. All you can say is that...
A has a bigger bench & squat and is better at car pushing
B is the better fighter, has a bigger DL and is better at shopping down trees.
Overall A Is "The Strongest"

Limit Strength (1 Repetition Max) is measurement of Strength.

Thus, in the scenario you have provided A is the undisputedly Stronger.

Fighting Is A Poor Measurement of Strength

While strength plays role in Fighting, Football, etc.; it is not the determinate factor of who would win in a fight, who's the best player on a Football Team.

Power Rules

In the world of sports, Power Rules; that is especially true with fighting, football and most sports.

Limit Strength (1 Repetition Max) is secondary to Power.

Another consideration is...

Skill

Fighting is a skill, as is Football, etc.

A skilled Fighter (Boxer, MMA, etc) with a reasonable amount of strength and a lot of power will win in a confrontation with a stronger opponent with little to no skill or power.

The same is true with Football Players. Being the strongest on the team doesn't ensure you are or will ever be starter or make the team.

If Limit Strength were the deciding factor, coaches would select the athlete who could lift the most.

Powerlifters

To reiterate, Powerlifting is the only sport that measure pure Limit Strength.

As we know, Powerlifting is an oxymoron; there NO Power in Powerlifting.

An interesting caveat is that several World Class Powerlifters have tried out for Pro Football (Ted Arcidi, Bill Kazmaier, Doug Furness, etc).

However, NO Powerlifter has ever made it in Pro Football.

Kenny Croxdale
 

North Coast Miller

More than 2500 posts
@Steve Freides
I'm with you that I too would want to bench 315 instead of 295. What I wanted to say is that even tough you only have 295 on the bar with an inefficent path your body and muscles still work as hard as pressing 315 with an efficient path. You are still as strong!
If A has a bigger bench than B that doesn't necessarily mean A is stronger than B. It just means that A has a bigger bench than B.
The reason for that can be e.g. that A has a more efficient barpath.
If you don't compete e.g. in powerlifting or oly where the numbers you put up actually matter, it doesn't matter if you bench 295 with an inefficient path or 315 with an efficient path, because your body is as strong as it is.
I might step into the territory of philosophy here, but stronger doesn't mean higher number.
I hope everyone understands what I'm saying here.

I get it. One the ways this could be narrowed down might be see which person improves the most working for a short time with a qualified instructor on a specific lift.

If A started out pushing better #s and had better form, B might very well shoot past A once some corrections were made. Does this mean that B really was stronger to start?

It comes back to strength being specific, and being "strong" more of a generalization - sort of like being "fast".

You have to pick an activity that neither A or B actively train and compare results. It is when you have to do things for which the skill component does not apply that the real world value of your training is revealed - in a general sense. Otherwise one can only be said to be strong at a given lift and it is hopefully indicative but no guarantees.

And then some of this comes back to being aware and applying movement patterns to undefined strength usage. Example, earlier this afternoon I had to move an old treadmill out of a house and also a large steel storage cabinet that weighed a ton even with all the contents removed had to go up a flight of stairs. I made sure that every lift mimicked as close as possible DL, squat, posterior chain, and arm strength was all used mostly to keep the load tight to my hips and not to actively carry anything. Movements outside this scope were limited to manipulating the load just enough until I could apply sound principles.

If I had not done this I doubt I'd have been able to move either without help even if I were a bit stronger than I currently am.
 

Arryn Grogan

Triple-Digit Post Count
Elite Certified Instructor
Bench Press Bar Path

Attempting to lower and push "The bar as vertically as possible" is biomechanically inefficient.

The most efficient Bench Press Bar Trajectory is an arch. Dr Tom McLaughlin's research (Bench Press: Bench press techniques of elite heavyweight powerlifters./National Strength & Conditioning Association Journal . 6(4):44-44, August 1984.) examined the bar path of Novice Lifters and Elite Lightweight and Heavyweight Bench Pressers.

McLaughlin is a former Powerlifter with a PhD in Exercise Biomechanics.

McLaughlin's illustration below identifies the biomechanically most efficient Bench Press Bar Trajectory/Bar Path.



View attachment 3039

Elite Lightweight and Elite Heavyweight Bar Trajectory


The reason for the differences in the Elite Lightweight and Heavyweight Bar Trajectory (Bar Path) was due to the size of the lifters.

Bridges' height was at best 5'6" and Kazmaier's height was 6'2". Both mean use the maximum grip allowed in Powerlifting, 81 cm/about 32 inches.

Thus, due to Bridges' shorter arms and Kazmaier's longer arms, the biomechanical Bar Trajectory (Bar Path) was somewhat different in the concentric (upward) part of the Bench Press.

Bench Press More Now

McLaughlin examined on the most effective methods for increasing your Bench Press in this book, Bench Press More Now; a brilliant piece of work .

One of the most interesting pieces of information was McLauglin's finding of the evolution of Mike Bridges' (Lightweight World Record Holder Bench Presser) technique over time.

McLaughlin's research found that Bridges' increased the World Record in the Bench Press by slightly modifying the bar trajectory/bar path over time.

Take Home Message

The most efficient method of increasing your Bench Press is to follow the illustration above.

That means the Bar Trajectory (Bar Path) is an arch.

Kenny Croxdale
That's fine if that's what you do, but the OP asked on the StrongFirst forum for help, and this is how StrongFirst teaches the bench press. The image is straight from our SFL instructor manual.
 

Attachments

Kettlebelephant

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
I'm in no way qualified to judge whether someone's right or wrong here, but this intrigues me.
Am I right that the quote in the manual from "Simmons" means Louie Simmons? I think the man knows his stuff when it comes to the powerlifts, but pressing straight up seems wrong to me, too. You cannot start with the bar above your face, touch the lower chest or even below and go back to the starting position without using an arc.

11.jpg
A would be your position after the eccentric portion of the lift and the two Bs represent the concentric part.
If you press in an arc, like @kennycro@@aol.com suggests you end up in a position where the weight is completely vertical and supported by your structure -> B1
If you press straight up you end up with angled arms and create a lever arm that you need to fight with muscle strength. In no way are you able to lift more weight that way -> B2
Maybe combined with a heavy backarch, that you commonly see during heavy bench presses you are able to press straight up and Simmons refers to that. Otherwise I can't imagine how you should be able to go up straight.

EDIT: Discovered this, maybe that explains what Simmons means with "straight line":
Bench Press Bar Path
You press in a straight line, but angled and not vertical.
 
Last edited:

North Coast Miller

More than 2500 posts
Hmmm, I'm not sure about any of this, except that at no time should the bar wind up over your face.

In my experience, benching shoulder injuries happen at the midpoint more often than at the top.

I'd also say the graphics that Kenny linked showing an arc are not proportionally correct or the bar would be all over the place. The more arch in the back though, the greater the variation from bottom to top. With a large enough bridge, the bar would rest on your collar bone if you brought it straight down, with the tailbone closer to the bench the path will be a lot straighter.

There can only be one correct location for the bar at the top of the lift, correct location at the bottom has some variables associated with it.
 

jca17

More than 300 posts
Pavel describes the bench press with that Simmons quote in PTTP: Professional, as well. He says:
"if you are not a powerlifer it is the best and the safest way. No, you will not use your shoulders to their full capacity, but you also are a lot less likely to hurt them."
That's good enough reason for me.

I used to think the same thing about the top position of the bench press. Why wouldn't you want your structure completely supporting it at the top?
"If holding the barbell in the top position was all there was to the bench, keeping the bar straight over the shoulders would have made sense."
From Pavel in Deadlift Dynamite.
That helped me understand more. Yes, there will be a lever arm that you have to use strength to support, but as long as the strength required is not the limiting part of the lift, that is fine if it helps the rest of the lift.

Also, thank you everyone for your advice. Such a helpful forum! And I don't mind the tangents because they are often so informative and full of gold themselves : )
 
Last edited:

Arryn Grogan

Triple-Digit Post Count
Elite Certified Instructor
I'm in no way qualified to judge whether someone's right or wrong here, but this intrigues me.
Am I right that the quote in the manual from "Simmons" means Louie Simmons? I think the man knows his stuff when it comes to the powerlifts, but pressing straight up seems wrong to me, too. You cannot start with the bar above your face, touch the lower chest or even below and go back to the starting position without using an arc.

View attachment 3074
A would be your position after the eccentric portion of the lift and the two Bs represent the concentric part.
If you press in an arc, like @kennycro@@aol.com suggests you end up in a position where the weight is completely vertical and supported by your structure -> B1
If you press straight up you end up with angled arms and create a lever arm that you need to fight with muscle strength. In no way are you able to lift more weight that way -> B2
Maybe combined with a heavy backarch, that you commonly see during heavy bench presses you are able to press straight up and Simmons refers to that. Otherwise I can't imagine how you should be able to go up straight.

EDIT: Discovered this, maybe that explains what Simmons means with "straight line":
Bench Press Bar Path
You press in a straight line, but angled and not vertical.
So the bar will almost always move in a slight arc, but I told the OP to work on pressing vertically so that he avoids the bottom position on his lower sternum and his top position being his shoulders or face. I don't like beginners to intentionally try to press in an arc because they'll typically exaggerate the movement. I have them aim for straight and let the slight arc occur naturally.
 

Kettlebelephant

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
So the bar will almost always move in a slight arc, but I told the OP to work on pressing vertically so that he avoids the bottom position on his lower sternum and his top position being his shoulders or face. I don't like beginners to intentionally try to press in an arc because they'll typically exaggerate the movement. I have them aim for straight and let the slight arc occur naturally.
Ok, so it's more of a cue, e.g. like "attack the crotch" for swings. You try to, but don't actually do it and by trying you get the form you're after.
 

jca17

More than 300 posts
Fix Your Bar Path for a Bigger Bench • Stronger by Science

This article mentions some of the same things as Kenny has.
Confusingly, it makes the OPPOSITE claims both for safety and performance that I see StrongFirst, Louie Simmons, Andy Bolton espousing. It looks like elite competitors on both sides of the discussion. What to do?

One thing I know is that this in modeling the bench press, we have a complex system, and one wrong assumption in attempted mathematical explanations can take you way off. I'm most interested in empirical evidence, which both sides seem to have.

And here's an article from Westside, where they have dozens bench pressing 500+ pounds, using what looks more like the StrongFirst technique
HOW TO BENCH PRESS 500 EASY

Do we have videos or bar paths recorded of people using the vertical bar path as opposed to what early-arc supporters seem to show for guys like Mike Bridges and Bill Kazmaier? How much of the "vertical path" is perceptual versus actual?

Also for what its worth, I'd be happy to achieve and maintain an easy 225 bench, which already would be past Dan and Pavel's Easy Strength guidelines. I do not currently care to pass the 2.5xDL, 2xSQ, 1.5xBP, but would like to achieve those with effective, sound training, so all this talk of 500lbs is beyond my goals : P
 
Last edited:

North Coast Miller

More than 2500 posts
I recently watched two videos of Arnold benchpressing. At lower weight the bar traveled dead straight up and down. It also appeared his lower back was on the bench, but this is hardly HD quality.

In another clip was definitely working with an arc at the bottom - also appeared to be a couple more 45s on either end of the bar compared to the straight arc footage...
 

kennycro@@aol.com

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
Then it isbeing incorrectly taught.

Kenny Croxdale
bench is much healthier if the tri's are more involved- protects the shoulders. Whoever that Simmons guy is who's quoted in the SF excerpt (posted by @Arryn Grogan) must know a thing or two about lifting...haha
Simmons

Simmons has has revolutionized the training method of Powerlifters. He a fairly smart guy. However, Simmons often provide incorrect information.

Multi-Plane Movement

The body movement is multi-plane. That meaning the body does not move in a straight line, one plane.

McLaughlin's Biomechanical Research

Research is somewhat a documentation of history. Researchers examine anecdotal data (poor and great lifters). As with all things, they examine what unsuccessful and successful lifters are doing.

In doing so, that allow them to determine what you should NOT do and what you should Do.

The data that I provided was by Dr Tom McLaughlin's biomechanically research did just that. McLaughlin examined the Bar Path of novice and elite lifter (lifting in T-Shirts).

McLaughlin's biomechanical data found successful lifters Bar Path was a specific type of arc. The arc was the natural movement that provide lifter with the optimal Bar Path to drive more weight up.

As I previously mentioned, the Bar Path of Lightweight vs Heavyweight Lifter varied just a little. The variance in the Bar Path due to the rule limiting the grip width of 81 cm/32 inches.

Smaller Lightweight Lifters hand spacing was much greater for their wing span than Heavyweight Lifters. Thus, Heavyweight Lifter Bar Path varied slightly due to the fact that their grip width was limited.

Bench Press Shirts

Simmons statement promoting driving the Bench Press bar straight has to do with the use of Bench Press Shirts. Bench Press Shirts change the Bar Path/Trajectory, Muscle Involvement and the Strength Curve.

There no research Benching in a Bench Press Shirt. With that said, Simmons may or may not be correct in promoting the bar be driven straight up when wearing a Bench Press Shirt.

Summary

1) Anecdotal Data: This means observation of what successful and unsuccessful lifter/people do. You want to emulate the successful and avoid the mistakes of the unsuccessful.

2) Research Data: This is where the "Rubber meets the road." Researcher such as McLaughlin, in this case, determine the optimal most efficient method of Bench Pressing more weight. This allows other to emulate the successful and avoid the pitfalls of the unsuccessful.

3) Powerlifting Bench Press Shirts change Bench Press Bar Path/Trajectory, Muscle Involvement, and the Strength Curve. Pushing the bar straight up may or may not be optimal.

4) T-Shirt Bench Pressers will push more weight if they drive the bar up in an arch, as demonstrated above. Research has clearly demonstrated that fact.

Kenny Croxdale
 

kennycro@@aol.com

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
Fix Your Bar Path for a Bigger Bench • Stronger by Science

This article mentions some of the same things as Kenny has.
Confusingly, it makes the OPPOSITE claims both for safety and performance that I see StrongFirst, Louie Simmons, Andy Bolton espousing. It looks like elite competitors on both sides of the discussion. What to do?
Fix Your Bench Press

This article by Dr Greg Nuckols' reference the same Dr Tom McLaughlin research that I posted. That is why it "mentions some of the same things"...

One thing I know is that this in modeling the bench press, we have a complex system, and one wrong assumption in attempted mathematical explanations can take you way off. I'm most interested in empirical evidence, which both sides seem to have.
Empirical Data

This is usually where things start. Research then examines what works and try to understand why it works.

And here's an article from Westside, where they have dozens bench pressing 500+ pounds, using what looks more like the StrongFirst technique
HOW TO BENCH PRESS 500 EASY
Doris Simmons

The article was written by Louie wife, Doris. Thus, her view falls in line with Louie's.

Do we have videos or bar paths recorded of people using the vertical bar path as opposed to what early-arc supporters seem to show for guys like Mike Bridges and Bill Kazmaier? How much of the "vertical path" is perceptual versus actual?
Perception

This is a good point. What you see may or may not be what occurs. That one of the reason they have instant reply in the NFL.

Kenny Croxdale[/quote][/quote]
 

kennycro@@aol.com

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
So the bar will almost always move in a slight arc, but I told the OP to work on pressing vertically so that he avoids the bottom position on his lower sternum and his top position being his shoulders or face. I don't like beginners to intentionally try to press in an arc because they'll typically exaggerate the movement. I have them aim for straight and let the slight arc occur naturally.
Cueing

In coaching any athlete in any movement, you want to provide the right cue for them.

I have some understanding of you reason. However, it a miscue.

You're telling that Bar Path has a natural arc but to drive it straight up.

A hyperbolic example would be telling on a left turn, to turn right; it confusing.

Kenny Croxdale
 

Steve Freides

Forum Administrator
Staff member
Senior Certified Instructor
That's fine if that's what you do, but the OP asked on the StrongFirst forum for help, and this is how StrongFirst teaches the bench press. The image is straight from our SFL instructor manual.
The principles taught at the course are, of course, correct, but the application of those principles to advanced lifters can be customized, particularly if one is willing to trade safety for performance. There's no sense in comparing everyone's bench press path - understand the principles, apply them, and seek the advice of a coach as often as you can. As but one example, simply strengthening a weak muscle group can often result in a changed path or posture, sometimes even without consciously realizing it.

So if the OP has been benching for a few decades, winning local meets or better, and wants advice about bar path, someone ought to watch him, talk to him, and decide if changing holds promise or not.

-S-
 

Arryn Grogan

Triple-Digit Post Count
Elite Certified Instructor
The principles taught at the course are, of course, correct, but the application of those principles to advanced lifters can be customized, particularly if one is willing to trade safety for performance. There's no sense in comparing everyone's bench press path - understand the principles, apply them, and seek the advice of a coach as often as you can. As but one example, simply strengthening a weak muscle group can often result in a changed path or posture, sometimes even without consciously realizing it.

So if the OP has been benching for a few decades, winning local meets or better, and wants advice about bar path, someone ought to watch him, talk to him, and decide if changing holds promise or not.

-S-
Agreed. But I believe the OP is a beginner and does not have the experience of a few decades and winning meets... Thus I stand by my first cue :)
 

Arryn Grogan

Triple-Digit Post Count
Elite Certified Instructor
Cueing

In coaching any athlete in any movement, you want to provide the right cue for them.

I have some understanding of you reason. However, it a miscue.

You're telling that Bar Path has a natural arc but to drive it straight up.

A hyperbolic example would be telling on a left turn, to turn right; it confusing.

Kenny Croxdale
I agree with the right cue for the athlete. However, I disagree with your example. I liken it to how we teach an overhead kettlebell: straight and vertical arm. But when the weight is heavy, your arm is no longer vertical because of the offset of the weight. You still try to achieve vertical, but it is not possible.

The natural arc, that I like to see, in a bench press is not huge; I'm talking about maybe 2-3 inches. When I see people miss the rep with bench press, what often happens is they let the bar drift too much to their head on the way up. When this happens their elbows flair and their lats aren't as engaged as they were before.

I'm definitely not an expert and am not an elite-level powerlifter. But I do follow StrongFirst's teachings, and this is how they're taught.
 
Top Bottom