Arching In The Bench Press

Is benching with an arch safe? As long as you do it properly, it is.
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Having an extreme arch can produce some stress, but that stress isn’t necessarily dangerous. As long as your not benching multiple times a week, with an extreme arch, you should be fine.
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Here’s a great quote from Dr. Mike Israetel, PhD in Sports Physiology on the safety of arching for the vertebrae and discs; “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.”
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Pressing with an arch and with the scapula retracted, allows for greater use of the lower fibers of the pec muscles. Also, this angle is likely safer for the glenohumeral joint of the shoulder because of the scapular retraction.
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The forces placed on the spine during leg drive are much lower than those produced even during lighter squats. Squatting and overhead pressing have vastly higher amounts of forces placed on the spine compared to the bench press as well. So if you’re so concerned about the forces from benching, you should probably stop squatting and overhead pressing too.
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Arching the bench also helps you utilize more muscle fibers, making it more advantageous for strength gain.
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Here are some points to keep in mind: 1. Keep your butt on the bench during the lift. If your butt lifts off the bench, higher sheer force will be placed on your lower back, making it unsafe. 2. “Pack” (Retract and pull down) the scapula to ensure a safe pressing position for the shoulders. 3. Arch throughout the back, not just your lower back. 4. Arch as your mobility allows. Don’t force an excessive arch as that won’t be good for your back either.
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Check out JTS Strength’s article titled “Arching in the bench press, please STFU” for more info!

 


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