Powerlifters are known for arching their back during the bench press, but is this good or even safe? Megan Gallagher, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer, USA Powerlifting Coach, and YouTuber, goes over three reasons to arch in the bench press.
Learn why arching your back during the bench press might be beneficial and how to set one up yourself.
3 Reasons to Arch in The Bench Press
1 – Create scapular retraction
Scapular retraction simply means tightening your upper back, which creates a safer position for the bench press.
Start by pressing your shoulders on the bench and retract your scapula by puffing your chest and bringing your shoulders back.
This tightens the upper back and increases the stability of your shoulders.
If your shoulders aren’t locked into place you won’t want to bench a lot of weight.
2 – Decrease the range of motion
This is especially relevant for powerlifters, as reducing how far the bar needs to move will allow you to lift more weight.
By retracting your scapula and creating an arch means you decrease the range of motion of the bench press, making the exercise easier.
This does mean that benching with an arch won’t be as effective for chest hypertrophy, but it will add more numbers to your total. Therefore, figure out what is more important to you.
Quick word of warning: while a big arch isn’t meant to be comfortable, it shouldn’t feel actively painful.
3 – Distribute the load to your legs
You can use your legs to bench if you arch in the bench press. A flat back will mean most of the weight is positioned on the upper back but creating an arch will allow you to distribute the weight you’re lifting between points of contact, which includes your legs.
Moving your feet closer to the bar’s path will add to you upper back tightness and carry over to more weight lifted.
“If you’re tighter you’re going to be stronger, that’s just the way it goes,” says Gallagher.
Is arching in the bench dangerous?
If you understand the setup and bench with the right technique, arching your back shouldn’t be dangerous.
Gallagher points out that there are always risks with any sporting activity you do but following proper technique should minimise them.