If you have read my posts before you will know how much importance I place on training, strength progression and optimising programming.
Of which the focus for almost all of our clients is to ensure they are either:
1. Getting stronger
2. Stimulating more frequently
3. Lifting more volume.
Those 3 principles are the primary determinants of true muscular growth, so that is what we focus on.
In conjunction with this, we also ensure clients lift well, lift safely and of course, lift optimally.
But what do I mean about optimal?
Well, optimally to me, means lifting in a manner that will allow greater target muscle activation and also in a manner that will give you the ability to progress consistently.
Now... before I go into this further, we absolutely acknowledge that there is a time and a place for isolating a muscle.
Likewise, there is also a time and a place for varying training techniques to up the intensity of how the exercise feels (drop sets, giant sets, super sets, forced stretching etc) but these techniques and exercises choices should be left for the individualisation portion of a program and completed after the primary exercises are done.
So today's primary exercise is:
And the question to be answered is, should you arch your back or should it remain flat on the bench?
Here are my top 4 reasons as to why arching in the bench press may be of benefit from both a hypertrophy standpoint and strength (and more strength = more progression).
1. Reduces range of motion at the glenohumeral joint (shoulder)
Which means less stress through this joint, allowing for greater pec utilisation and the ability to produce more power in the press.
2. Allows you to use the pec to its fullest potential
You can press with an inverted U motion more efficiently, meaning the bar travels from the sternum, upwards and back towards the eyes.
The two primary movements of the Pecs (major and minor) are horizontal flexion (hugging someone) and shoulder flexion (raising the arm above your head). Knowing this, the arched position allows the lifter to tuck their elbows towards their rib cage slightly, meaning you can press with both motions simultaneously, making it FAR stronger. A normal flat back bench press limits you to pressing with your elbows under the bar and forces a horizontal flexion dominant movement, which is both weaker in pressing power and places greater stress at at the shoulder joint.
3. Allows you to engage Lats and scap retractors
A tighter up back makes a stronger press, as the antagonist (opposite) activation of the lats allows the lifter to engage their pecs more effectively.
4. Allows you to push through your lower limb and generate more efficient power due to foot positioning being under the hip joint.
Creates a closed chain of power generation from the shoulders on the bench, down to the hips, through the legs and into the floor, then back up into the bench below the bar position.
But that's enough of the theory stuff, let's check out some application of Coach Lizzy hitting a 70kg bench for 8 reps x2 sets.
In essence, the arched bench press is stronger, safer when actioned properly and is more effective for both strength and hypertrophy.
Diet Smart. Not Hard.