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Bench Press – The Big Man Arch

A lot of novices and uneducated social media lifters bemoan the bench press arch. There are times a flat back arch is appropriate, that is for a separate discussion. I submit that you should use some level of arch whenever you bench…unless it is one of those times. This discussion also is not about the ‘high arch’ you see in competition. That, again, is a separate discussion.

A strong arch creates a number of benefits to your overall bench press strength:

  • It reduces the range of motion (ROM) of the lift allowing you to move more weight, but that is not the primary purpose of this approach.
  • It creates tremendous full body tightness. With a good arch and leg drive, you should see very little body movement during the bench. As a coach, I watch for body movement as a sign of poor leg drive.

Note: Sudden leg drive, and heaving to create momentum is a technique for a separate discussion

  • Strong leg drive helps you keep your chest up throughout the lift’s ROM which:
    • Gives you a very stable and strong platform to push from
    • Expands the surface area your pecs stretch across, giving you a stronger initial contraction (note: my personal theory).

 

How do you create a good Big Man Arch (aka leg drive arch)? I like to start at the bar and work my way down:

  • Once you grip the bar, squeeze your shoulder blades tightly together and pull them downward, tucking them into your back pockets. Keep them firmly planted this way throughout the full ROM.
  • Pull your feet back up under your hips. Drive through the balls of your feet and push your hips toward your shoulder blades.
    • Your actual foot position will vary based on your body mechanics and hip mobility. Start with a position on the edge of discomfort and adjust from there.
    • Loosen your core as you push your hips then retighten it once you’ve positioned them; this helps you get to a more stable, tight position.
  • Finally, take a deep breath of air, filling your lungs completely and hold it as you lower the bar to your chest. Don’t begin exhaling until the bar has upward momentum, then snake the air out through your teeth through lockout.

You can find a full discussion on the bench press in my bench press technique article



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