Is It Cheating to Arch Your Back on the Bench Press?

The arched bench press is second only to the sumo deadlift in fueling an angry online debate about how to do the exercise correctly . So, just like sumo , we’re going to discuss the pros and cons of the arch and help you decide what you should be doing in the gym and whether it’s worth fighting about it online.

What is an arch? This is when the athlete flexes the torso so that his buttocks and shoulders are closer to each other, the stomach or chest is lifted to the sky. This means that the bar does not have to go that far until it touches your chest. For some, this makes it a hoax, but that’s not all.

Let’s see the rules

Cheating means breaking the rules, so let’s take a quick look at the bench press rules in competition. Unsurprisingly, if you’ve ever seen a powerlifting competition, then arches are completely legal. Here is the relevant section from the USAPL code of practice as a typical example:

The lifter should lie [sic] on his back with the head, shoulders and buttocks in contact with the bench surface. The feet should be flat on the floor (as flat as the shape of the shoe allows).

As long as your head, shoulders, and buttocks are on the bench, everything is fine. You can rest your whole back on the bench or bend up like a rainbow.

As with any controversial technique, there are people who argue that powerlifting should have a different set of rules (just as there are arguments that strongman competitions should allow deadlift sumo or that Olympic weightlifting should allow pressing), but in fact, the arching is completely within the current rules.

Why do people arch?

The only thing detractors pay attention to the arch is that it shortens the distance the bar has to travel. And it is true that for the few lifters who are capable of extreme arches, the barbell only needs to be moved a couple of inches.

But huge compromises have to be made. Just like the sumo deadlift, if the arching were easier and there were no downsides, everyone would have an extreme arch. But not everyone has the mobility to make a big arch, and not everyone who can get into the correct position is actually strong in this position.

The arch provides stability

The biggest reason for many gym goers to use the arch is because it helps keep your body strong and stable during the bench press. Even if I press down on the floor, I try to arch my back slightly to support and stabilize my body.

The arch also helps with the movement of the legs. When you bench in a powerlifting style, you need to rest your feet on the floor to further stabilize your body and allow all of your upper body energy to go into pushing the bar up. For a good push of the legs, you need to bend at least a little.

Back arch can help keep your shoulders healthy and comfortable

Many lifters say their shoulders feel better when they use the arch to bench press. This will vary from person to person, depending in part on your body type; Some people like a moderate arch and a strong arch discomfort. For others, the larger the arch, the better.

But isn’t it dangerous?

While a neutral (more or less straight) spine is desirable in many exercises, it is not important in the bench press. You are not asking your back to support the weight as if you were squatting; your back just stabilizes while your chest and arms do the work.

Some people are more flexible than others, so when we see someone doing something we can’t think of, there is a natural reaction that if it hurts us , it must also hurt them . This, of course, is not so: the gymnast does not think anything about the splits, even if I, watching from the couch, can not imagine anything but the pain from it.

If you want a complete anatomical breakdown of what’s going on in a bench arch, sports physiologist Mike Isretel has one . Everything is fine.

At the same time, some body types will never completely elude criticism from the coaches in the chairs. My back is not very flexible so my arch isn’t too dramatic and even I sometimes get comments “are you going to break your back?” If I post videos of the bench on social media.

Meanwhile, big guys with big breasts or belly can move a barbell less distance just because of their body size, and no one tells them that they are cheating. And they probably buckle too, it’s just harder to see because there isn’t as much daylight under their backs as there is on the smaller elevator. They are not worried about the condition of their spine. In other words, arching is one of those things for which women are much more criticized.

So what needs to be done?

If you’re not competing and just want to get the most out of your bench press, you can flex as much or less as you like. I don’t compete in powerlifting anymore (I tried it once, it was fun), but I still flex when I press. He feels good, is stable, and helps me lift more weight.

If you bench press with a flat back all the time, that’s okay. You don’t have to bend over. But you can try to see if it feels better or if it allows you to lift more weight.This video from Juggernaut provides some tips on how to use your upper back to properly support your competition-style bench, as well as tuning tips for a good arch.


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