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Bench Press Tips
Should You Arch Your Back?

By Lee Hayward

It seems that anytime I write an article about chest training and discuss proper bench press technique I always hit a nerve with some people when I talk about body position and setting up to perform the bench press.

When I explain how to set up for a bench press I tell people to stick your chest out as far as you can by arching your upper back. And retract your scapula by pulling your shoulder blades back together behind you. This is the way you should be positioned when laying down on the bench.

You can see examples of what I mean by this in the pictures below:

Upper Back Relaxed, Upper Back Arched

Upper Back Relaxed, Upper Back Arched

In the pics on the left you can see the upper back is relaxed. And in the pics to the right you can see that the upper back is arched and the shoulder blades are pulled back.

The reason for doing this is because it activates the chest muscles to a greater degree. It gives your upper back a solid base on the bench. It reduces excessive shoulder rotation and places them in a safer and more advantageous position for benching.

To sum it up this proper set up targets the major muscles that you want to work, puts you in a stronger position to bench, and it reduces your risk of a shoulder / rotator cuff injury.

Note: if you did a survey of bench press related
injuries you would find that shoulder / rotator cuff
injuries would be number one on the list by far.

However, for a lot of people when ever they hear the words “arch” and “bench press” in the same sentence they automatically cringe.

I get numerous e-mails every week from people saying “you should never arch when benching, it will injure your lower back”. Now I know these people are only trying to help and they mean well. But they are totally missing the point that I’m trying to get across. Maybe I should get out my thesaurus and find a different word other then “arch” as this one brings up so many red lights for people.

There is a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ way to arch for doing a bench press.

You’ll note in the description I outlined above I said to stick your chest out by arching your upper back and pulling your shoulder blades. We could also use the word “flex” your upper back instead of arch.

For those anti-archers out there please realize, I NEVER EVER recommended anything about “arching your lower back” at all. Arching your upper back is what is important. That’s what rests on the bench, that’s where all the action takes place. You just need to keep your feet solid on the floor and simply maintain the natural curvature in your lower back.

The Right Way To Arch Your Back For The Bench Press
The Right Way To Arch

The Wrong Way To Arch Your Back For The Bench Press
The Wrong Way To Arch

Actually sit up in your chair and do this simple exercise with me right now…

Try to stick your chest out as far as you can, but you have to keep your back totally flat and your shoulders forward…

How did it go? I bet you couldn’t stick your chest out much if any.

Now try to stick your chest out again, but this time pull your shoulder blades back together behind you and “arch your upper back"… Now look down… whoa what’s that? It looks like you got a chest that sticks out further then Dolly Parton’s… well maybe I’m exaggerating a bit here, but you get the point.

You NEED to expand your chest and pull your shoulder blades back in order put your body in the safest and most advantageous position for bench pressing. And in order to do this it requires ‘arching’ or ‘flexing’ your upper back.

If you would like more tips on how to improve your lifting technique and maximize your muscle growth, then check out the newly revised 2008 edition of the “Blast Your Bench” program.

The “Blast Your Bench” program will help you build solid strength and rock hard muscle mass faster than you ever thought possible... In fact by following this proven training system you could literally make better gains in the next few weeks, then most guys make in an entire year.

Blast Your Bench - How To Add 51 lbs. To Your Bench Press In 3 Weeks

"Gained 60 lbs. Total On His Max Bench Press"
Lee Byerly I bought the Blast Your Bench program last October. I started using your assistant exercise routine with the bradford press and reverse grip bench for three weeks prior to starting the program and had already increased my bench by 20 pounds in that short period. I then started into the actual Blast Your Bench program and I went from maxing out with 305 lbs. to 345 lbs.
Squats have always been a struggle for me ever since I began working out. But I used the Blast Your Squat routine for three weeks and went from repping out 185 lbs. for 20 reps to 225 lbs. for 20 reps.

I am getting ready to Blast My Bench again here in a couple weeks. I'm really looking forward to it.

Lee Byerly

Click Here To Download Your Copy Of The "Blast Your Bench" Program...