Bench Pressing to the general public is the number one definition of strength. We’ve all heard, “How much do you bench bro?” and we’ve all wished we could have said a bigger number. You’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who says, “Yeah, I bench 405 but it’s too much so I’m not going to go any heavier.” Let’s hope so at least. There’s no such thing as being too strong.
Since I keep up on social media and I’m well connected in the fitness industry, I tend to get the same questions time and time again. Sometimes it isn’t even from my comments but from other credited lifters as well. A big one is “Why are you arching?” What comes along with this are the people saying I’m going to break my back or that arching is cheating. I’ve been eager to tackle this topic with a few facts and my own personal opinion so I’m going to finish this article up with the most frequently asked questions I get in terms of arching during my bench.
Q: Why are you arching?
A: Arching is beneficial to your bench press for many reasons. It creates a shorter range of motion for the bar to travel, puts the body in position to utilize your leg drive most effectively, helps keep your feet planted on the ground, puts you in a better LEVERAGE position to shift the weight efficiently, etc. Simply put, arching will add more pounds to your bench press when done correctly and efficiently.
Q: Is arching bad for you back?
A: Like anything when lifting weights, you are almost always vulnerable to injury, especially the more weight you begin to move. In my 13 years of lifting weights and the hundreds of clients I’ve trained, I have NEVER seen anyone injure their back from arching. Now note, if you are TIGHT AS A BOARD and try to create a massive arch, you will more than likely tweak your back. When working to establish an arch on the bench press start out with a small arch. Work on mobility and every couple weeks work on creating a bigger arch.
Q: Is arching cheating?
A: HELL NO! If arching was cheating then it would not be allowed in the sanctioned sport of powerlifting. Arching is a technique used to lift more weight. Just like in any sport, to get to the elite level you must understand and master your craft.
Q: What about the crazy huge? The arch where that person only moved the bar 2 inches?
A: I often see this more in women than men. Since most women are more flexible than men, some women can overdo the arch. In my opinion over-arching isn’t as beneficial to your pressing. It seems to take away the leg drive and if you only press the bar 3 inches for over a decade it will lead to an under developed chest. A 3-5 inch arch is more on the normal side and is most efficient. In this question I’m speaking towards the crazy 12 inch arch.
Q: What mobility work do I need to do to establish a better arch?
A: Often mistaken, the arch doesn’t come from the lower back but rather the upper back! Most people who arch seem to create a massive curve in their lower back where the belly button will be the highest point of the body. That’s great, well, if you bench to your belly button. But we don’t, we bench to our lower chest and sternum area. Therefore, we want to create the highest touching point at our sternum. This is challenging and will take lots of time to master. Focus on your quads, posterior chain, upper back and shoulder mobility. I do the basic stretches that you would do in little league football and do those daily. You will want to hold each stretch for approximately 2 minutes each to get the most out of the stretch.
I hope this short article helped clear up some of your questions about the arch. It’s simple, to press the most weight possible you have to learn how to establish an arch. Even if it’s a small arch at first, you have to start somewhere and just focus on utilizing that leg drive. If you have any more questions on the arch head over to my Instagram: zachhomol or Youtube Channel: Zachhomolpower where I have more form breakdowns explaining the arch!
If you like this article, check out Zach's article Another Meet Week!