Flat Bench Barbell Press- question on form

  • kansascityman

    Posts: 31

    Jul 20, 2007 8:29 PM GMT
    After looking at the pics and reading the step by steps on this exercise, it seems that one should not be lowering the bar as much as I typically see folks do at the gym. Most seem to bring the bar down almost to the chest, if not actually touching the chest.

    The webpage says to lower the weight until the arms are even with the back. http://www.realjock.com/article/620

    This would put the bar somewhat farther away from the chest (at least on us skinny guys!) than I usually see. Any thoughts on this? I want the best results, but safety and injury prevention are equally important.
  • MSUBioNerd

    Posts: 1813

    Jul 21, 2007 12:49 AM GMT
    This is actually addressed specifically in the book Scrawny to Brawny, which I think is worth a read. In it, the authors state that lowering the arms such that the elbows past the plane of the body can lead to substantial joint injury and/or failure. They offer two possible solutions for guys with longer arms/shallower chests:

    1) Fold/rolls a towel on your chest, and lower the bar to that only.

    2) Pull your shoulder blades together, which causes you to arch slightly while still keeping your hips in contact with the bench. This will raise your chest somewhat.

    they also suggest a number of smaller changes, like keeping the elbows closer to the sides, rather than flaring them out, and adjusting your grip accordingly.

    I've found that by adjusting my bench press this way I can handle more weight without feeling the strain in my joints, but feeling it more in the muscle itself. That's not necessarily conclusive, but it's good enough for me to continue with the towel.
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    Jul 21, 2007 2:45 AM GMT
    I've also seen a lot of scripted routines now call for a "rack lock-out" instead of a "bench press." I think this is just a shallow bench press, as you describe, but the safety bars on a power rack/squat cage are set to prevent you from lowering the bar too much.
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    Jul 21, 2007 1:17 PM GMT
    That is right!

    If you let your bar so low, your glenohumeral joint is bascially going into extension with internal rotation (and abduction if your elbows are to the sides away form your trunk.) This is the worst position for shoudlers. It stresses the rotator cuffs, it stretches the anterior joint capsules and ligaments (once you stretch it, it can get loose and there is no return, resulting in all sorts of problems), itrubs onthe labrum, you name it...
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    Jul 21, 2007 4:02 PM GMT
    So what do you do when your arms are 35" long? My trainer was showing me an exercise this week and i realized that that having 5" longer arms completely changes the physics of an excercise.
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    Jul 21, 2007 11:22 PM GMT
    It does, but you can sure adapt and alter your form to prevent excessive shoulder extension with internal rotation.

    Just grab the bars at this width: When lowered to the point where your elbows are in line with your shoulder joint 9Elbows are not below theline of the trunk), that your elows are still flexed (bend) no more than 90 deg... That is all :)
  • kansascityman

    Posts: 31

    Jul 23, 2007 6:37 PM GMT
    Thanks for the good information, guys! Really helpful.
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    Jul 23, 2007 6:49 PM GMT
    most workout magazines and books (which I've read alot) indicate that dropping the bar to the chest is not the most effective. Building muscle is about push/pull. By stopping with your arms level with your chest, you actually work more of the muscle by stopping and controlling the descent rather than (as I have seen) bouncing it off your chest.


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    Aug 03, 2007 6:33 PM GMT
    Exactly, because when you lower the bar so low, your muscles do not work that well anymore. Most of the load is taken up by the non-contractile tissues such as the joint capsule and ligaments. That is why, no matter how strong youare, if you have a loose shoulder and your ligaments and capsule already lax, going so low sometimes will make one feel unstable and shoudler feels like its going to pop out. It has nothing to do with muscle strength.