The Bench Press Arch — Is It Safe And Effective? 

by Ben Thompson

The Bench Press Arch — Is It Safe And Effective? 

Arching the spine in the Bench Press is a technique predominantly used in Powerlifters, but should you be doing it?

The answer — well… it really depends. 

At Movement Enhanced, we often coach the arch in the bench press, and while it might not be for everyone, here is a little more information as to why we use the technique…

To the untrained eye, the most common response is that the arch ‘will hurt your back’, but the truth is that there’s a lot to unpack about why you should arch in the bench press.

Let us be clear — extending your spine to an extreme degree while squatting or deadlifting is a bad idea and we certainly don’t encourage that. 

However, in a bench press, your spine isn’t directly loaded by the bar which makes axial loading less of a concern. 

Given you have no previous injuries to the lumbar spine, learning to extend your spine does not provide a high degree of injury risk and could provide you with some benefits.

In terms of effectiveness, we must first explore the goal of the exercise.

For us, we predominantly prescribe the exercise as a primary lift for the session. With that in mind, the goal is lifting a heavyweight to stimulate the nervous system. 

In this context, the goal is developing strength so we opt for the technique that allows you to lift the heaviest weight possible, in the safest way possible. 

Extending the spine in the Bench Press allows for a safer position for the shoulder joint which will increase your ability to press a heavyweight. 

The technique will improve the ability to set the scapula in retraction and depression and hold that throughout the whole movement.

Optimal stabilisation of the shoulder joint while moving heavyweights will decrease your chance of injury resulting in it being a safer exercise.

So it brings us to this point, should you be using it?

If your goal is to develop strength in a safe and effective manner, then you should look to use a technique that allows you to lift the heaviest amount of weight possible.

That said, if you’ve never done the technique, make sure you take the time to learn properly or reach out and get help from qualified coaches who can assist you along the way.

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