In all sports, the athlete is trying to do movements as sufficient and fluent as possible. Waste as little of the power as possible and be more economical. One of the clearest example of this is swimming. I would guess that I am not the only one who almost created foam in the water while trying to crawl swim. It is not a pretty sight. But, it is very good training. To see an actual swimmer doing laps in the pool is a sight for sore eyes and almost poetic. Same goes for seeing a sprinter dashing 200 meters and not doing any uncontrolled movements whatsoever.

Why the above? Well in my passion, powerlifting, three movements squat-benchpress-deadlift can be performed with equal control and minimal waste of energy. Travel the bar in a vertical line and use every inch of your body to your advantage, to keep joints safe and promote power output. An unbalanced lift is always less sufficient than a balanced one. That´s not to say that there can be some serious grinding going on at times.

Movement of choice, for this post, is benchpress. People are built different and therefore have different levers and mobility to play around with during lifting. Key points while lifting heavy in benchpress is creating a solid base and being able to keep this during the lift. This means; creating as little movement as possible in the shoulders, keeping tension high in hip and midsection and adding “leg drive” to the movement. Same thing here. Seeing un unschooled athlete doing benchpress with little or no stability, no legdrive and narrow grip is very good training (giving that he or she is not hurting the shoulders) but it is not sufficient. Seeing a technical lifter pressing the bar with minimal waste of energy is as poetic as seeing a sprinter coming around the last curve and I have been fortunate enough to see this on a daily basis for almost 15 years. The pressing that is.

A few pointers are good to know for improving your ability to benchpress:

  1. Unrack the bar standing on toes, this give you the advantage to move the bar to pressing position with more than just your shoulders
  2. Retract AND depress shoulder region to create a solid upper back and keep them in this position throughout the lift
  3. Retract both feet as much as possible, without lifting glutes from bench, giving you the opportunity to create tension in the hip flexors
  4. Keep some tension in abdominal muscles, to even more build a solid mid section
  5. Keep elbows 50-70° angle from the body, so you can engage both pectoralis and triceps in the movement

Point 2 and 3 will contribute to what is called “arch”. You will not see a tall and/or rigid lifter have a big arch because he or she will be at end position, in hips, ankles and back fairly soon and have a good position for pressing. A mobile/hypermobile lifter, however, will have to create a big lumbar extension and hip extension to “lock up” the midsection.

Clearly there is a benefit of doing all kinds of options for pressing such as one handed dumbbell or presses with narrow grip and feet up in the air, but for most power and keeping shoulders safe you need to get in the most beneficial position you can. So, question is, do you even arch?

Patrik Hedqvist

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