Why Do Powerlifters Bench with an Arched Back?

“You’re going to break your back benching like that”, “look at her back” and “why is she doing that?”  and so on, all the comments that every powerlifter rolls their eyes at when they post a video on social media. So I guess I’ll get straight to the point, why do powerlifters bench with an arched back?


  1. Decrease the range of motion (ROM)
    In competitions, you get a ‘start’ command which is when you should start the bench press movement. Once the bar is stationary and paused on your chest, you get given a ‘press’ command where you finish the movement and press the bar up from your chest. A large arch and wide grip significantly reduces the distance that the bar has to move to the chest, making it easier to press a heavier load. This is the same as the fact that you can squat more weight if you do a quarter squat compared a squat that is below parallel.
  2. Allows you to recruit more leg drive
    The powerlifting-style bench press is not just a chest exercise but a whole body exercise. An arched back allows you to use more leg drive. When benching in the powerlifting style, your bum is not sat on the bench but merely resting on the bench and your feet are flat on the floor. This means that the movement is coming from drive of your feet and legs pushing against the floor, not just from isolating the chest muscle. Why do you want to do this?! Which is stronger, your whole body or your chest? This in turn again allows you to shift a heavier load.
  3. Potentially safer for your shoulders
    As discussed in point 1, an arched back decreases the ROM of the bench press movement which allows for a closer touch point to the shoulders. A closer touch point means that there is less shoulder rotation. If there is too much shoulder rotation during the movement, it may lead to shoulder impingement.

I think the key point to remember is that a powerlifting style bench press is a whole body exercise, whereas a bodybuilding style bench press is a chest isolating exercise. They are performed differently as they are essentially different exercises which share a name.


4 Tips for Progressing Your Pull-Ups

    1. Assisted pull-ups
      Assisted pull-up machine
      If your gym has an assisted pull-up machine then use that to help with your progression. Try and decrease the amount of assistance or increase the number of reps if you keep the assistance the same each week – for example, if you did 3×6 last week, then try and do 3×7 or 3×8 using the same weight this week.

      Assisted pull-ups with a resistance band
      If your gym does not have an assisted pull-up machine then do not worry! You can buy resistance bands from eBay or Amazon which are relatively cheap to help you. I would recommend getting a set of bands because as you get stronger, you will need to use a weaker band. You can start off with green or purple, depending on your ability and then move on to the red band before you remove it altogether! So how do I use a resistance band you’re probably thinking…

      1. Loop the band through the bar
      2. Put your knee in the resistance band
      3. Pull-up, up and away
      4. Try not to whack yourself in the face with the band getting down

    2. Negative pull-ups
      This is when you start at the top of the pull-up movement and lower yourself down. How?!

      1. Jump up on to the bar or alternatively use a box to the side of your bar
      2. Hold the top position of the pull-up
      3. Slowly control yourself down, doing it the count of 5 seconds
      4. Repeat

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    3. Back-cessory
      Quite simply – you need to build your back muscles to increase your strength over your bodyweight. My favourite back exercises are- Standing T-bar rows
      – Single arm dumbbell rows
      – Seated cable rows
      – Lat pull downs
      – Single arm lat pull downs

      Barbell rows are also good as you can change your grip – wide grip, narrow grip and reverse grip to target different areas of your back. I personally hate doing wide grip barbell rows so I don’t do them! I tend to rotate these exercises when I get a new plan so I don’t get bored and I’ll do one of these exercises twice a week.

    4. AMRAP sets
      AM-what?! AMRAP stands for ‘as many reps as possible’. I personally find that AMRAP sets for pull-ups have really helped me progress. In my training I will do 3 sets of AMRAP with a long rest in between each set (2-3 mins). Try and get an extra rep each week!