T Nation

Bench Bar Path

Ok, so I have read from articels written several years ago by dave tate and louie simmons that you should press in a straight line, and not over the face, because this is the shortest bar path. It makes sense.

But then recently I read by jim wendler and metal militia that you should press towards your face, and NEVER pres towards your feet.

So why is this? Why do some say to press in a straight line, while others say never to do so? Why should you press towards your face as opposed to straight up?

I think it’s a preference. Those who advocate the straight line method say it’s a shorter bar path while those who advocate the MM-type method say that type of press increases leverages and is a more natural motion.

You should probably just use the method you are strongest at.

I prefer the J press ala wendler and militia. It makes alot more sense imo. Getting it back and flaring your elbows puts you in a much better position to lock out, in a shirt. And throwing it back towards your face lets you get more leg and lat drive into raw, in my experience.

I concur with Hanley (and Starting Strength), if you are raw definitely press back towards your face. That verbal cue, “Press back to me (from the spotter’s point of view)” works a huge amount of the time. Next time you are stuck with the weight try to press it back and see if it helps the lift.

The straight line bench works for a few people but it is mainly a shirted tactic.

As a total side note, if you took a bar and actually pressed it straight toward your hips that would actually be the shortest line (I just measured with a broomstick, that is a 12" ROM for me, straight line up is 15" and the J press is 18" total distance). Of course I am not recommending that as 100 lbs would be very hard with that method, but it just proves the point that the total distance the bar travels is not the only point to consider.

Bottom line, try both and see what works for you, but I would say 90%+ do better with a J when benching raw.

For what it’s worth, the straight line bar bath works best for me. If I “J” press it, I lose control at the top. But I agree with Tim, try both.

I’ve also noticed that Wendler doesn’t arch very much on the bench, and I think that would play a huge part in your bar path, as shoulder-level locked-out position to lower chest would be close to a straight line in an extreme arch, and the same points on a flatter back press would naturally involve a “J” motion. I press in a J motion, but mine doesn’t seem to go as far back as others. I think it’s an individual thing.

It should be noted that it take the same amount of work(massgchange in height) to get the bar from your chest to arms length no matter what the path of the bar is (straight, slanted, J, or figure 8). So press what works best for you. I try to press as straight as possible because it helps me stay tight, although my last few reps tend to become J shaped.

I’m pretty sure Louie has changed his stance on the best bench bar path, so this argument is no longer an argument. Tuck your elbows on the way down, flare on the way up, press over your shoulders, not your face. Where you touch depends on grip width and what kind of shirt you’re wearing, if any.

Shortest distance makes sense at first glance, but if all it took to lift more weight were reducing the ROM of a lift, then every great deadlifter would be lifting with their toes out to the plates. Unfortunately there are a lot more things that come into play than simple physics.