T Nation

Bench Press Arch Collapse

Hey T-Nation,

I’ve been training for strength in the big lifts (bench, dead lift, squat) for the past few months and have been experiencing difficulty in maintaining an arch during my bench press sets.

I’ve experimented with my set up and found I do best by starting with my feet on the end of the bench, inverted rowing myself to the bar and pulling shoulder blades together and down, and then putting myself down on my traps, then setting my feet one at a time. I’ve also learned to slow the descent of the weight to keep from losing tension and flattening out.

Despite this, though, I find that I tend to flatten out during some sets (no more than 5 reps/set). In some cases I’ve blamed it on a lack of friction between the bench and my t-shirt, though I think that’s just me finding excuses. Is this sort of thing plausible, or is it a matter of a lack of upper back tightness? Also, should I try using chalk on the bench?

Wow. you are serious about this arch huh? I’m not a bench expert but maybe its the width of the grip?

All you can really do is focus on arching hard during. I often have sore erectors from arching after a heavy bench day!

Having a slippery or grippy bench does make a difference yes, but meh, just work with what you have.

Same thing happens to me, especially when I’m using lighter weight and the bar is moving faster. When doing reps I make sure to keep my shoulders and traps tight when I am at lockout and it keeps everything in place for the next rep. It could be the bench as well.

Oh, and make sure you have a solid foundation, with the legs firmly planted. Good leg drive is necessary to maintain the arch.

It can be difficult to maintain an arch for higher rep sets, so just do the best you can when doing more than doubles or triples.

I actually wear a specific pair of shorts each time I bench because some shorts are too slippery to get a good grip on the bench, and you’ll flatten out. Your t-shirt could be the same. You could try chalking the shoulder blade area of your shirt, if the gym allows it.

If you can chalk your shirt, maybe even you shorts, and you keep your arch, then it probably isn’t a strength issue. But if you still can’t keep the arch with the added friction, then you may need to work on upper back strength. Give it a try and see what happens.

I pop out of my arch for higher rep sets, or when using lighter weight. I think chalk helps a lot - I usually wear a tank top at the gym, and that allows my skin to grip the bench, but when wearing a T-shirt in a competition, if I don’t chalk, I slide all over the place.

I know that when I try to get in position in the manner you described, I lack the hip flexibility to get my feet down without losing at least some of the arch. I do better by straddling the bench about halfway up with my feet pointed forward, doing a partial backbend to reach back for the bar, planting on my traps by pushing up against the bar, and then pulling my butt down by wiggling my feet. This helps me get good leg drive, too.

the way i set up pretty much guarantees that you won’t lose the arch as long as you don’t relaxe your upper back and let your scaps come apart.

what i do is lay on the bench, set my grip and pull myself under the bar. i then set my feet by spiking my toes into the floor. i then push myself out over my toes thus forcing myself into a tight arch. i do my best each time that i bench to force my feet back further and further to the head end of the bench. this makes me get into a better arch. it’s very uncomfortable and my lower back is screaming afterwards but it definitely makes me tight and my arch stays put.

i’ll insert a vid from this weekends World’s. This is my 475 raw bench attempt. you can see from the vid all the steps i take to setup. i just started doing this setup and it works awesome. i hope as i can get my fet back farther and get a tighter arch that i will be able to make it more and more like a decline thus increasing my bench dramatically. As it was, 475 felt like warmup weight.

christopher drummond
team Staley sponsored athlete

Meat you made that look easy!

[quote]maraudermeat wrote:
the way i set up pretty much guarantees that you won’t lose the arch as long as you don’t relaxe your upper back and let your scaps come apart.

what i do is lay on the bench, set my grip and pull myself under the bar. i then set my feet by spiking my toes into the floor. i then push myself out over my toes thus forcing myself into a tight arch. i do my best each time that i bench to force my feet back further and further to the head end of the bench. this makes me get into a better arch. it’s very uncomfortable and my lower back is screaming afterwards but it definitely makes me tight and my arch stays put.

i’ll insert a vid from this weekends World’s. This is my 475 raw bench attempt. you can see from the vid all the steps i take to setup. i just started doing this setup and it works awesome. i hope as i can get my fet back farther and get a tighter arch that i will be able to make it more and more like a decline thus increasing my bench dramatically. As it was, 475 felt like warmup weight.

christopher drummond
team Staley sponsored athlete

[/quote]

Meat, that was sick. Nice lift!

My set up is similar to what everyone else is doing. I’m finding that like others, with lower weight or higher reps my arch doesn’t stay as tight. I’m working on that though.

[quote]dre wrote:
maraudermeat wrote:
the way i set up pretty much guarantees that you won’t lose the arch as long as you don’t relaxe your upper back and let your scaps come apart.

what i do is lay on the bench, set my grip and pull myself under the bar. i then set my feet by spiking my toes into the floor. i then push myself out over my toes thus forcing myself into a tight arch. i do my best each time that i bench to force my feet back further and further to the head end of the bench. this makes me get into a better arch. it’s very uncomfortable and my lower back is screaming afterwards but it definitely makes me tight and my arch stays put.

i’ll insert a vid from this weekends World’s. This is my 475 raw bench attempt. you can see from the vid all the steps i take to setup. i just started doing this setup and it works awesome. i hope as i can get my fet back farther and get a tighter arch that i will be able to make it more and more like a decline thus increasing my bench dramatically. As it was, 475 felt like warmup weight.

christopher drummond
team Staley sponsored athlete

Meat, that was sick. Nice lift!

My set up is similar to what everyone else is doing. I’m finding that like others, with lower weight or higher reps my arch doesn’t stay as tight. I’m working on that though.[/quote]

one way to look at it is to keep everything perfect and tight on your heavy stuff and then on the light stuff make the lift more difficult by flattening out and even putting the legs up. i would definitely still tuck the elbows though:) i’m going to start doing this on my lighter sets to bring more of the triceps and chest into play. a lot of big raw benchers do this and it works for them. kind of the same thinking behind the legs being straight and the back flat for floor press. you are taking the leg drive out of it and vastly increasing the range of motion.

also, if you are doing more than three reps, just breathing will make you lose your arch. i take in a breath and don’t let it out on sets of three or less. this guarantees that i will stay super tight.

[quote]dianab wrote:
Meat you made that look easy![/quote]

i would like to think that my form is just so perfect that it just looked easy, but i picked a weight that was way too light for my third attempt.

but thanks!!

[quote]maraudermeat wrote:
dre wrote:
maraudermeat wrote:
the way i set up pretty much guarantees that you won’t lose the arch as long as you don’t relaxe your upper back and let your scaps come apart.

what i do is lay on the bench, set my grip and pull myself under the bar. i then set my feet by spiking my toes into the floor. i then push myself out over my toes thus forcing myself into a tight arch. i do my best each time that i bench to force my feet back further and further to the head end of the bench. this makes me get into a better arch. it’s very uncomfortable and my lower back is screaming afterwards but it definitely makes me tight and my arch stays put.

i’ll insert a vid from this weekends World’s. This is my 475 raw bench attempt. you can see from the vid all the steps i take to setup. i just started doing this setup and it works awesome. i hope as i can get my fet back farther and get a tighter arch that i will be able to make it more and more like a decline thus increasing my bench dramatically. As it was, 475 felt like warmup weight.

christopher drummond
team Staley sponsored athlete

Meat, that was sick. Nice lift!

My set up is similar to what everyone else is doing. I’m finding that like others, with lower weight or higher reps my arch doesn’t stay as tight. I’m working on that though.

one way to look at it is to keep everything perfect and tight on your heavy stuff and then on the light stuff make the lift more difficult by flattening out and even putting the legs up. i would definitely still tuck the elbows though:) i’m going to start doing this on my lighter sets to bring more of the triceps and chest into play. a lot of big raw benchers do this and it works for them. kind of the same thinking behind the legs being straight and the back flat for floor press. you are taking the leg drive out of it and vastly increasing the range of motion.

also, if you are doing more than three reps, just breathing will make you lose your arch. i take in a breath and don’t let it out on sets of three or less. this guarantees that i will stay super tight.
[/quote]

great idea, I’ll try that.

[quote]maraudermeat wrote:
the way i set up pretty much guarantees that you won’t lose the arch as long as you don’t relaxe your upper back and let your scaps come apart.

what i do is lay on the bench, set my grip and pull myself under the bar. i then set my feet by spiking my toes into the floor. i then push myself out over my toes thus forcing myself into a tight arch. i do my best each time that i bench to force my feet back further and further to the head end of the bench. this makes me get into a better arch. it’s very uncomfortable and my lower back is screaming afterwards but it definitely makes me tight and my arch stays put.

i’ll insert a vid from this weekends World’s. This is my 475 raw bench attempt. you can see from the vid all the steps i take to setup. i just started doing this setup and it works awesome. i hope as i can get my fet back farther and get a tighter arch that i will be able to make it more and more like a decline thus increasing my bench dramatically. As it was, 475 felt like warmup weight.

christopher drummond
team Staley sponsored athlete

[/quote]

I was taught to do exactly what this guy did, with one addition. After you plant your toes and slide under the bar, try to drive your heels into the floor before the lift-off and get your arch going at the same time. If you can get your heels to the floor, your feet aren’t back far enough. Keep driving your heels throughout the lift.

That said, Drummond’s 475 was an awesome lift. I’m nowhere near that. Not even in the same ballpark. Someday hopefully. But, I was taught by someone pretty good and they taught be to do that with my heels and I’ve been improving dramatically since taking their advice.

Good luck. Hope that helps.

FS

[quote]flightspeed wrote:
maraudermeat wrote:
the way i set up pretty much guarantees that you won’t lose the arch as long as you don’t relaxe your upper back and let your scaps come apart.

what i do is lay on the bench, set my grip and pull myself under the bar. i then set my feet by spiking my toes into the floor. i then push myself out over my toes thus forcing myself into a tight arch. i do my best each time that i bench to force my feet back further and further to the head end of the bench. this makes me get into a better arch. it’s very uncomfortable and my lower back is screaming afterwards but it definitely makes me tight and my arch stays put.

i’ll insert a vid from this weekends World’s. This is my 475 raw bench attempt. you can see from the vid all the steps i take to setup. i just started doing this setup and it works awesome. i hope as i can get my fet back farther and get a tighter arch that i will be able to make it more and more like a decline thus increasing my bench dramatically. As it was, 475 felt like warmup weight.

christopher drummond
team Staley sponsored athlete

I was taught to do exactly what this guy did, with one addition. After you plant your toes and slide under the bar, try to drive your heels into the floor before the lift-off and get your arch going at the same time. If you can get your heels to the floor, your feet aren’t back far enough. Keep driving your heels throughout the lift.

That said, Drummond’s 475 was an awesome lift. I’m nowhere near that. Not even in the same ballpark. Someday hopefully. But, I was taught by someone pretty good and they taught be to do that with my heels and I’ve been improving dramatically since taking their advice.

Good luck. Hope that helps.

FS[/quote]

that’s a good addition to what i said. i do that as well but forgot to add it. that’s where the leg drive comes into play.

if you can do all those things, you will be golden on the arch. it should be really really uncomfortable and your low back should be screaming from the super contraction of the arch.

Arhcing is never ending quest. At the end of the day though, put enough weight in your hands and your arch will collapse. I have a pretty good arch with 525. But with 585, I flatten the hell out.

As for keeping your back from slipping, I am fond of stick-um or spray-tack. Chalk works OK- but if you are a littel sweaty or oily, the chalk becomes like wet clay.

i have the opposite problem where i find it hard to keep my ass from coming off.

[quote]dom wrote:
i have the opposite problem where i find it hard to keep my ass from coming off.[/quote]

I was having the same problem for a while. I realized after much reading that I wasn’t getting my feet underneath me enough. Now I make sure to walk my feet under and as far back towards my hips as I can stand. It feels like my quads are going to pop from the pressure. But if you do that, your ass CAN’T come off the bench, no matter how much you drive with your legs.

[quote]dom wrote:
i have the opposite problem where i find it hard to keep my ass from coming off.[/quote]

Arching your back and bridging your ass off the bench are two entirely different things.

Not like I can add too much to this thread, but the number one and two things that’ve helped me are-

  1. Stare at the ceiling, not the bar

  2. Push your head into the bench